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  • Christopher Le

What happens if an Social Security Disability Application was filed but the Claimant passed away?

What Happens to a Social Security Disability Case if the Applicant Dies?

If a Social Security disability applicant dies while their case is pending a decision, its still possible for a family member to continue the claim and receive any benefits owed. So the claim does not always die when the applicant passes away.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a disability claimant or applicant to pass away while their case is pending. This is because the process of applying and being approved for benefits can take several months to up to a few years.

There are 2 different disability programs, SSDI and SSI. Normally it is easier for a family member to continue a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits than one for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Continuing an SSDI Claim After the Claimant Dies

An SSDI claim doesn't end after the passing of a claimant. Social Security may determine that even after a person has passed away that they should have been entitled to monthly SSDI benefits before their death. SSA calls this situation an "underpayment." This means that the next of kin, may be able to receive back pay for the months they were not working and waiting to be approved. For example, if the claimant filed for disability on January 1, 2021 and ended up passing away on January 1, 2022, the next of kin may be able to receive a back payment for that year that he was disabled and unable to work. The following order of preference dictates who may collect an SSDI underpayment:

  • a surviving spouse who was living with the disabled person, or who was entitled to SSDI benefits on the person's record, during the month of death

  • any child or children entitled to disability benefits on the deceased person's record during the month of death, and

  • any parents of the decedent entitled to benefits on the deceased person's record during the month of death.

If none of the above relatives are alive, the deceased claimant's benefits will go to any surviving spouse, child, or parent, respectively, who doesn't qualify under the above criteria. Otherwise, the payments flow to the deceased claimants estate.

Starting an SSDI Claim After a Claimant Dies

What if an individual never filed for SSDI aka Social security disability insurance benefits before passing away, can a beneficiary still file? Yes but the beneficiary only has 3 months from the month of death to file a new SSDI claim on the deceased person's behalf, and up to 6 months if the deceased person had a "protective filing date" from previously contacting SSA about filing a claim.

Continuing an SSI Claim After a Claimant Dies

Different rules apply to an SSI, aka Supplement security income, benefit claim. A surviving spouse who was living with the disability applicant at the time of the applicant's death, or within six months of the applicant's death, may continue an already-filed SSI claim. Parents of a child who has died with an SSI application pending may also collect an underpayment, as long as the parents resided with the child within six months of that child's death. But thats about it, so surviving spouse and dependent parents.

If a claimant dies BEFORE filing an SSI claim, another family member usually cannot file a new SSI claim on the deceased person's behalf. The only exception is when the deceased individual was given a "protective filing date" because they had contacted Social Security about starting a disability claim. If there is a protective filing date, a family member (surviving spouse or parents of the deceased) generally have 60 days from the protective filing date to file for SSI benefits.

When Would Disability Benefits Start and Stop Accruing?

In the case of SSDI, there is a 5 month waiting period after a person's alleged onset date of disability in which they are not entitled to monthly payments. For example, lets say the claimant applied for for SSDI in September 2020, claiming a disability onset date of July 15, 2020. If that claimant passed away before the 5-month waiting period expires on January 1, 2021 the man's heirs would not receive any SSDI benefits, even though the man met the definition of disability. This is because at the end of the 5-month waiting period, benefits would start to accrue to the deceased person's relatives, and disability benefits would stop accruing upon his or her death. This just means that the beneficiaries that qualify are only able to receive a back pay award for the period before the claimants passing. However, spouses and dependent children of deceased SSDI beneficiaries are usually eligible for survivors benefits, which is a separate claim.

SSI benefits don't accrue until the first full month after the claimant files the SSI application. SSI benefits would stop accruing upon the claimant's death, meaning the beneficiary would only receive a back pay award from the time the case was filed till the date of death.

How to Proceed with a Deceased Family Member's Disability Claim

Best bet is to consult with an attorney for a free consultation to see if your eligible as a beneficiary. You will need to send the Social Security administration a copy of the death certificate along with SSA Form HA-539 "Notice Regarding Substitution of Party Upon Death of Claimant" and SSA-1724 "Claim for Amounts Due in the Case of a Deceased Beneficiary," both of which a lawyer can assist you with filling out.

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