The Importance of Disability and Survivor Benefits

This is part four and the final article of a series on Social Security. This series is based on information from the Social Security Administration and reviewed by Robert Simons from the Escanaba Social Security office.


Imagine that tomorrow you’re unable — by accident or medical condition — to perform even the simple indoor duties of managing your farm. Few agricultural-related careers offer employees a private long-term disability policy, but nearly all workers have Social Security disability protection.

Under Social Security, workers are considered disabled if they can’t do work they did before and their medical condition doesn’t allow them to adjust to other work. Such a disability must be expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death, as Social Security doesn’t pay any short-term disability benefits. Once benefits begin, they continue for as long as the worker is disabled and can’t work.

The average monthly payment to a disabled worker is $1057. For a disabled worker with a spouse and one or more children, the average payment is $1,585. After receiving disability payments for two years, the worker becomes eligible for Medicare.

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are monthly benefits paid continuously to a deceased worker’s family. The value of such survivor benefits for an average wage earner that dies and leaves a spouse and two children is equivalent to a $403,000 life insurance policy. The difference is that the Social Security benefits are paid monthly, not in a lump sum.

The average monthly payment for a family consisting of the surviving spouse with two children is $1,747/month. The payments increase based on the annual cost-of-living index, which is something few private insurance plans offer.

Children age 18 or younger, or 19 but still in high school, are eligible for survivor benefits. So can a child who is 18 or older but becomes disabled before age 22.

A surviving spouse who is disabled or caring for children under age 16 (or adult children who were disabled before age 22) may receive benefits depending on his/her income from wages or self-employment. The surviving spouse (age 60 or older, or 50 or older and disabled) may also receive benefits.

While this isn’t an all-inclusive discussion of your Social Security benefits, it should aid you in understanding the benefits your tax money can provide. Depending on your age, past earnings and family composition, Social Security benefits will be a little different for all of us.

For more information, log on to or contact your local Social Security office.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources