TN 22 (04-09)
RS 00207.002 Widow(er)'s Benefits - Payment and Termination
Soc. Sec. Act 202(e), 202(f), 202(k), 202(q), 203 and 225; Public Law § 201 of P.L. 98-21;
Regulations 20 CFR § 404.407, 404.410 and 404.412
A. Policy — amount of widow(er)'s benefit
The type of computation used is determined by the age of the widow(er), whether the deceased number holder (NH) ever received reduced benefits or died prior to attaining age 62. If the NH was entitled to reduced benefits, there is a limit to the amount payable to the widow(er), regardless of whether the widow(er)’s entitlement begins prior to or after full retirement age (FRA). For a full overview on the computation, see RS 00615.003B, RS 00615.302 and RS 00615.320.
Beginning with individuals born after January 1, 1940 unreduced widow(er) benefits are payable at different ages depending on the date of birth. (Refer to chart in RS 00615.003B.)
1. Full Retirement Age (FRA) or later
Where the first month of entitlement (MOET) is the month of attainment of FRA or later, the widow(er)'s benefit is equal to 100 percent of the deceased NH's primary insurance amount (PIA) except where the deceased NH was at any time entitled to a reduced retirement insurance benefit (RIB) or was eligible for the delayed retirement credit (DRC). For use of DRC in computing widow(er)'s benefit, see RS 00615.702 through RS 00615.708 and when the deceased NH was entitled to a reduced RIB, see RS 00615.320 and RS 00615.322.
2. Transitionally insured NH
Effective 5/83 a widower can be entitled if his deceased wife was only transitionally insured. Previously, only a widow could be entitled under the transitionally insured status provision. A widow(er) who qualifies only under the transitionally insured provisions is entitled to the same benefit as a transitionally insured individual. The rates for a transitionally insured individual are fixed by law and are as follows:
NOTE: The rates for this chart will not be updated beyond 11/07.
3. Age 60 to FRA
Where the first MOET is the month of attainment of age 60 through the month before FRA, the widow(er)'s insurance benefit (WIB) is reduced by the number of months of entitlement prior to the attainment of FRA and may be further reduced if the deceased NH was ever entitled to a reduced retirement insurance benefit (RIB). The widow(er)’s date of birth (DOB) and when he or she will reach FRA determines the maximum possible reduction factor. (See RS 00615.301.) The widow(er)’s benefit may be further reduced if the deceased NH was ever entitled to a reduced RIB. (See RS 00615.320.) If the deceased NH was eligible for DRC, see RS 00615.700 through RS 00615.708.
Entitlement to reduced widow(er)'s benefits before a widow(er) reaches age 62 may result in reduction of a DIB or an RIB to which the claimant may later become entitled.
4. Widow(er) remarries after age 60
The policy is:
When a widow(er) remarries after age 60, the subsequent marriage is deemed not to have occurred for entitlement and termination purposes. (See RS 00207.003A.2.) The amount of the widow(er)'s benefit in such cases is as described in RS 00207.002A.1. or RS 00207.002A.3.
Prior to 1/79: For months before 1/79, remarriage reduced the benefits of certain widow(er)s. (See RS 00615.714 and RS 00615.715 for a more detailed explanation.)
If the remarried widow(er) qualifies only under the transitional insured status provision, the amount specified in subsection RS 00207.002A.2. is payable.
REMINDER: A widower cannot qualify under this provision before 5/83.
5. Under age 60 and disabled
The policy is:
Benefits to a disabled widow(er) age 50 to 59 and 11 months will be increased to the amount a widow(er) would receive at age 60 had there been no DWB entitlement. (See RS 00615.301 for additional discussion and RS 00615.310 for the law effective 1/84.)
Prior to 1/84: For months prior to 1/84, benefits for a widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse who is entitled because of disability were further reduced for entitlement before age 60. See RS 00615.310 for further explanation.
