By Deborah Banikowski
District Manager, Syracuse
For young people whose parent dies, Social Security is here. Losing a parent is both emotionally painful and oftentimes devastating to a family’s finances. In the same way that Social Security helps to lift up the disabled and seniors when they need it, we support families when an income-earning parent dies.
You should let Social Security know as soon as possible when a person in your family dies. Usually, the funeral director will report the person’s death to Social Security. You’ll need to give the deceased’s Social Security number to the funeral director so they can make the report.
Some of the deceased’s family members may be able to receive Social Security benefits if the deceased person worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security to qualify for benefits. Contact Social Security as soon as possible to make sure the family gets all the benefits they’re entitled to.
Please read the following information carefully to learn what benefits may be available.
Your unmarried child can get benefits if they’re:
• Younger than age 18;
• 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or
• 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
To get benefits, a child must have:
• A parent who’s disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or
• A parent who died after having worked long enough in a job where they paid Social Security taxes.
Benefits stop when your child reaches age 18 unless your child is a student in secondary school or disabled.
Within a family, a child can receive up to half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefit. If a child receives survivors benefits, he or she can get up to 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit.
There is a limit to the amount of money that we can pay to a family. This family maximum is determined as part of every Social Security benefit computation. It can be from 150 to 180 percent of the parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amount payable to all family members exceeds this limit, we reduce each person’s benefit proportionately (except the parent’s) until the total equals the maximum allowable amount.
Children with disabilities may also be eligible for benefits. You can read more about Benefits for Children with Disabilities at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10026.pdf.
Q: I can’t seem to find my Social Security card. Do I need to get a replacement?
A: In most cases, knowing your Social Security number is enough. But if you do apply for and receive a replacement card, don’t carry that card with you. Keep it with your important papers. For more information about your Social Security card and number, and for information about how to apply for a replacement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft, read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
Q: What should I do if an employee gives me a Social Security number but cannot produce the card?
A: Seeing the card is not as important as putting the correct information on the worker’s Form W-2. You can verify employee Social Security numbers by using the Social Security Number Verification Service. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/bso. This online service allows registered employers to verify employee Social Security numbers against Social Security records for wage reporting purposes.
Q: I am nearing my full retirement age, but I plan to keep working after I apply for Social Security benefits. Will my benefits be reduced because of my income?
A: No. If you start receiving benefits after you’ve reached your full retirement age, you can work while you receive Social Security and your current benefit will not be reduced because of the earned income. If you keep working, it could mean a higher benefit for you in the future. Higher benefits can be important to you later in life and increase the future benefit amounts your survivors could receive. If you begin receiving benefits before your full retirement age, your earnings could reduce your monthly benefit amount. After you reach full retirement age, we recalculate your benefit amount to leave out the months when we reduced or withheld benefits due to your excess earnings. Learn more about Social Security reading our publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html.