You are eligible for mother/father benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record if:
- You have not remarried;
- You have a child in your care who is a) under 16 or disabled and b) entitled to child’s benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record; and
- You have not yet applied for your regular widow/widower benefit (i.e., your surviving spouse benefit).
Mother/Father Benefit Amount
The amount of a mother/father benefit is 75% of your deceased spouse’s “primary insurance amount” (that is, 75% of the monthly retirement benefit that your deceased spouse would have received if he she had been alive at his/her full retirement age and filed for benefits at his/her full retirement age).
Automatic Conversion to Widow(er) Benefits
When you reach your full retirement age, if you are receiving a mother/father benefit at that time, you will automatically be “deemed” to have filed for your widow(er) benefit. And because of eligibility requirement #3 discussed above, that means that your mother/father benefit will terminate at that time.
Reductions to Mother/Father Benefits
While the basic mother/father benefit is 75% of your deceased spouse’s primary insurance amount, there are various factors that could reduce your mother/father benefit.
- If you are working, the Social Security earnings test could result in your mother/father benefit being partially or fully withheld.
- If you are receiving a government pension from work that was not covered by Social Security tax, the “government pension offset” will reduce your mother/father benefit by 2/3 of your monthly pension amount.
- If more than one child is receiving child benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record, the family maximum rule could result in your mother/father benefit being reduced.
- If you have applied for your own retirement benefit, your mother/father benefit will be reduced (but not below zero) by the amount of your retirement benefit.
Of note: unlike retirement benefits, spousal benefits, and widow(er) benefits, mother/father benefits are not reduced as a result of filing for them prior to your full retirement age.
Retroactive Application for Mother/Father Benefits
When you file for mother/father benefits, you can backdate your application by up to 6 months (but no earlier than your deceased spouse’s date of death), thereby allowing you to receive a lump sum for months for which you were eligible for a benefit but simply had not yet filed for such.