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Count on Social Security Survivor Benefits To Protect Your Family

Jul 29, 2016, 3:40 p.m.
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By Kirk Larson

Social Security Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Tragedy strikes without warning. For families who lose a wage earner, it can have a devastating financial impact in addition to the emotional one.

Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin says that Social Security touches the lives of every American, often in times of tragedy and uncertainty. It’s true. Our programs go beyond retirement and disability benefits. Social Security helps care for the surviving families of deceased entitled workers.

If you work, some of the Social Security taxes you pay now go toward survivors benefits for workers and their families. In the event of your death, certain family members — widows, widowers (including your divorced spouse), children and dependent parents — may be eligible for survivors benefits. Today, in Washington State, there are over 110,000 widows/widowers and children receiving monthly benefits. The average payment is just over $1,200 per month. Social Security’s survivors benefits may be more valuable than your individual life insurance.

The benefit amount your family is eligible for depends on your average lifetime earnings. The more you earned, the more their benefits will be. Check your Social Security Statement to see an estimate of survivors benefits we could pay. You can create a secure my Social Security account to access your Statement anytime and see an estimate of these benefits.

In certain circumstances, we also make a one-time payment of $255 to your spouse or child if you’ve worked long enough. Survivors must apply for this payment within two years of the date of death.

For more information about how Social Security’s survivor benefits visit our website at www.SSA.GOV. No one likes to think about death, but, unfortunately, it’s inevitable. When it happens, know that you can count on Social Security to be there for your loved ones.

Kirk Larson is a Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist located in Seattle and serving Western Washington

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