A little known provision of the Social Security system allows parents to receive Social Security benefits based on the child’s contribution to Social Security if the child dies. These are called Parent’s Benefits, which can easily be confused with Mother’s and Father’s Benefits (which are paid when one parent dies leaving the other to care for a disabled child).
Social Security Parent’s Benefits are not available every time a child dies. The critical elements are that the parent is at least 62 years old and was dependent on the deceased child.
20 CFR §404.370 is the applicable regulation which outlines the requirement of Parent Benefit eligibility.
You may be entitled to parent’s benefits on the earnings record of someone who has died and was fully insured. You are entitled to these benefits if all the following conditions are met:
(a) You are related to the insured person as his or her parent in one of the ways described in §404.374.
(b) You are at least 62 years old.
(c) You have not married since the insured person died.
(d) You apply.
(e) You are not entitled to an old-age benefit equal to or larger than the parent’s benefit amount.
(f) You were receiving at least one-half of your support from the insured at the time he or she died, or at the beginning of any period of disability he or she had that continued up to death. See §404.366(b) for a definition of one-half support.
If you were receiving one-half of your support from the insured at the time of the insured’s death, you must give us proof of this support within 2 years of the insured’s death.
If you were receiving one-half of your support from the insured at the time his or her period of disability began, you must give us proof of this support within 2 years of the month in which the insured filed his or her application for the period of disability.
You must file the evidence of support even though you may not be eligible for parent’s benefits until a later time. There are two exceptions to the 2-year filing requirement:
(1) If there is a good cause for failure to provide proof of support within the 2-year period, we will consider the proof you give us as though it were provided within the 2-year period. Good cause does not exist if you were informed of the need to provide the proof within the 2-year period and you neglected to do so or did not intend to do so. Good cause will be found to exist if you did not provide the proof within the time limit due to””
(i) Circumstances beyond your control, such as extended illness, mental or physical incapacity, or a language barrier;
(ii) Incorrect or incomplete information we furnished you;
(iii) Your efforts to get proof of the support without realizing that you could submit the proof after you gave us some other evidence of that support; or
(iv) Unusual or unavoidable circumstances that show you could not reasonably be expected to know of the 2-year time limit.
(2) The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 provides for extending the filing time.