Strictly speaking, the answer is no. Social Security benefits are not “transferred” to the surviving spouse upon the death of the disabled spouse.
However, a widow(er) may be entitled to survivor’s benefits. Keep in mind there are a number of requirements for survivor benefits including the following:
- The marriage has to have lasted at least 9 months (although there are some exceptions).
- The surviving spouse is at least 60 years old, or at least 50 years old and disabled (and the disability began within 7 years of the death of the spouse).
Generally, widow(er)’s benefits are a percentage of the deceased spouse’s benefits until full retirement age. Then, Social Security will first pay the widow(er)’s own retirement benefits. If the deceased spouse’s benefits are higher, Social Security will supplement the widow’s own Social Security benefits up to the deceased spouse’s benefit rate. In other words, a widow(er) gets the higher of his/her own retirement benefits or those on the spouse’s earnings record; but, not both.
For more information, check out Social Security guide titled 5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Social Security (pdf link). Note: despite the title, the guide is also very useful for men as well as women.