If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

Social Security is here for young people when a parent passes away. We know that the loss of a parent isn’t just emotionally painful; it can be devastating to a family’s finances. In the same way that Social Security helps to lift up the disabled and elderly when they need it, we support families when an income-earning parent dies.

In 2017, we distributed an average of $2.6 billion each month to benefit about 4.2 million children because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life and help make it possible for those children to complete high school.

You might ask, who can get child’s benefits? 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 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.

Social Security is securing today and tomorrow, protecting our future and the next generation.

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42 thoughts on “If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

  1. I think it is wrong to stop paying for children at 18.
    How do you expect students to further their education without other resources? College Funds should be made available for children who want to prepare for a better future.

    • That’s the way it was 30 years ago but those benefits were stopped in order to make the program solvent. Once a child turns 18 it is expected that they can get a job and work their way through college which is what happened 2 generations ago.

    • I completely agree with you. This is not 30 years ago and in this economy there is no working your way threw college without going into debt. From my understanding is that if you apply 3 months before a child turns 18 benefits can exceed to 23 as long as they are in school/ college. My niece turns 18 before she grads from high school and she can still receive benefits til she’s 2 months after she’s turned 19

      • To clarify; when a parent gets Social Security retirement benefits or disability benefits, his or her child also may get benefits. Children also can get benefits when a parent dies. To get benefits, the child must be unmarried and:
        – Younger than age 18;
        – A full-time student (no higher than grade 12) 18 to 19 years old; or
        – Have a disability that started before age 22 and is 18 years or older.
        For more information read our publication “Benefits For Children“.
        Thanks!

  2. Age? Yes it’s important, but darn it how does one live on$30.00 a Month when all bill are paid. Yes I’m getting help however the help I need is food. I have been diagnoised by specilists for Chronic Migrainescnbigelow2charter.net

  3. My son received a monthly death benefit when my husband passed, for about 1 year, until he was 18. He took a part time job delivering pizza a few hours per week and earned $2,000. We recently received a letter that we owe the $2,000 for the amount he earned during that time when he received benefits. Is this correct? Doesn’t seem fair.
    Thank you,
    Karen

  4. It seems like everyone can get more from social security benefits than a widow whose’s husband worked for more than 75 years was married to the same woman for 64 years raised their family without government help. At death, social security then penalizes his widow. Something is really wrong with social security as it now is..

  5. What if three children are receiving survivor benefits and they move to another state while they are still under 18? Do the benefits remain the same? If the widower remarries, would that impact the children’s survivor benefit from their deceased parent?

  6. My ex-brother-in-law just died of a heart attack. He has known for over 15 years of his heart condition, but never applied for S.S.D. or prepared for his death. He had custody of 3 children.
    The oldest son has been diagnosed a long time ago with autism and a few other disabilities. The father has never prepared this boy for a social life or education. The boy use to be full of rage and lash out in severe unhealthy behaviors.
    The father has never gotten the boy (now age 22) a photo I.D., or applied for S.S.I. (which he clearly would benefit from).

    My oldest son (age 32) wants to try to get custody so the boy will not become a part of a state hospital system.
    My fiance and I are supporting this decision.

    I’m confused by all the “political issue ” that stand in the way.

    What’s the very first best move for the 22 year old with a disability?

  7. I was young and lost a parent. Except mine was through divorce. They might have as well been dead. No child support; nothing. It’s sad that nothing is available for those in similar circumstances.

  8. My sister passed when she was in her 30s and left a 14 year old behind …. That was about 12 or so years ago..
    My guestion is where did my sisters SSecurity go..Can my niece ever recieve her mother’s benefits….the money she paid in or does the government just TAKE that money.

    • If your sister worked and paid into SSecurity, then her daughter is intitle to her SSecurity under the servivors benfits , go into the office. call them frist at 1-800-772-1213 now don’t weight get it start

  9. My late husband’s Social Security was stolen by Brookdale Hospice Medical Staff an unknown male. My 4 children and me the surviving spouse did not get a dollar to live on. Outrageous. What’s wrong with the Social Security Administration? You pay drug addicts and alcoholism problematics, immigrants, and low life scum of the 🌎. They abused the government and the Presidents allow this. Something criminal is wrong is going on. Fix it. God going to get every no good judge watch.

    • Hello Heidi. We should be notified immediately when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online.
      If you need to apply for benefits for your children, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to someone. Thanks.

      • I have tried several times to call and schedule an appointment to apply for benefits for my daughter & I am always told there is no representative available to assist me at this time and then the call disconnects? The closest office is over 30 minutes away with limited hours

  10. My husband was on social security disability and died October 1992. Our daughter became eligible to receive his ongoing disability income while she was a student starting at her age of 12. Her benefit was stopped on her 18th bday even though she was still in high school not graduating until that june 1998 or six months later, based on her date of birth and when she began school. When I questioned ss on this I was told no, 18 is 18 even if she is still a student. My daughter is owed those last six months of her father’s disability money. I await your written reply.

