Social Security Benefits

Retirement benefits for widows and widowers – If you are receiving widow’s or widower’s benefits, you can switch to your own retirement benefits as early as age 62, assuming your retirement benefit is more than the amount you receive on your deceased spouses’ earnings. Often, you can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then switch to the other benefit at the full rate when you reach full retirement age. The rules are complicated and vary depending on your situation, so talk to a Social Security representative about the choices available to you. For more information about retirement benefits, read Retirement Benefits (Publication No. 05-10035)

People, including children, who have little income and few resources, and who have a disability, may be eligible for disability payments through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. For more information about SSI, read Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Publication No. 05-11000).

Survivors benefits – When you die, your family may be eligible for benefits based on your work. Family members who can collect benefits include a widow or widower who is:

  • 60 or older; or
  • 50 or older and disabled; or
  • Any age if he or she is caring for your child who is younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to Social Security benefits on your record.

Your children can receive benefits, too, if they’re unmarried and:

  • Younger than 18 years old; or
  • Between 18 and 19 years old, but in an elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or
  • Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).

Additionally, your parents can receive benefits on your earnings if they were dependent on you for at least half of their support.

Social Security Contact Information:

At their website,

By Telephone – Toll free at 1-800-772-1213 or at their TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, if you are deaf or hard of hearing.