- CR, CR TII, CR TXVI, DC, DRT, FR, OA, OS, RR, SR
- BA, CA, RECONR
- CATA, CC, FCR, RECONR
- BA, CA, CRTA, CS, ICDS, IES, ISRA, PETE, RECONR
Regulations No. 4—Sections 404.720-404.721,404.305
TN 15 (04-07)
GN 00304.001 Proof of Death Requirements
A. Policy Principle
Proof of death is required when a claimant files on the record of a deceased person or when a claimant's eligibility is dependent on another person's death. In most instances, the date of death will be the same date reflected in the proof of death evidence.
B. Operating Policy - General
Do not redevelop proof of death if SSA's records (e.g., the MBR) show that proof was previously submitted. Even if there is no proof of death code, assume the death was proven if it was necessary to be proven for the type of benefit paid (e.g., survivor benefits, LSDP, etc.). Date of death conflicts need not be resolved, unless such conflict would affect a claimant’s eligibility for benefits or amount of benefits. (See GN 00304.001D. for date of death determinations when there is conflicting evidence. See GN 00304.100 for instructions on the use of Numident death data as proof of death.)
REFERENCE: For instructions about how to correctly process cases where the deceased wage earner has a Prisoner Update Processing System (PUPS) alert and there are survivors already on the deceased's wage earner's record, or claimants are requesting survivor benefits on the SSN of a deceased wage earner's record and he/she has a PUPS record, see Recognizing that a PUPS Record Exists for a Claimant from the MBR" (GN 02607.500D.).
C. Operating Policy - Proof of Death Needed
1. Title II Benefits
Proof of death is needed when:
An application for survivor's benefits or lump-sum death payment is filed.
Conflicting reports raise a question about the month or year of death (to resolve a conflict in evidence used to establish a person’s date of death, see instructions in GN 00304.001D.
An underpayment is due and the NH dies before receipt of the initial life benefit check.
There is reasonable doubt of the fact of death for:
Any person who, if living, would (instead of the claimant) be entitled to benefits or a lump-sum;
Any spouse whose death is alleged to have ended a prior marriage; or
Any beneficiary whose termination of entitlement would increase other benefits.
Medicare records show a date of death discrepant from that alleged in a conversion case.
2. Title XVI Benefits
Proof of death is required when:
One member of an eligible couple dies, regardless of whether an underpayment is due; or
Someone other than the eligible individual dies and the eligible individual's payment amount could increase as a result (i.e., deeming spouse, parent, sponsor, or spouse of sponsor dies).
D. Operating Policy – Date of Death Determination
1. Determine Date of Death
When proof of death is required per instructions in GN 00304.001C., obtain evidence following procedures in GN 00304.005 - GN 00304.050. In most instances, the date of death will be the same date reflected in the proof of death evidence. But in some instances, the date of death from the evidence for determining proof of death will conflict with the date of death from other evidence.
2. Develop Evidence for Date of Death
If a conflict exists between any of the evidence regarding the date of death (i.e., allegations by the claimant, the date of death indicated on SSA systems records such as the NUMIDENT, or evidence gathered per GN 00304.005 - GN 00304.050), determine if the conflict would affect a claimant’s eligibility for a benefit or the amount of a benefit. If the conflict would affect a claimant’s eligibility for a benefit or the amount of a benefit, follow the procedures in GN 00304.001D.3. to resolve the conflict. If the conflict would not affect a claimant’s eligibility for a benefit or the amount of a benefit, accept the date of death indicated by the first piece of evidence, per the order of evidence, as instructed in GN 00304.005- GN 00304.050.
EXAMPLE: A date of death discrepancy would be material if the month or year is in conflict, or if the difference is between the last day of one month and the first day of the following month. In these situations, the date of death conflict affects the right to benefits for either the deceased wage earner or survivors on that record. However, a discrepant day within the same month and year, even if the first of the month is involved, would not make a difference in benefit termination for life benefits or eligibility month for survivor benefits.
3. Resolve Conflicts in Evidence
Prepare a special determination according to instructions in GN 01010.360 for the date of death. Develop all available evidence indicating the date that death most likely occurred, including preferred evidence (GN 00304.005), secondary evidence (GN 00304.015), and circumstantial evidence (GN 00304.025). Such evidence includes:
Statements of the claimant and persons with knowledge about the deceased person,
Investigations conducted by Federal, State, or local agencies,
Information about others who died at the same time, or
Information from the media (newspaper, internet, etc.) in situations involving an accident or natural disaster.
Based upon all evidence, determine the most reasonable date the death occurred on. Although the procedures in GN 00304.005 - GN 00304.050 provide for an order of evidence for proof of death, such order of evidence for determining a date of death, may not necessarily be applicable when a conflict regarding the date of death exists.
A conflict may exist between evidence at the same level of the order of evidence for proof of death. If this occurs, determine which type of evidence most reasonably establishes the date of death.
In the situation of a missing person whose body is later identified, some evidence may indicate the date of death is the date the body is identified or give a range of dates for the date of death. However, we may find the most likely date of death to be the date that the person disappeared, if evidence indicates this is reasonable. This may be applicable when an accident or natural disaster occurs, but is not limited to such situations.
In the situation of a missing person whose body is not found, and the fact of death is established based on circumstantial evidence per instructions in GN 00304.025, we may find the most likely date of death to be the date that the person disappeared, if evidence indicates this is reasonable.
In the situation of a missing person whose body is not found and the fact of death is based on a presumption of death after seven years have elapsed since the disappearance per instructions in GN 00304.050A., determine the date of death per instructions in GN 00304.050B.7.
Refer the case to the Regional Office for a Regional Chief Counsel (RCC) opinion per instructions in GN 01010.815 if you are unable to determine the date of death under these instructions.
E. Examples of Date of Death Determinations
When a disaster or accident occurs, the date of death on the death certificate (the preferred proof of death) for a victim is listed as the date the victim’s body was recovered. However, secondary evidence (such as a claimant’s statement about the events of the disaster or accident), or circumstantial evidence (such as newspaper or police reports of the disaster or accident), might reveal that it is reasonable to conclude that the victim died days or weeks prior to the date listed on the death certificate. Although the death certificate is the preferred evidence of proof of death per GN 00304.005, it does not necessarily establish the date the victim died, if the secondary or circumstantial evidence reasonably establishes a different date of death.
The body of a person missing for six years is found. The death certificate lists the date of death as the date the body is found. However, the coroner’s report states that the person was most likely killed six years prior to the recovery of the body. Although both the death certificate and the coroner’s report are preferred evidence of proof of death, per GN 00304.005, it is reasonable to rely on the coroner’s report to establish the date the victim died.
There are cases of missing people where the bodies were later found and there is a conflict between the date of death indicated on the death certificate and the other evidence submitted. In these situations, SSA determined that the date indicated by other evidence is the date of death that may be used. See the precedent PR 05-092 (located in POMS PR 02905.016A.), PR 95-506 (located in POMS PR 02905.034A.), and PR 01-143 (located in POMS PR 02905.048A.).
There are cases of missing people whose bodies are not recovered and are presumed dead based on circumstantial evidence. In these situations, the date of death is determined to be the date that death most reasonably occurred. See the precedent PR 06-028 (in POMS PR 02905.020A.), PR 06-062 (in POMS PR 02905.027A.), and PR 04-098 (in POMS PR 02905.041A.).