Q&A: Can I Get Retroactive Social Security Survivor Benefits?
Q: I recently found out my father died when I was 17. We were estranged from my father and my mother didn’t file for Social Security benefits for me. I’m now 20. Can I get those back payments?
A: Unfortunately, Social Security does not pay retroactive survivor payments, so you will not be able to get any of the payments that you should have received when your father passed away.
Because death benefits are not paid retroactively, it is important to contact Social Security as soon as you learn of a family member’s death. A lot of times the funeral director will report the person’s death to Social Security and you just need to furnish them with the Social Security number so they can submit the report to the SSA.
You should also be prepared to provide the following information in order for the SSA to process your survivor benefits:
• Your Social Security number
• Your birth certificate
• Your marriage certificate if you are the widow or widower
• Your divorce papers if you are applying as a surviving divorced spouse
• Dependent children’s Social Security numbers and birth certificates, if available
In the case where you are the child of a deceased worker, unfortunately you are at the mercy of your surviving parent or another guardian to get this process started for you.
For more information about applying for survivor benefits, please read Survivors Planner: How to Apply for Survivor Benefits.