Social Security Widow(er)'s Insurance Benefits

Program Description

The Social Security Widow(er)’s Insurance Benefits are a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). These are benefits paid to the widow or widower of a deceased worker who had earned enough work credits.

General Program Requirements

To qualify for this benefit program, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be at least age 60
  • Be the widow or widower of a fully insured worker
  • Meet the marriage duration requirement.
  • Be unmarried, unless the marriage can be disregarded
  • Not be entitled to an equal or higher Social Security retirement benefit based on your own work

Based on the information you gave, you were married for less than nine months to your deceased spouse. Usually, a person must be married for at least nine months before they can get benefits on a deceased spouse's record. However, there are exceptions to this rule. (For a list of exceptions, use the link below to SSA’s Publications Home Page and review Section 401 of the Social Security Handbook.) You could get Social Security widow's or widower's benefits if:

  • you meet one of the exceptions;
  • your deceased spouse had enough work credits; and
  • you are not getting a higher benefit on your own work record.

PLEASE NOTE: If you get (or will get) a pension based on work for an employer who did not withhold Social Security taxes, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, your Social Security benefits may be reduced. Visit SSA’s Publications Home Page and review "A Pension from Work Not Covered by Social Security", Social Security Publication Number 05-10045 and "Government Pension Offset", Social Security Publication Number 05-10007.

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this benefit.

Application Process

Widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses cannot apply online for survivor’s benefits. For application information, please visit the How To Apply page.

Program Contact Information

Would you like more information about widow's or widower's benefits?
Visit SSA's Publications Home Page and review the publication "Survivors," Social Security Publication Number 05-10084 or review Chapter 4 of the Social Security Handbook.

Would you like more information about social security credits?
Visit SSA's Publications Home page and review "Social Security: How You Earn Credits," Social Security Publication Number 05-10072.

Or for additional information on this and any SSA benefit, call:
1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778)