A claimant’s entitlement to DWB will result in a reduction of a DIB or RIB to which he or she may later become entitled. (See RS 00615.420 through RS 00615.474 and RS 00615.160.)
A claimant who is entitled to a widow(er), surviving divorced wife or surviving divorced husband or DWB may have in care a child of the NH (under age 16, or disabled) entitled to benefits. For any months in which the child is in care, the amount of the benefit may not be reduced below the amount he or she would have received based on entitlement as a mother or father. (See RS 00615.340.)
6. More than one claimant
Where more than one claimant qualifies for widow(er)'s benefits on one ER (see RS 00207.001), each qualifies for a widow(er)'s benefit computed in the usual manner. The benefit of a surviving divorced spouse or, effective 1/91, a legal widow(er) in a legal/deemed or legal/putative simultaneous entitlement situation is not subject to reduction for the family maximum for the first and all subsequent months of entitlement. (See RS 00615.680.) For policy about the family maximum, see RS 00615.684, Benefits When a Legal Spouse and a Deemed or Putative Spouse are Entitled.
B. Policy — simultaneous and dual entitlement
Refer to RS 00615.020 and RS 00615.768 for an overview of simultaneous and dual entitlement. Check for possible simultaneous/dual entitlement when there is a cross-reference number on the award/application or Master Beneficiary Record (MBR).
For a full explanation of the method of reduction for multiple types of entitlement, refer to RS 00615.000.
1. RIB and widow(er)'s benefits
A claimant, after attaining age 62, may be entitled to widow(er)'s benefits if his or her RIB does not equal or exceed the deceased NH's PIA. Under this provision a claimant may be simultaneously entitled to a widow(er)'s benefit and a higher RIB (as long as the RIB does not equal or exceed the deceased NH's PIA or deemed PIA), only the RIB will be payable.
If the RIB pays a higher monthly benefit but the original WIB is still greater than the RIB, pay the RIB and place the WIB in suspense status. See RS 00615.150 and RS 00615.170.
NOTE: Remember to discuss all filing options with the claimant and document the claims file as instructed in GN 00201.005C.
REMINDER: A claimant entitled to RIB and WIB can have two different FRAs. (See RS 00615.003 and RS 00615.004.)
2. DIB and widow(er)'s benefits
The policy is:
If a claimant is entitled to a DIB which is less than the widow(er)’s benefit, he or she will receive the DIB plus the difference between such benefit and the widow(er)'s benefit. See RS 00615.350 if the WIB date of entitlement (DOE) is concurrent or after the DIB DOE and RS 00615.420 if the WIB DOE is before the DIB DOE.
If the claimant is entitled to a widow(er)'s benefit and an equal or higher DIB, only the DIB is payable under the simultaneous entitlement provision.
If the DIB benefit is subject to S7/EPESGA suspension for a given month, compute the widow(er)’s benefit as if the DIB is payable in that month (see RS 00605.238C.2.).
Benefits to other auxiliaries on the ER of the deceased NH are not revised upward as a result of suspension of the surviving divorced spouse’s benefit.
At FRA, the DIB converts to an RIB and any DWB benefit converts to a WIB benefit. See SM 03020.330. When a simultaneous DIB benefit terminates and RIB is elected, the widow(er) is entitled to the full original benefit (OB) on the deceased NH’s record (subject to the RIB Limitation (RIB LIM) rules). See RS 00615.350 and RS 00615.595 for further instructions.
REMINDER: See reminder in RS 00207.002B.1.
3. Spouse's and widow(er)'s benefits
A person who is entitled to a widow(er)'s (including surviving divorced spouse’s) benefit and is also entitled to a higher spouse's benefit on the current spouse's ER, will receive the widow(er)'s benefits plus the amount by which the spouse's benefit exceeds it. See RS 00615.170 if the widow(er)/spouse is also entitled to RIB and RS 00615.714 if the widow(er)’s benefits are retroactive prior to 01/79.
