SSI Death Benefits for Children and Spouses

by Fraser Sherman
Senior woman reading mail

There's more than one way to benefit from Social Security. Workers earn benefits by paying Social Security taxes on their wages. Nonworking spouses and children can claim survivor benefits after the family breadwinner dies. Some individuals with minimal resources of their own can qualify for SSI -- Supplemental Security Income. It's possible to qualify for both survivor benefits and SSI, depending on the situation.

Survivor Benefits

Workers earn survivor benefits for their families by accumulating Social Security credits. A year of employment or self-employment can earn up to four credits, one for each calendar quarter, depending on how much money is earned. Biological, adopted and step-children can apply for survivor benefits if they're under 18, or 19 if a full-time student. Spouses and ex-spouses can qualify if they're over 60. The ex's marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. Disabled individuals can qualify even if they're outside the normal age limits. The younger a worker dies, the fewer credits it takes for survivors to receive benefits.


Anyone who's blind, disabled or at least 65 years old may qualify for Supplemental Security Income. SSI isn't based on how much the applicant, or his spouse or parent worked. Instead, an applicant qualifies based on having extremely limited income and minimal resources. Part of the application process involves listing all assets and income. An individual with cash in the bank, personal property and real estate is less likely to qualify for SSI than someone who has no assets.

Video of the Day

Brought to you by Sapling
Brought to you by Sapling

Survivors and SSI

SSI doesn't provide a death benefit. When an SSI recipient dies, her survivors must apply for aid on their own merits. It's acceptable to receive Social Security benefits or survivor benefits and SSI at the same time. However Social Security payments count against the SSI income limits. All but the first $20 of monthly Social Security benefits are factored in. To receive both, an individual would have to be blind, a senior or disabled, as well as a survivor.

Deemed Income

Even if an individual has little income himself, his parent or current spouse may. Under SSI rules, deemed income -- income that belongs to a parent or spouse -- counts toward determining SSI eligibility. For example, suppose a worker with a spouse and blind 16-year-old child dies. The spouse and the child can apply for survivor benefits. The child can apply for SSI, but his surviving parent's income and Social Security benefits will be factored in with his own.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

Photo Credits

  • tetmc/iStock/Getty Images
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article