Social Security Survivors Benefits Page: 1 of 6
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Order Code RS22294
Updated January 8, 2008
~. CRS Report for Congress
Social Security Survivors Benefits
Kathleen Romig and Scott Szymendera
Domestic Social Policy Division
Social Security is formally known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability
Insurance (OASDI) program. This report focuses on the Survivors Insurance component
of Social Security. When workers die, their spouses, former spouses, and dependents
may qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. This report describes how a person
becomes covered by Survivors Insurance. It outlines the types and amounts of benefits
available to survivors, eligibility for those benefits, and the benefit application process.
It provides statistics on survivor beneficiaries and a legislative history of Survivors
Insurance, including legislative activity in the 110th Congress. Current bills that would
affect survivors benefits include H.R. 340, H.R. 341, H.R. 1159, H.R. 1160, and H.R.
1162. This report will be updated annually.
The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program, better known
as Social Security, is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The
Survivors Insurance component of OASDI is similar to life insurance. When a person
insured by Social Security dies, his or her family may qualify for survivors benefits.
SSA's actuaries estimate that the net present value of Survivors Insurance for a young
family with two children and average earnings is equivalent to a life insurance policy with
a face value of $433,000.'
At the end of 2007, there were 6.5 million survivor beneficiaries, representing about
one in seven OASDI beneficiaries.2 Each month in 2007, about $6 billion was paid in
survivors benefits. Survivor beneficiaries are almost all either women or children: 29%
of survivor beneficiaries receive child's benefits, and 99% of those receiving other types
of benefits are women.
'Social Security Administration memorandum from Orlo R. Nichols, Actuary, "The Insurance
Value of Potential Survivor and Disability Benefits for an Illustrative Worker," Nov. 28, 2006.
2 Social Security Administration, "Fact Sheet on the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance
Program," Dec. 21, 2007, at [http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/FACTS/fs2007_12.pdf]. (Hereafter,
SSA Fact Sheet.)
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Social Security Survivors Benefits, report, January 8, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc812116/m1/1/: accessed January 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.