What Happens if a Social Security Disability Claimant Passes Away?

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When a Social Security Disability Claimant Passes Away During the Disability Process

By: Nikki D. Evans
Attorney, PLF

As social security disability attorneys, we understand that many of our clients are dealing with severe, and sometimes life-threatening, medical conditions. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the social security disability process and the length of time it can take for a social security disability claim to ultimately receive a decision, some claimants pass away while waiting for a determination to be made. Sometimes they pass away as a result of their severe impairments, and other times it can be for unrelated reasons (i.e., motor vehicle accident, victim of a crime). So, what happens to that social security disability claimant’s case when they pass away?

The Social Security Administration allows for a substitute party to take the place of the deceased claimant. There are regulations for this, and only certain individuals are eligible. A person’s eligibility can depend on a number of factors – including what type of claim it is, the relationship between the person and the social security disability claimant, and the claimant’s living arrangements at the time of death. For example, a deceased claimant’s best friend most likely cannot take his place and receive his benefits. Typically, SSA will look for the closest relative to the claimant. The most common of these are spouses, children, or parents. Again, eligibility can also depend on the type of claim. For Supplemental Security Income claims, the regulations are more restrictive and there are fewer possible substitute parties.

Substitute Party For a Deceased Social Security Disability Claimant

In a substitute party situation, the benefits that the substitute party would be eligible for is called a “closed period”- if approved, the substitute party would typically be paid benefits from the alleged onset date to the date of the claimant’s death. See Substitute Party Forms for more information about the process. If you are eligible to be a substitute party, there is paperwork required and forms you must sign to be entered into the claim and become eligible for receipt of any potential benefits. Of course, there are regulations that govern the entire process, and your disability attorney can provide you with more detailed information on the specifics of your case and whether you may qualify as a substitute party for a deceased claimant.