    • Hello Angela. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot provide any assistance on this matter.
      One of our representatives should be able to provide you with an explanation. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

  11. My grand daughter lost her mother Nov 12 2015. She fell off a cruise ship and died. We do not have a death certificate. Do we need that before we can get her any benefits? Chris

  12. Just a quick question if a 16 year old is receiving death benefits and drops out of school and leaves home and the parent is still supporting them dose the benefits stop or contain until they are 18

    • I have a similar question, regarding a 16-year-old who dropped out of school but he does still live with his mother. If he dropped out of school, will his survivor’s benefit from his father be discontinued? I have been unable to find an answer on the web site.

  13. Any at social security plan for me this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child she will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not yes 16 but there stop her benefit already …and she under 18 …why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad die…and I’m her mother ,I m sick and I received my disability benefits that call the ssi and ssa…now I don’t understand this letter from S.S sent to me stop benefit for my daughter or my ..and why ?? Frist my daughter not 18 year old yes…and second thing ,if there stop my benefit that not right too ..I’m disability that why I received my ssi and ssa benefit a long time before my husband die …can anyone plan to me what going on …

    • Michelle, thank you for using our blog. For your security, we do not have access to your benefit information in this venue. For assistance, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.

  14. To : social security who may concern this letter for me ..plan for me …why my daughter stop her benefit when she turn 16…and in oct /16 that on her birthday but in the 1 of this the month there stop already …

    You will not betitled to a social security benefit beginning Oct/2018. When Sally is 16.

    Your benefit will stop but your child will continue receiving benefit to age 18.
    We may be able to continue your benefit if your child is disabled or you caring for other child who is under 16or disabled…..

    ( Please plan to me this letter I receive from social security couple month ago.. and my daughter stop her benefit already when her birthday not came yes ,,,Oct/16/2018 she will turn 16 …but now oct/1/2018. The social security stop her benefit already …and my question is I’m disabled I’m receiving my ssi and my ssa ..how I’m take care my daughter thought when she turn 18 ?

  15. Any one at social security please can explain for me this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child she will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not yes 16 but there stop her benefit already …and she under 18 …why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad died.
    I m sick and I received my disability benefits that call the ssi and ssa…now I don’t understand this letter say from S.S sent to me there stop benefit of my daughter or of my ..And why ?? Frist my daughter not 18 year old yes….and second thing ,if there stop my benefit that not right too ..I’m disabled I can’t go to work that is the reason I received my ssi and ssa benefit a long time ago before my husband die …can anyone explain to me what going on …this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child who is will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not turn 16 year old yes …but there stop her benefit already on oct/1/2018…and she under 18 …And why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad died and I’m her mother ,I m sick (disabled) and I received my disability benefits very month that call the ssi and ssa benefit.
    I don’t understand this letter from S.S sent to me why stop benefit of my daughter or my I don’t understand all that ..and why there stop my benefit and how I take care her thought when she turn 18 ?? Frist thing my daughter not 18 year old yes…and second thing ,if there stop my benefit how I take care her to go to school ..I’m disability too that why I received my ssi and ssa ,I recieiving my benefit a long time before my husband die …
    Can anyone from social security explain to me what going on …for me this letter I received…can anyone plan to me what going on …

  16. My Nephew get survivors benefits from the passing of his father, however he does not live with his mother and has not since June 28, 2018. She does not give that money to his grandparent since he has been with her since then, is that Illegal?

    • Hello Nicole, if you suspect misuse of Social Security benefits, report it. We will investigate all allegations of misuse, gather facts and evidence, and make a decision on whether misuse has occurred. If we find misuse occurred, we may find a new representative payee for your nephew. Generally, we look for family or friends to serve as representative payees. When friends or family are not able to serve as payees, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be representative payees.
      Please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to speak to one of our representatives. Or you can contact your local Social Security office. Thanks!

  17. Does child benefits stop when he turns 16. I am aware that my spouse benefits will stop when he turns 16. any
    information you could give me i would appreciate it.
    Thank you

    • Thank you for your question, Chris. Generally, benefits for children stop when your child reaches age 18, unless your child is a student or disabled. For more important information on this topic, visit our Frequently Asked Questions web page.

  18. if a child is receiving benefits from a deceased parent and they get legally adopted will they continue to receive benefits?

  19. My ex husband passed away in 2012. My son was a minor then but I didn’t know that he could receive social security income from my ex-husband’s account. I was hoping to talk to someone about this issue.

    • Hi, Debra. For your and your son’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We do ask that members in our Blog community contact our offices with questions about their specific case. You can also call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Wait times are generally shorter later in the day. We hope this helps.

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