TN 23 (02-10)

RS 00207.025 Certificate of Election for Widow(er)'s and Surviving Divorced Spouse’s Benefits

CITATION: Soc. Sec Act. Sec. 202(q) ; P.L. 100-647 Section 8010

A. Background

P.L. 100-647 enacted the Certificate of Election to permit as much as 12 months retroactivity and, therefore, prevent loss of benefits for claimants who delay filing.

Under the previous law, if an application was not filed timely, either because the widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse was not informed about the application requirement or because SSA was not notified about the number holder’s (NH's) death until after the month after death, loss of benefits would occur.

B. Policy on the Certificate of Election

1. Law

Section 8010 of P.L. 100-647, amends the Social Security Act to allow the beneficiary to be entitled to reduced widow(er)'s or surviving divorced spouse’s benefits by filing a Certificate of Election for reduced benefits rather than an application as was previously required if the beneficiary is:

  • receiving both reduced spouse's (or divorced spouse's) benefits and either retirement or disability benefits in the month before the month of the NH's death; and

  • at least age 62 and under full retirement age (FRA) in the month of the NH's death.

IMPORTANT: There are no exceptions to these requirements.

2. Form SSA-4111

Form SSA-4111, Certificate of Election for Reduced Widow(er)'s or Surviving Divorced Spouse’s Benefits, is the prescribed form to use for widow(er)'s as described in RS 00207.025B.1.

3. Effective date – when to use the SSA-4111

Use the SSA-4111 for claims on the records of NHs who die on or after 12/1/1988 in order to entitle reduced widow(er) insurance benefit (WIB) for any month before the month the widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse attains FRA.

NOTE: No application or Certificate of Election is required if the widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse is FRA or older.

C. Procedure

The T2 Redesign (T2RD) system processes the conversion for a spouse or divorced spouse who meets the entitlement requirements to receive permanently reduced survivor benefits based on age. The T2RD notice process generates an automatic suspension notice (see policy in NL 00730.005).

1. Field office

Take the following steps:





Beneficiary is in the office reporting NH’s death

Follow instructions in GN 02602.050. Confirm dual entitlement (DE) and age of beneficiary. Obtain a signed SSA-4111 if he or she elects to receive permanently reduced benefits. Go to step 2.

Beneficiary reports NH’s death by telephone

Follow instructions in GN 02602.050. Confirm dual entitlement (DE) and age of beneficiary. Mail an SSA-4111 with cover notice (see NL 00703.933). Include a pre-addressed return envelope to the servicing payment center (PC). Annotate the Special Message Field that SSA-4111 was mailed;




Send a Modernized Development Worksheet (MDW) to the servicing PC requesting payment of the lump sum death payment (LSDP) if payable.


Beneficiary elects reduced benefits

And the NH died prior to FRA or prior to 12 months past FRA and the SSA-4111 is completed within 3 months after the month of the NH’s death: discuss with the beneficiary if the NH was unable to work due to disability prior to death. If disability is alleged at least 5 months prior to the month of death and before FRA, obtain an application and proceed with disability development. See policy in DI 23510.001B; and



See policy in GN 02602.040. Evaluate the suitability of the month of election (MOEL) using the rules in GN 00204.039 if a retirement insurance benefit limitation (RIB/LIM) applies.

Obtain appropriate earnings record to determine if a recomputation is necessary. If the beneficiary is eligible for a widow(er)’s indexing (WINDEX) computation, a certified earnings record (ER) is required.

Verify marital status at time of death (if it appears questionable) to determine continuing eligibility, proper beneficiary identification code (BIC) designation and entitlement to the lump sum death payment (LSDP). EXAMPLE: The presence of a subsequent wife or husband on the Master Beneficiary Record (MBR), or an address or name change for a BIC “B” that occurred before the NH died may indicate that the marriage ended before his or her death.

Consider if government pension offset (GPO) is involved and develop for evidence of current pension amounts in cases where full offset was being imposed and partial payment is now due. See instructions in MSOM COMMON 003.002.

