In the situation where your spouse has died, you as the surviving spouse need to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA). The funeral home or hospital usually notifies SSA of the actual event of the death. You the individual need to contact SSA and work through any benefit changes that might apply to your situation.

There are three SSA offices close by, but none are currently allowing in person appointments, Jamestown, Olean or Dunkirk. You can call these local offices; Jamestown- 877-319-3079, or Olean- 877-319-5773, or Dunkirk- 888-862-2139. The hours are Monday thru Friday 9am to 4pm. You can also call the national number at 800-772-1213, and this National number is available for extended hours, from 7am to 7pm Monday thru Friday. This national number also has pre-recorded help-line information available 24 hours a day, but to speak to a representative you must call between 7am and 7pm (EST).

During this contact you will speak to SSA staff or receive information that will assist you through this difficult situation. They can answer questions you have regarding your current monthly benefit amount, how to file for benefits if you don’t already collect benefits, and the possibility of adjusting your benefit amount to the new amount. They will explain any changes to your SSA payment and when it will take place. This conversation also will prompt a written letter you will receive later explaining what was discussed, and the final outcome of that discussion.

It is important to realize that your information will be evaluated and some of your questions can be answered. You will also be given an actual appointment for a later date, sometimes up to 6 weeks later. This process can take some time to resolve and finish, but it starts with that initial contact, so don’t put that off.

An example: James collects $2,400 in monthly Social Security and the spouse (Jane) collects $900 in benefits; the following two scenarios apply. If James dies and Jane is surviving her SSA benefit will increase up to the $2,400 amount. She will begin collecting the higher amount of the two payments. The smaller amount no longer comes to the household. If Jane dies, her SSA benefit obviously stops and James continues to collect $2,400. SSA staff will explain this, but differently. SSA would explain Jane’s $900 amount continues and the additional $1,500 is from James’ benefits. But mathematically the $2,400 is the same to Jane. Another change is the time of the month the deposit comes. If Jane’s deposit was the second Wednesday it may change to the third or fourth Wednesday of the month, or visa versa.

Sometimes there are complications, like divorce prior to death, multiple marriages for one or both spouses, and many others. Also children surviving the person who died and those children are under the age of 18. There are many different scenarios and I cannot address all those situations here. SSA is going to help you with your personal situation. There will also be some delay in this income change, so realize the first month or two you will be living on your current SS benefit until it is adjusted, and you will get the money owed to you, deposited, once you have had your appointment with SSA and your information updated in their computer.

SSA does help with burial costs with a one-time payment of $255 to the surviving spouse.

If the individual at death is single, divorced or widowed, there is no one-time payment.

I am sorry for your loss and hope you have the support of family and friends to support you. We are here to help you with this and the many difficult situations that life throws at you.