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  • Christopher Le

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

If a Social Security disability applicant dies while waiting to be approved for disability benefits, its possible for a family member to continue the claim and receive any benefits that would have been owed to the deceased applicant.

At times there may be situations where a disability applicant dies as their social security disability claim is pending. The process of applying for benefits and obtaining an approval can take several months to even years.

There are 2 different disability programs, SSDI and SSI. it is generally easier for a family member to continue a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) than it is for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI benefits depend on the individual's work history record while the SSI program is for those disabled individuals who are also living under the poverty line.

Continuing an SSDI Claim After the Claimant Dies

An SSDI claim usually does not die when the claimant passes away. SSA may find that the deceased person should have been entitled to monthly SSDI benefits before their death. SSA calls this situation an "underpayment." The following is the order in which a surviving person can receive SSDI benefits.

  • 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 claimant's benefits will go to any surviving spouse, child, or parent, who doesn't qualify under the above criteria. Otherwise, the payments fall into the estate of that deceased person.

Can a beneficiary start an SSDI Claim After a Claimant Dies

If an individual never actually filed for SSDI benefits before dying, a beneficiary has 3 months from the month of death to file an 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. This happens when the deceased person called SSA in order to try and file a claim and then subsequently passes away shortly after.

Continuing an SSI Claim after death

The rules regarding continuing SSI cases are much different. A surviving spouse who was living with the disabled applicant at the time of their death, or within 6months of the applicant's death, may continue a previously filed SSI claim. In addition, parents of a child who has died with a pending SSI application may also collect an underpayment, as long as the parents resided with the child within 6months of that child's death.

When Would Disability Benefits Start and Stop Accruing?

In the case of SSDI, there is a 5 month waiting period which begins after the disability onset date. The disability onset date is the date he was found to be disabled. For example, lets say a woman applied for SSDI in September 2019, and she claimed a disability onset date of July 15, 2019. If she died before the 5 month waiting period expired on January 1, 2020, the woman's heirs would not receive any back pay benefits. Typically, at the end of the 5-month waiting period, is when disability benefits would start to accrue to the deceased person's relatives, and disability benefits would stop accruing on their death. However, spouses and dependent children of deceased SSDI beneficiaries may be eligible for survivors benefits.

On the other end, SSI benefits do not accrue until the first full month after the claimant files the SSI application. SSI benefits would stop accruing on the applicants death.

What to do with a Deceased Family Member's Disability Claim

You should send SSA a copy of the death certificate along with SSA Form HA-539 which is the substitution of party form, and SSA-1724.

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