Consider the effect of conversion on other beneficiaries. The claimant may withdraw an “unwanted” widow(er) insurance benefit (WIB) if disadvantageous to others.

Award BIC “D” benefits using the Certificate of Election (CELE) common screen (see MSOM COMMON 005.009 and SM 03020.060 regarding the CELE process) and delete the special message field if applicable. See also GN 02602.040B and SM 00875.500 if a foreign address is involved.

See SM 00820.150 for manual processing instructions. Do not prepare an SSA-A101 or EF101.

IMPORTANT: See RS 00207.005 for situations when benefits should not be converted.

Document the Certificate of Election by faxing the SSA-4111 into the appropriate electronic folder; and



Document any applicable evidence per GN 00301.286.


Beneficiary does not elect reduced benefits

Annotate or update the special message field accordingly and check to see if RIB/LIM applies. If yes, develop for the first month the beneficiary is limited by the RIB LIM. For further instruction, see GN 00204.039 through GN 00204.045.

The system alerts suspended, dually entitled widow(er)s or surviving divorced spouses at FRA and awards benefits. See instructions in SM 00820.150.

2. Teleservice Center (TSC) (800 number site)

Use the following procedures in conjunction with TC 14001.030:



Death termination not processed

Input death termination per TC 14001.020.

DE status and age of beneficiary is not confirmed

Refer to the FO via MDW and advise the caller that the FO will contact him or her.

DE status and age of beneficiary is confirmed

Mail the SSA-4111 to the beneficiary under cover notice SSA-4111/L7 (see NL 00703.933) if one has not been mailed (check special message field). Include a pre-addressed return envelope to the servicing PC; and


Annotate the special message field “SSA-4111 mailed MM/DD/YY (TSC Code).”

The caller requests status on the processing of an SSA-4111 that he or she completed and returned

Review the special message field. If more than 30 calendar days elapsed since the claimant alleges mailing the SSA-4111, contact the Program Center (PC) via MDW 2560HP. If the PC has not received the SSA-4111, advise the caller to allow additional processing time.

The claimant alleges non-receipt of the SSA-4111 or did not receive it and sufficient time has elapsed

Mail another SSA-4111 and update the special message field.

3. PC

The PC either receives a T2RD Entitlement and Eligibility (EE) alert per SM 03020.360 or an MDW for development of the Certificate of Election. Consult the special message field before acting on requests for survivor benefits from dually entitled beneficiaries who are at least age 62 and under FRA in the month of NH’s death.

The PC will:




Ascertain whether the NH’s death termination action has processed. If not, process the NH’s death termination per instructions in GN 02602.050; and


Confirm dual entitlement (DE) and age of widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse.


Verify marital status at time of death if it appears questionable to determine continuing eligibility, proper BIC designation and entitlement to the LSDP.

EXAMPLE: The presence of a subsequent wife or husband on the MBR, or an address or name change for a BIC “B” that occurred before the NH died may indicate that the marriage ended before his or her death.


For manual conversion or suspension action, see instructions in SM 00820.150 for systems processing instructions.


If Special Message field does not indicate that SSA-4111 was mailed, send Exhibit letter in NL 00703.932 (E3932) and an SSA-4111. Include a return envelope pre-addressed to the servicing PC.


Input Special Message Data (SMS1) screen, “SSA-4111 mailed to [widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse] on MM/DD/YY PC X.” Do not control for return of SSA-4111.


Pay the LSDP if payable after verifying payment has not been made.

If the beneficiary returns the SSA-4111 electing reduced benefits, follow RS 00207.025C.1., steps 3 through 5, and delete applicable special message field.

If the file contains a Certificate of Election but there is no determination regarding reduced benefits, the benefit authorizer/benefit technical expert (BA/BTE) requests a determination from the claims authorizer/claims technical expert (CA/CTE) before taking any action on the resumption action.

D. References