Social Security Survivor Benefits

Army Reserve: Retired

Benefit Fact Sheet

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When a service member who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, certain members of their family may be eligible for monthly benefits.


Generally, the service member must be either Fully Insured (up to ten years of work credit is needed to be eligible for benefits, depending on the person's age) or, Currently Insured (earned at least six work credits in the preceding 13 calendar quarters). Under a special rule, if a service member worked for only one and one-half years in the three years before the death, including civilian covered wages, benefits can be paid to minor children and/or the spouse who is caring for the children. Former spouses may qualify for survivor benefits if certain conditions are met.young child hugging a tombstone in a veteran cemetery

In cases where the service member does not meet any of the above criteria, and the death was on active duty or active duty for training and is determined to be service-connected, a special gratuitous allowance is paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under Title 38 U.S.C. 1312(a). The Social Security Administration certifies the benefit entitlement, eligible beneficiaries, and amounts payable.

Benefit Highlights

Death benefits are provided for:

  • The surviving spouse caring for the service member's dependent children who are under age 16

  • The surviving spouse age 60 or older, or the surviving spouse as early as age 50 if the surviving spouse is disabled

  • For eligible minor children age 18 or under of an insured service member (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time), or children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled, and

  • Dependent parents age 62 or older.

Benefits depend on the family status of the deceased. The amount depends on the total work experience of the deceased and the amount of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax contributions made during that period.
Permanently reduced amounts are payable to a surviving spouse as early as age 60. The combined surviving spouse and children's benefit is subject to a monthly family maximum.

Additional Information

For more information, please visit the Social Security Survivor Benefit webpage maintained by the Social Security Administration:

Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division:

Social Security Survivors Benefits Fact Sheet:

Topic 751 - Social Security and Medicare Withholding Rates

Document Review Date: 10 April 2024