Pursuing Disability After a Claimant’s Death

When a disabled person passes away, it is sometimes possible for certain family members to file a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, or pursue one that has already been started on behalf of the individual. Federal law regulates who may file or continue such claims, and which disability programs they are eligible to pursue.

SSDI Claims After Death

SSDI benefits are based on the disabled victim’s contributions before his or her death. An SSDI initial claim, appeal, or hearing can be pursued by any party of interest to a victim’s benefits. New claims must be filed within three months of the victim’s death unless a protective filing date is applicable. In that case, a claim must be filed within six months. When multiple beneficiaries are involved, benefits are paid in the following order:

  • To a spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased victim at the time of his or her death or who was entitled to monthly benefits under the same SSDI record during the month when the death occurred.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, benefits are paid to any surviving children (equally divided) who would have been entitled to receive benefits under the deceased’s record during the month of death.
  • When no spouse or children exist, parents who would have been entitled to receive monthly SSDI benefits under the same record as the victim for the month of the death can receive payment.
  • If none of the above applies, benefits may be payable to any surviving child, spouse, or parent of the deceased.
  • When no other beneficiaries exist, the deceased’s SSDI benefits flow to his or her estate.

If the court determines that a beneficiary caused the death of the disabled victim, that person is prohibited from collecting the deceased’s SSDI benefits.

SSI Claims After Death

In most cases, a new SSI claim cannot be filed after the disabled person passes away. If the victim contacted the Social Security Administration (SSA) about filing a claim before their death, however, beneficiaries have up to 60 days from the protective filing date to file a claim. If the SSI claim was filed before death, typically only the surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased can pursue the claim.