When someone in the family dies, there’s often a long to-do list of administrative tasks that need attention during this difficult time. The funeral home director can help walk you through many of the steps you'll need to take. In fact, reporting a death to the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically is handled by the funeral home, which is one task family members can mark off their list. But there are other reasons to contact SSA, including applying for survivors’ benefits.
Contacting SSA to Report Death
The funeral home director completes Social Security Form SSA-721 (Statement of Death by Funeral Director) and mails the completed form to the SSA. You’ll need to provide the deceased person’s Social Security number (SSN), date of birth and widow’s/widower’s address and telephone number.
If you report the death, contact the SSA by phone or by visiting your local office, because they do not have an online reporting option. Call the main SSA phone number at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778 for the deaf and hard of hearing). Visit SSA.gov/locator and click Locate an Office by Zip to search for a specific office by ZIP code.
Read More: How to Report a Death to Social Security
Social Security Survivors' Benefits
Certain family members may qualify for Social Security benefits, depending on each member’s relationship to the deceased. Eligibility is also dependent on whether the deceased worked long enough in certain jobs for family members to receive survivors’ benefits. The SSA urges family members to contact it as soon as possible to begin receiving any benefits to which they’re entitled.
Qualifying for Benefits
Family members who may be eligible to receive survivors’ benefits include:
- Widows and widowers age 60 or older (if disabled, age 50 or older).
- Widows and widowers at any age who are caring for the deceased’s child who is younger than age 16 (or disabled at any age).
- Unmarried children of the deceased who are younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 for full-time elementary or secondary school students).
- Unmarried children of the deceased who are age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
- Stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren and adopted children under certain circumstances.
- Parents of the deceased who are age 62 or older and depended on the deceased for half their financial support.
- Surviving divorced spouses under certain circumstances.
Contacting SSA for Survivors' Benefits
Unlike reporting a death, survivors can apply for Social Security benefits online at SocialSecurity.gov, in person at a local SSA office or by calling SSA at 800-772-1213 or 800-325-0778 (TTY). Access these phone numbers 24 hours every day to use many automated options, but to speak to a person, call Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Returning Social Security Benefits
If the deceased had been receiving Social Security benefits at the time of death, you’ll have to return any benefit received for the month of death and all later months. For example, if the person dies in February, return the benefit that may be received in March as well as any following months. If the benefit is paid by check, return the check to SSA, and if the benefit is paid by direct deposit, contact the receiving financial institution and request that they return the funds to SSA.
Reporting a Veteran's Death
Surviving families of veterans may also be eligible for benefits through the Veterans Administration. Start by reporting the death to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) at 800-538-9552. Call 800-827-1000 for benefits information, and if you experience problems access the new VA hotline by calling the White House VA complaint line at 855-948-2311. The White House VA hotline is staffed by live agents around the clock every day of the year.
- Social Security Administration: State of Death by Funeral Director
- Social Security Administration: Survivors Benefits
- Social Security Administration: Social Security Office Locator
- Social Security Administration: How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies
- VA.org: Reporting a Veteran's Death
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: White House VA Hotline
Victoria Lee Blackstone was formerly with Freddie Mac’s mortgage acquisition department, where she funded multi-million-dollar loan pools for primary lending institutions, worked on a mortgage fraud task force and wrote the convertible ARM section of the company’s policies and procedures manual. Currently, Blackstone is a professional writer with expertise in the fields of mortgage, finance, budgeting, tax and law. She is the author of more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.