4. Widow(er)'s and divorced spouse's benefits
The policy is:
A person who is entitled simultaneously as a divorced spouse and a widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse can receive only the higher of the two benefits.
If the divorced spouse's benefit is higher, but is subject to government pension offset (GPO) or deductions due to excess earnings, no payment of the widow(er)'s benefit can be made even though technical entitlement to the widow(er)'s benefit continues.
The claimant should consider excluding spouse's benefits from the scope of his or her application.
5. More than one widow(er)'s benefit, or to widow(er)'s and parents benefits
If a claimant is entitled to more than one widow(er)'s benefit or to a widow(er)'s and parent's benefit, he or she will receive the higher of the benefits. (See RS 00615.301A.1.)
C. Policy — nonpayment of benefits
Payment of widow(er)'s benefits may be affected by the annual earnings deduction (except for payments based on disability) and also by the following circumstances which are neither deduction nor termination events:
Status of Widow(er) Surviving Divorced Spouse
Eligible for receipt of government pension
GN 02608.100 through GN 02608.107
The NH was deported and the claimant resides outside the U.S.
Outside U.S. for at least 6 full consecutive calendar months.
Alien or Non-citizen
In U.S. for a full calendar month and claimant is not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or alien lawfully present in the U.S.
Resident of a Barred Country
Residence in a country to which the mailing of U.S. Government checks is prohibited.
RS 02650.001, SM 03020.030
Member of a Religious Group
The widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse was granted a tax exemption.
Conviction by a court
The claimant was deprived of certain benefit rights by court sentence after conviction for an offense involving espionage, sabotage, treason, sedition, or subversive activities.
The claimant is confined to a correctional or mental institution for more than 30 continuous days effective 4/1/2000 and continuing.
The claimant was convicted for a criminal
offense; or, a court of competent jurisdiction issued a verdict, finding or a ruling that declared the claimant:
guilty but insane with respect to an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year;
not guilty of such an offense by reason of insanity;
incompetent to stand trial under an allegation of such an offense;
determined to have a similar verdict or finding with respect to such an offense based on similar factors (such as mental disease, mental defect or mental incompetence); and
the claimant is confined to an institution at public expense; or
Immediately upon completion of confinement in a correctional institution, (confinement in the correctional institution was based on a crime an element of which was sexual activity), the individual is confined by court order to an institution at public expense because he/she was determined to be a sexually dangerous person or a sexual predator or similar finding.
GN 02607.160, GN 02607.310.
NOTE: If the claimant is confined to an correctional institution before 4/1/2000 see GN 02607.160 for additional non-payment information on prisoner confinements.
If the claimant is confined to a mental institution based on a criminal act before 4/1/2000, see GN 02607.310 for additional nonpayment for this institutional confinement.
The claimant has an unsatisfied warrant
for an attempted crime or crime, or an unsatisfied warrant for a Federal or State probation or parole violation for more than 30 continuous days.
Widow(er) has an unsatisfied warrant for a crime or an attempted crime that is a crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year (regardless of the sentence imposed) or, for a violation or a condition of Federal or State probation or parole unless good cause can be established for not satisfying the outstanding warrant.
NOTE: Effective for benefits payable 01/01/05 as amended by P.L. 108-203.
Entitlement based on a disability.
Deductions under the annual earnings test, or for non-covered work outside the U.S. do not apply to a claimant who is a DWB or disabled surviving divorced spouse. EXCEPTION: If the claimant is a DWB or disabled surviving divorced spouse and is simultaneously entitled to RIB-DIB, the earnings test applies to any month he/she elects to receive RIB.
If a higher DIB becomes payable, the WIB technical entitlement continues even though no payment is made.
Entitlement based on a disability - Continuing Disability (DWB).
NOTE: When a continuing disability suspension action is input for a disabled NH or the disabled NH is in suspense during the extended period of eligibility (EPE), benefits for all currently entitled beneficiaries on the record are also suspended.
