The lump sum death benefit is a little-known Social Security benefit for which some survivors of a Social Security recipient are eligible. Here, the Maryland Social Security attorneys at Disability Associates explain key information about the lump sum death benefit.

What is the Lump Sum Death Benefit?

The lump sum death benefit is a one-time benefit of $255 that is provided by the Social Security Administration to the eligible surviving spouse or eligible surviving children of a worker beneficiary or other insured worker. In order to qualify, a surviving spouse must have been living with the worker at the time of their death. Alternatively, the spouse is eligible if they already receive benefits based on the worker’s record or became eligible for survivor’s benefits upon the worker’s death. If there is no eligible spouse, the lump sum death benefit is split evenly among any children who are eligible for benefits based on the worker’s record. If there are no eligible spouse or children, the lump sum death benefit is not paid out.

Will the Lump Sum Death Benefit Ever Increase?

The real value of the lump sum death benefit has declined significantly since it was first introduced, and a variety of proposals have been introduced in order to increase or do away with the benefit entirely. Most recently, the Social Security Lump Sum Death Benefit Improvement and Modernization Act of 2015 proposed that the lump sum death benefit can be increased to $1,000. In 2018, Congress proposed a bill, known as the BASIC Act, that would increase the lump sum death benefit to 50% of the worker’s primary insurance amount (PIA), or benefits the worker would have received if they had chosen to receive their retirement benefits at their normal retirement age. As of the publication of this article, no proposal has been passed, and the lump sum death benefit remains capped at $255.

How Can I Apply for the Lump Sum Death Benefit?

While smaller than other benefits, the lump sum death benefit is still a valuable aid to those who qualify. In order to apply, recipients will require documents demonstrating their eligibility. This may include:

  • a birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States;
  • U.S. military discharge papers if you served in the military before 1968;
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year; or
  • a death certificate for the deceased worker.

The Social Security Administration will also require a variety of other information from you. A list of questions you may be asked can be found here. A Social Security attorney, such as the attorneys at Disability Associates in Maryland, can help answer any questions you may have about the lump sum death benefit, as well as your eligibility. To learn more about how a Social Security advocate can help you, contact Disability Associates today.