The process for applying and receiving Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits is typically a protracted one. It is not unusual for claimant to die before the State agency makes an initial decision, or before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) can hear the case. Unfortunately, this has happened to several of our clients recently. The question arises, what happens to an SSD claim if you die before benefits are approved?
A deceased claimant's surviving family member may continue to pursue the disability claim for the benefit of the claimant's estate, and can collect the benefits if approved. The Social Security Administration will determine the amount of benefits owed, and to whom they are payable. Spouses, children, and the deceased's estate may be eligible to collect benefits.
The family member who continues an SSD claim will need to submit a copy of the claimant's death certificate with a "substitution of party" form. The surviving family members may be eligible for a continuing dependent’s benefit too. If there is no one eligible to receive the underpayment, it will be necessary to dismiss the disability claim.