Ask Larry

How Many Months Can I Claim Widow's Benefits Retroactively?

My DOB is May 1952 and my deceased husband's DOB was April 1951. I used the Maximize My Social Security software, which showed that with one exception it would be best for me to take my social security benefit at my FRA (66) and for him to start taking his spousal benefit, while letting his benefit grow to age 70, because his was greater. (The one exception would be if my husband should die within the first year, which as it turned out is what happened.) We applied for these benefits in November 2018 and received 6 months retroactive payment to the month that I turned 66. Shortly after our payments got started, my husband died on 1/31/19. Now, I am left with only my benefit which is substantially lower. I am currently applying to take my Widow benefits. I contacted the SSA office in May 2019 for this benefit and a telephone appointment was scheduled for 7/22/19. They said that they will only make the payment retroactive to May, because that is when I contacted their office to request the benefit. This is disappointing because, based on my previous experience with applying for benefits, I thought that the payments would be retroactive from the date of contact with the SSA office to the date of his death. In other words, I’m concerned that I am losing out on benefits from the date of his death through May. In your understanding, how many months retroactive should the Widow benefit be paid?


I'm sorry for your loss.

What you were told by Social Security is incorrect. Since you were already full retirement age (FRA) at the time of your husband's death, you can file for widow's benefits as late as July 31 2019 and still claim benefits retroactive to your husbands month of death in January 2019. Widow's benefits don't increase if you wait past FRA to claim them, so you should definitely elect to start your widow's benefits effective with January 2019.

If necessary, you could direct the Social Security representative with whom you speak to part D.1 of the following section of their operations manual:

Best, Jerry

Jul 25 2019 - 5:24pm
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