Government Benefits

When someone in your immediate family dies, you may have the right to financial aid from the government. Two key sources of aid are survivor’s benefits and veteran’s benefits.

Survivor’s Benefits

Survivor’s benefits are paid every month to eligible family members and, if eligible, a one-time death payment of approximately $255 for a surviving spouse. The amount of the monthly benefit depends on your loved one’s average lifetime earnings. The more he or she earned, the more your benefits will be.

Who can claim survivor’s benefits?

You can claim for survivor’s benefits if you are:

  • a widow or widower 60 years or older (50 if disabled) and still caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled, or
  • an ex-wife or husband 60 years or older (50-59 if disabled) if your marriage lasted at least 10 years or you are caring for your child, who’s younger than age 16 or disabled and is your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child, or
  • an unmarried child under 18 or 19 years (22 if disabled), or
  • a dependent parent aged 62 years or older, and
  • the deceased made sufficient Social Security contributions

A complete list of eligible claimants is available on the website of the Social Security Administration.

Inform Social Security about the death of your loved one

Social Security is notified of your loved one’s death automatically through the electronic death certificate system, so you do not have to call Social Security yourself.

Apply for your benefits

Even if you are entitled to survivor’s benefits, you must apply for them. They won’t be paid to you automatically. Just call the toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 or go to your local Social Security office. An appointment isn’t necessary, but it could avoid a lot of wasted time.

Be prepared by having as much information to hand as possible (e.g. birth, marriage and death certificates). A complete list of information required to claim survivor’s benefits is available on the website of the Social Security Administration.

Veteran’s Benefits

If your loved one was a veteran and is being buried in a national or private cemetery, he or she may be entitled to burial benefits. These benefits include a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Even if your loved one is being cremated, he or she has the right to burial benefits. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries with the same honors as casketed remains.

Who can claim for veteran’s benefits?

To claim for veteran’s benefits, your loved one must have been a veteran and you must have paid for his or her burial or cremation. Additionally, there is a long list of veteran’s eligibility requirements, which you can find on the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You can also call the department at 800-827-1000.

Burial allowance for certain survivors

A burial allowance is also available to some survivors. If your loved one’s death was service-connected, the amount of the allowance is higher (currently up to $2,000) than if it was not service-connected.

Applying for burial benefits

Burial benefits are not paid automatically. You need to apply for them. Do this by filling out a VA form 21P-530. You can find much more information about the application process and your entitlement by going to the website of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

We have highlighted the main Veteran’s Benefits, but other benefits are offered such as pension benefits for survivors. A complete list of benefits can be found on the www.benefits.va.gov/benefits.

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