What Happens to SSDI Benefits if You Die?

Episode 10:  Trevor Smith discusses an interesting topic in today’s podcast episode.  If someone dies while applying for or receiving SSDI benefits, do the surviving spouse or children get to continue receiving those checks?

As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, the Social Security Administration has programs for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

During the process of applying for SSI, if the person dies the case “dies” and benefits can no longer be pursued.  It entire process ceases.

If you are applying for SSDI benefits, and you pass away, the case and related benefits can still be pursued.  There are two primary actions that need to be taken to preserve SSDI benefits if you die.

what happens to SSDI benefits if you die

Preserving the Right to SSDI Benefits

First, someone must be appointed to act as a “Substitution of Party.”  This is someone who will act on the behalf of the deceased claimant.  This person must be a family member (usually a spouse or child).  This person will typically appear in front of the judge to speak on the deceased person’s behalf.

Second, a copy of the death certificate must also be provided.  How the person died is relevant to the application and subsequent benefits.

Why Does How the Person Died Matter?

A cause of death related directly to why the person was unable to work is valuable for the case, and your SSDI benefits if you die.  For instance, someone who’s heart condition made them unable to work and ultimately died of a heart attack is a clear example.

However, if for example the individual was unable to work, but died of a drug overdose, that can have a negative effect on the case.

Once the substitution of party and the death certificate are available, the attorney can continue the process.  Judges often want to hear about the deceased individual from the family member’s perspective, as a substitution of party.

What Type of SSDI Benefits Would be Available?

If the attorney is successful in winning the case, the benefits are generally based on the “back pay” rather than an ongoing check for SSDI benefits.  Remember, with SSDI benefits, there’s a 5-month deductible.  Your attorney will be able to explain this important.

The back pay is the funds that should have been paid to the individual, while still alive, during the time the SSDI application and case was working its way through the system.  Even if the person were still alive, if the case was successful, he/she would have received the back pay and ongoing benefits.  In this case, the back pay is the primary fund, including the 5-month deductible period.  Unlike Kentucky workers’ compensation, which has a specific death benefit built in, SSDI really does not.  Trevor and his colleague Scott Scheynost discussed this topic in one of the episodes of his own podcast.

SSDI is an insurance policy you’ve been paying for during your career.  Each pay check usually showed a deduction of withholdings (FICA).  Part of these withholdings are to fund SSDI benefits.  You’ve been paying for this insurance.  It can be important for the family to continue to pursue SSDI benefits if you die.

Unfortunately, with a case involving SSI, there isn’t a back pay fund to pursue.

If you’d like to speak with Trevor Smith, his office currently remains open during the COVID-19 crisis.  He has taken PPE measures to protect you if you come to the office.  Alternatively, you can contact his office at (502) 581-1133.

Important Disclaimers:  The information provided on this podcast is for general informational purposes only.  It should not be construed as legal advice and does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.  You should seek the advice of an attorney for guidance related to your specific situation.  This podcast maybe freely shared, but may not be the modified or edited in any way.  This is an attorney advertisement.   Principal office is located in Louisville, KY.  Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson.