Survivors benefits based on work record

Farm Forum

QIf a person receiving Social Security disability since his 50’s dies at age 68, does the fact that he started receiving Social Security long before retirement age reduce the amount of survivors benefits to his widow? In other words, are survivor benefits less because the deceased received SSA disability rather than retirement?

ANo. The monthly amount received by the deceased based on his or her work record, not the type of Social Security benefit involved, is the important factor in computing the amount of a survivors benefit. People eligible for disability based on their own work record do not have their monthly payment amounts reduced for age.

Anyway, even if the Social Security benefits were originally established based on disability, once a beneficiary attains full retirement age, his or her disability benefits are transferred to retirement. This is for agency administrative simplicity, without any noticeable change in benefits to the person. At age 68, this man would have been older than his full retirement age.

Always contact Social Security to ask about possible benefits when there is a death in the family. A separate application to begin a survivors benefit is not always needed but sometimes it is. Calling the SSA national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or local office helps benefits get started quickly or, if not eligible yet, helps you learn your options for the future.

QHow long after starting SSA disability does a person get Medicare?

AMedicare automatically begins after a person gets Social Security disability for two years or reaches age 65.

If receiving benefits, a disabled family member, such as a disabled adult child or widow(er), can receive Medicare too. In a few exceptions, for example a person on dialysis due to kidney failure or having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Medicare coverage begins earlier.

Medicare is only for the person eligible and does not provide family coverage. Someone receiving only Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will not receive Medicare, but might be eligible for state medical assistance. More information is on the SSA website at and on the Medicare website,

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