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Malti Patel

Q: My mother, a widow, died in late April. Social Security tells me that I must return her April benefit (paid in May) even though she was alive most of the month. Why is this?

A: Social Security benefits are not pro-rated. To be entitled to a Social Security benefit check for a given month, the person must be alive the entire month. No benefit is payable for the month of death. You can return the check at your local Social Security office.

Q: Can I file a claim for the $255 death benefit for my brother?

A: No. This payment is limited to a spouse who was living with the worker at the time of death or to a spouse or a child who, in the month of death, is eligible for a Social Security benefit based on the worker's record.

Q: If my retirement or disability benefits are computed under the WEP, will the benefits of my dependents and survivors be affected?

A: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) affects the benefits of retired or disabled workers who also are receiving a pension based on work not covered by Social Security. Since dependents' benefits are derived from the worker's benefit, WEP affects dependents' benefits as well.

WEP does not affect benefits paid to survivors of workers who received pensions based on noncovered employment.


A worker and spouse both claim their benefits at full retirement age. Because the worker receives a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, the benefit amount under the WEP benefit formula is $700. Based on the WEP benefit amount, the spouse's benefit is $350 (one-half of the worker's WEP benefit amount).

When the worker dies, the WEP reduction is removed. The surviving spouse's benefit is refigured using the regular benefit formula.

Q: If a person dies before payment is made, can payment be collected by the estate?

A: An underpayment due on behalf of a deceased beneficiary is payable to the next of kin or to the legal representative of the estate under the following order of priority established by law:

A spouse who was living with the beneficiary when he or she died or a spouse entitled on the same earnings record,
A child entitled on the same earnings record,
A parent entitled on the same earnings record,
A spouse not entitled on the same earnings record,
A child not entitled on the same earnings record,
A parent not entitled on the same earnings record, or
A legal representative of the estate.
An underpayment must be paid in this order. If no one qualifies in the first category, then we proceed to the second category, and so on. In order for a payment to be due, the deceased beneficiary must have lived throughout the entire month for which the check was issued.

Q: Will a child who receives survivor benefits lose them after they are adopted? Our daughter, who had two young children, passed away two years ago. Her husband is planning to remarry and his fiancé wants to adopt the children after the marriage. Will the children lose the Social Security survivor's benefits that they currently receive?

A: No. The adoption of a child already entitled to survivor's benefits does not terminate the child's benefits.

These questions and answers are courtesy of Malti Patel, 1607 Wood Creek Lane, Allen, Texas-75002. She can be reached at (469) 675-0972.

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