October 2, 2014

Who Collects Past Due Benefits if a Claimant Dies Before a Disability Decision is Issued

funeralsceneI recently received a call from a colleague about a situation that is all too common given the delays associated with the Social Security disability adjudication process – the death of a claimant prior to a final adjudication.

In this case, my friend’s mother was married to a gentleman who had applied for benefits in the early 2000’s.  He had been denied at his first hearing, then appealed and ended up before a judge a second time for a second hearing.  Shortly after the second hearing (but before a decision was made) he passed away.

Because of the more then 7 year pendency of his claim the past due benefit amount was substantial – over $115,000.  The question – who gets the money.

According to Social Security law (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20, Section 404.503(b)), the surviving spouse would be the primary beneficiary if she/he was living in the same household as the claimant at the time of death.  If the surviving spouse does not qualify, the surviving children collect.  If there are no children, the parents of the deceased collect.  If there are no parents, the surviving spouse who was not living with the claimant at the time of his death, and so forth.

Note that the funds do not go into the deceased claimant’s estate – they are payable directly to the spouse or other beneficiary.

I previously published a blog post about how I won a case for a deceased claimant.  Prior to proceeding I submitted form HA-539, a Notice Regarding Substitution of Party Upon Death of a Claimant.  Individuals eligible to receive benefits must complete and submit form SSA-1724, which is a form entitled Claim for Amounts Due in the Case of a Deceased Beneficiary.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.

Comments

  1. Hi I am wondering if my son is entitled to any additional benefits? My son is seven and his Dad has been M.I.A for 6 and a half years. Last year he started receiving disability benefits thank god. I think his other children are getting a lot more, because their mom don’t have to work. I work full time and have trouble just keeping enough food in the house even with the benefits he gets (about 450 a month). Part of the problem is I am putting my son through private school which costs about 500 a month, not including the babysiter I pay 150 a month to to keep my job. I don’t want to put him back into public school because they don’t have enrichment in my district, and he was getting in fights. My family has spent 1000’s of dollars to help us just get by, but they can’t do much any more because they are retiring.

  2. Donna Smith says:

    I received my approval letter from Social Security for SSD on December 2 2009 and still have not received my past due benefits. My onset date of disability is May of 2003. I was informed from one of the employees at the local social security office that I will be receiving a substantial amount of money. The supervisor told me that “they have to make sure they dot all the i’s and t’s before they release the money. I have received my first social security check in February, and am wondering why I keep getting the run around! Also, why would they pay more attorney his 25%before paying my past due benefits. I am starting to worry!

  3. lakesish miller says:

    My mother applied for disability in 1988 and it was denied until 1992 even though she received a disability sticker to put in the car and everything. Two weeks before she passed away in the hospital in May 1992 her disability was approved. My mother didn’t work much to get social security but she did eventually had her disability approved for something physical that was wrong with her body. Since I am her daughter and it is now 2010 am I entitled to receive her backpay benefits?

  4. @Donna Smith: I’m in the same boat. same time frame too. dec. 2009, approved feb. 2011 but no back pay and the attorney got his. no one knows the date or just how long it will take. Payment center knows but I can’t talk to them.

  5. my husband was approved for disability in May, 2011 by a judge – we are STILL WAITING for the past due benefits – we have spoken to 4 different people at the social security office over the last few months – and each person told us a different story – which has resulted in still not getting the back benefits –

    is there any recourse for this – or something we could do to put a fire under their butt!!

    HELP -

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