Does Social Security Pay Survivor Benefits for Suicides?

by Calla Hummel ; Updated July 27, 2017

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers survivors benefits to the widow or children of the deceased. The widow and children must meet SSA guidelines to receive the benefits, not the deceased. Spouses and children of individuals who committed suicide can collect survivors benefits, with one exception.

Survivors Benefits

The SSA pays a one-time payment of $255 to the deceased's family and continues paying monthly benefits to the widower and child as long as they meet the SSA guidelines. The amount depends on how much money the deceased contributed to Social Security from his wages during his working life.

Spouses

The Social Security program exists to provide a financial safety net for the elderly. Hence, to qualify for survivors benefits, the deceased's spouse must be at least 60 years old, at least 50 and disabled or any age and caring for a child under age 16. Divorced spouses can collect survivors benefits from the deceased former spouse if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years.

Children

Children can collect survivors benefits if a parent committed suicide, but only if the child is under 18, or up to 19 if she is in high school. If a child was disabled prior to age 22, the child can collect survivors benefits for as long as the disability persists. Parents of a deceased person can also receive survivors benefits if they are dependent on the deceased’s income and are over age 62.

Exception

The SSA prohibits spouses from collecting survivors benefits in the case of a suicide in one situation. The deceased and the surviving spouse must have been married for at least nine months before the suicide; if the deceased committed suicide within nine months of the wedding day, the surviving spouse cannot collect benefits.

About the Author

Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.