The Social Security Administration (SSA) may pay a lump sum death benefit to eligible family members of a deceased individual who was “fully” or “currently” insured.
This column discusses what the Social Security lump sum death benefit payment is, who is eligible and who is not eligible to receive it, and application procedures for the lump sum death benefit payment.
An individual is “fully” insured with respect to Social Security benefits if the individual during his or her lifetime earned a minimum 40 credits of Social Security. An individual is “currently” insured with respect to Social Security if the individual has earned six or more credits during the 13-quarter period ending with the quarter the person died or became disabled.
The lump sum death benefit payment is $255. It is paid in addition to any monthly survivor’s insurance benefits that are due.
These benefits includes a widow/widower monthly benefit, a mother’s or father’s monthly survivor benefit, or a children’s monthly survivor death benefit.
A lump sum death benefit payment on the Social Security record of a deceased individual may not be paid regardless of the insured status of the deceased individual if any of the following conditions apply:
(1) The deceased individual was deported after Sept. 1, 1954 and at the time of death was not lawfully readmitted to the U.S.;
(2) the deceased individual could not have been paid a monthly benefit for the month in which he or she died. At that time the individual was an alien and he or she was outside the U.S. for more than six calendar months in a row;
(3) the recipient of the lump sum payment was convicted of the felonious homicide of the deceased individual;
(4) the deceased individual was granted a tax exemption as a member of a religious group which has not ended; or (5) the Railroad Retirement Board has jurisdiction in the survivor’s claim or has already paid a lump sum death payment.
Individuals Eligible and Not Eligible to Receive the Lump Sum Death Payment
(1) Surviving widow/widower. Individuals are eligible for the lump sum death payment based on their relationship with the deceased individual as a spouse if: (a) they were living in the same household as the deceased individual when he or she died; and (b) the surviving spouse files an application for the lump sum payment within the required time limit (see below).
(2) Divorced spouse. A divorced spouse is not eligible to receive the lump sum payment.
(3) Two surviving spouses. In rare situations, there may be two surviving spouses. Both spouses may be eligible for the lump sum, even though neither was living in the same household as the deceased individual when he or she died. In this situation, the lump sum is equally divided between the spouses.
(4) Children. If there is no spouse to receive the lump sum death benefit payment, then the lump sum is payable to the child(ren) of the deceased individual. The child/children must have been eligible for children monthly survivor death benefits (in particular, the child must have been younger than age 18 or disabled before age 22) based on the deceased individual’s Social Security earnings record in the month the individual died.
In the case of several children, each child is eligible for an equal amount of the lump sum. If one or more of the children chooses not to apply, those children who do apply are paid only their equal share of the lump sum. The unpaid balance remains unpaid, unless those children who originally chose not to apply later decide to do so.
Applying for the Lump Sum Death Benefit
An application for the lump sum death benefit payment must be filed if the applicant is not entitled to a widow/widower benefit based on the deceased individual’s Social Security earnings record just before the month is which the fully insured individual died or is a child. An application for the death benefit may be made by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
If more than one child is entitled to the lump sum, then each child must apply to receive his or her share of the payment.
No separate application for the lump sum death benefit payment is necessary in the case of a widow/widower who is entitled to the deceased spouse’s Social Security full monthly benefits as of the month before the month the deceased spouse died.
The deadline for applying for the lump sum death benefit payment is two years from the day the insured individual died. The filing period may be extended under certain conditions.