SM 03020.050, SM 00848.425, DI 13005.055C, DI 13010.160, DI 40525.005
Waives Benefit Payments
A widow(er) who for personal reasons does not want to be paid benefits but remains entitled to benefits.
SM 03020.260, SM 00848.425, GN 02409.020
Administrative Sanctions (issue of fraud raised)
An Office of Inspector general (OIG) investigation has been completed and sanction recommended.
SM 03020.020, SM 00848.425, DI 11006.030
The claimant does not have a Social Security Number (SSN) and refuses to apply for one.
NOTE: This is effective with dates of initial entitlement of 6/89 or later.
Benefits are suspended during the interim period between the time when new legislative provisions and amendments to the Social Security Act are passed and imposed.
SM 03020.180, SM 00848.425, MSOM COMMON 005.001
Unable to locate (UTL)
Whereabouts are unknown.
SM 03020.290, SM 00848.425, GN 02602.320
D. Policy — when entitlement ends
1. Legal widow(er)
The legal widow(er)’s entitlement ends with:
The second month following the month in which the widow(er)'s disability ceases if he or she became entitled to DWB before age 60. The claimant may reapply if he or she again becomes disabled within the period specified in RS 00207.001B. No waiting period is required for re-entitlement.
NOTE: For instructions about simultaneous entitlement to WIB and DWB, see RS 00615.315. For instructions about the use of the SSA-795, Statement of Claimant or Other Person, to elect WIB for any month in which a DWB beneficiary was an aged widow(er), see GN 00201.005B.3.h.
NOTE: If the disabled claimant attains FRA on or before the last day of the third month following the month his or her disability ceases, entitlement continues without an application. The claimant then becomes subject to the rules applicable to an aged widow(er); e.g., the earnings test. (See RS 02501.021 on the policy.) However, if the disabled claimant attains FRA in a month later than the third month following the month his or her disability ceases, benefits will terminate. A new application is required to establish re-entitlement.
2. Deemed widow(er)
Entitlement of a widow(er) under a “deemed marriage” ends when any event which would end a legal widow(er)'s entitlement occurs.
Beginning with dates of entitlement 1/91 and later, a legal (or putative) and deemed widow(er) may be paid simultaneously. See GN 00305.055A.3.b. for benefits payable 12/90 or earlier. For policy about the family maximum, see RS 00615.684, Benefits When a Legal Spouse and a Deemed or Putative Spouse are Entitled.
If information is received establishing that the widow(er) of a “deemed marriage” knew at the time of the ceremony that the marriage was not valid, the benefits paid to him or her are erroneous and subject to recovery action. The beneficiary may also be guilty of fraud. (See GN 04020.010 for reopening these cases.)
NOTE: Prior to 1/91, a widow(er) under a “deemed marriage” could become entitled or re-entitled if the legal widow(er)'s entitlement terminated because he or she died. However, termination of the legal widow(er)'s entitlement because he or she became entitled to an RIB which is equal to or exceeds the deceased NH's PIA did not permit entitlement or re-entitlement of the widow(er) under the deemed marriage provision. This is because the legal widow(er) still had status as such and was previously entitled to a benefit on the NH's ER. Under such circumstances, the deemed marriage provision was not applicable (see policy in GN 00305.055A.3.).
See policy in GN 00305.085 if a widow(er) is entitled under the “putative marriage” provision.
3. Surviving divorced spouse
The entitlement of a surviving divorced spouse ends with the month before the month in which any of the following events occur:
GN 00204.020, Scope of the Application
GN 00204.022, Explore Entitlement on Another Earnings Record or to Another Class of Benefits
RS 00615.003, Full Retirement Age
RS 00615.004, Attainment of Full Retirement Age
RS 00615.420, DIB After Entitlement to Reduced WIB (D/W then HA)
RS 00615.595, Computing the Widow(er)’s Benefit - Reduction Factor Adjustment – Dual Entitlement to DIB Before or Concurrent with WIB