Social Security: How Can I Apply for Mother’s or Father’s Benefits?

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When a worker dies, Social Security survivor benefits help provide financial support for those that depended on the worker’s income. Workers’ children, spouses and dependent parents may be eligible to receive benefits. Social Security’s Mother’s or Father’s Insurance Benefit is paid to the surviving spouse or surviving divorced spouse of an insured worker.

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To be eligible for benefits, you must have a child under the age of 16 or disabled in your care. You must also be unmarried and meet the marriage duration requirement; however, a surviving divorced spouse does not have to meet the 10-year marriage duration — but must be finally divorced from the deceased worker — according to benefits.gov.

Additionally, you must not be entitled to a higher Social Security retirement benefit on your own record, or be entitled to a widow’s or widower’s benefit.

Here are documents you may be asked to provide:

  • Proof of the worker’s death.
  • Your birth certificate or other proof of birth.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status.
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s).
  • W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year.
  • Proof of marriage.
  • Final divorce decree if applying as a surviving divorced mother or father.
  • Child’s birth certificate or other proof of birth.
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) also says to be prepared to answer several questions regarding your personal information as well as questions relating to the deceased worker.

To apply for Mother’s and Father’s Benefits with the SSA, you can either call the national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office. Calling ahead and scheduling an appointment is not required, but it could reduce your wait time.

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The SSA also says to bring your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so that you can sign up for direct deposit.

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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