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Social Security death benefits for children

A one-time $255 Social Security death benefit is

A one-time $255 Social Security death benefit is paid to eligible survivors, such as dependent children. But this payment isn’t automatic; you must apply for it. Credit: iStock

My daughter was on Social Security Disability when she died in July. I have legal custody of her two children, who receive a monthly survivor benefit. I was told they're also entitled to the $255 death benefit, but we never received a check. Could it have gone to her husband? They hadn't lived together for 14 years.


There are three possibilities: The $255 went to her husband, it was included in the children's monthly checks, or it hasn't yet been paid.

The rule book says the death benefit goes to the surviving spouse if he was living with the deceased or collecting Social Security based on her record. The latter sounds unlikely, but not impossible. For example, after she started receiving Social Security disability, he could have filed for a spousal benefit if he was 62 or older.

Otherwise, the payment goes to surviving children eligible for benefits on the deceased worker's record. The children qualified during their mother's lifetime as dependents of a disabled worker and now qualify as her survivors. This payment isn't automatic; you must apply for it. But under the circumstances, you may have done that without realizing it, says Jane Zanca, a Social Security Administration spokeswoman. If so, perhaps a one-time $127.50 payment ($255 divided by two) was added to each child's monthly check.

Her advice: Call the agency again. Say you're the payee for your grandchildren, and ask if the death benefit has been paid on your daughter's death. Calls are taken from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but late in the day is best. If necessary, leave a message for someone to return your call, or make an appointment at a local office. And if no payment was made, file for it now.

The bottom line A $255 Social Security death benefit is paid to eligible survivors.

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