Survivor’s benefits for the twice-widowed

Farm Forum

Q: I have been widowed twice, never working outside the home. I started Social Security widows benefits at age 60 after my first husband died. Eventually I remarried, continuing my widows benefits, until now at age 65 was widowed for a second time. The SSA representative said I could receive a larger amount from my second husband now or wait for an even higher amount at age 66. Please explain.

A: Here is a general explanation. Recontact Social Security for personal information using actual amounts.

Age 60 is the earliest a widow or widower can start Social Security survivors benefits based on age. The younger you start, the larger the reduction. As with SSA retirement benefits, each month of delay in starting provides a larger monthly amount, but only up to when you reach your survivors full retirement age (FRA) (see Survivors FRA’s are not the same as those for retirement benefits. If starting at age 60 the monthly reduction in survivors benefits is about 28.5 percent so you received about 71.5 percent of the maximum survivors amount on your first husband’s record.

Since you remarried after age 60, SSA survivors benefits through your first husband continued. Those benefits cannot be paid if a person remarries before age 60, unless that marriage ends. Although possible, for simplicity it is assumed that you did not receive SSA benefits as a spouse through your second husband’s work record.

Based on your question, you are younger than your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 for survivors benefits and SSA benefits from your second husband’s work record are higher than those you now receive. Effective with the month of his death, you could start widow’s benefits on your second husband’s record. If this was exactly the month you reached age 65, the amount would be about 95.3 percent of the full amount or you could wait. The benefit amount increases with each month of delay up to your age 66 FRA when you would receive 100 percent of the amount payable through his record. The choice is yours.

When eligible on two records, a person receives up to the highest single amount. People of all ages receive monthly SSA survivors benefits. Learn more at

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at