Will My Younger Child's Benefit Rate Increase When My Older Child Stops Getting Benefits?

Category: 
Jul 1 2020 - 8:56am

Hello. Can you please help me with a question about my child's survivor benefits. My 2 youngest kid's father passed away in 2010. Supposedly, we were divorced the morning before his evening death. My kids were 9 and almost 3 then. My son just graduated high school and received his last check in his name. We got a letter saying it would be his last. They both have gotten equal amounts since then. I am wondering if she will get the entire amount now? They were both getting $1376 each. I have not received any letter and the people at the SS office don't seem to know anything on the phone. Offices are closed. I assumed she would and now I am a total mess, because I can't work right now and that is the only income we have. Thank you for any help you can give.

Hi,

If your 2 children are the only survivors getting benefits on their father's account, then your younger child's benefit amount won't be increased when your older child's benefits stop. The only reason that a child's benefit rate would increase when another child stops receiving benefits is if their benefit rates were being reduced due to the family maximum benefit (FMB).

The FMB is the maximum total amount of benefits that can be paid from a worker's account per month. The FMB payable on a deceased worker's record is always at least 150% of the worker's primary insurance amount (PIA). Surviving child benefits are calculated at 75% of the deceased worker's PIA, so if only 2 children and no other survivors are receiving benefits on a deceased worker's record then they can both be paid their full benefit rates with no reduction due to the FMB. Therefore, it sounds like your younger child has already been receiving her full benefit rate, which wouldn't then change when your older child stops drawing benefits.

You don't mention anything about drawing benefits yourself, but if you're unmarried and if your youngest child is under age 16 or disabled then it sounds like you might qualify for mother's benefits (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.04/handbook-0416.html). If you do qualify for mother's benefits, though, they could be subject to full or partial withholding if you're working and will earn more than $18,240 this year. If you think that you may qualify for mother's benefits, you' should probably call Social Security to see about filing an application.

Best, Jerry