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When you think of Social Security, does it call to mind mature people enjoying retirement? You aren't alone. But the Social Security program is a bigger insurance program than that. It also includes benefits for those who are disabled and cannot work, as well as for the spouse and children of a wage earner who has died.
Social Security Benefits
The Social Security program provides a foundation of economic security for Americans. It's been called America's insurance program, providing a monthly stipend to those who retire, but also to disabled persons and spouses and children of workers who retire, become disabled or die. One quarter of Americans get payments from Social Security.
Social Security is not simply government largess. It is mostly a pay-as-you-go program. Workers pay Social Security taxes as they work. This money goes into the fund, and money flows out in monthly payments to beneficiaries. Once a worker has met a threshold of payments, he is entitled to retirement, disability and family support payments in the event of his death or disability. Approximately 163 million American workers pay Social Security taxes out of their wages, and some 59 million receive monthly benefits.
Benefits for Children of a Deceased Father
If a wage earner who has worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits dies, his minor children and the other parent may be eligible for survivors' benefits. Children get benefits if they are unmarried and under 18 years old. They can also get benefits if they are unmarried and 18 or 19 years old and a full-time high school student. The surviving spouse who cares for a child also gets benefits until the child turns 16 years old. There is no restriction on how the benefits can be used.
How much does a child get in Social Security survivors' benefits? A child can get up to 75 percent of the deceased father’s basic Social Security benefit. However, if the family is large, the total amount may be impacted by the family maximum payment limit. This is determined by the Social Security Administration before benefits begin. It is generally between 150 and 180 percent of the father’s full benefit amount. When the sum total payable to family members is over this limit, each person’s benefit is reduced proportionately.
Applying for Survivors' Benefits
The other parent can apply for survivors' benefits for herself and her children either by calling the service number (800-772-1213) or by going into a Social Security office. She fills out Form SSA-4, Application for Child's Insurance Benefits.
To qualify, the spouse must provide a number of original documents like birth certificates for herself and each child and a marriage certificate. She must also provide personal and financial information about the deceased father, including his Social Security number, date of birth and death, permanent address before death and earnings in the year of and the year before death.
With a Master's in English, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's law school, Teo Spengler is up on education. She splits her home time between San Francisco and France. A perpetual student and frequent teacher, she is also a writer and world traveler. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Fairmont Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites.