When a claimant dies while waiting to go to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) regarding his disability claim, that does not necessarily mean the claim ends. If the claimant has an estate, surviving spouse, family member or dependent, they can be substituted on the deceased claimant’s behalf.
The first step is to make sure SSA is aware that the claimant has passed away. This can be done by either calling the national toll-free number (800)772-1213, or by calling or visiting the local SSA office that is handling the claim. A Claims Representative will also discuss any potential survivor’s benefits and/or death benefits due on the claimant’s record with the informer.
Once the surviving beneficiary is identified, Form HA-529 must be completed and submitted to SSA (please click here to see what the form looks like). The substituted party is usually a family member, but this varies depending on the type of benefit the claimant was applying for (SSI, SSD or both). A copy of the deceased claimant’s death certificate must accompany the form when it is submitted to SSA.
The substitute may also elect whether he or she wishes to appear before the ALJ. The decision may also be made “on the record,” meaning that the ALJ reviews the claim and issues a decision without a hearing. If the ALJ issues a favorable decision, benefits are then paid to the substituted party from the alleged onset date (AOD) of disability until the date of death.
The substitute may also be eligible for a continuing dependents benefit. For example, if you are the older parent of an insured worker who has died, and you were dependent on that person, you may collect the monthly benefit if:
- You are at least 62 years old
- You have not remarried since your child’s death
- You are not entitled to your own, higher Social Security benefit, and
- You were receiving at least one-half of your financial support from your child at the time of his or her death (proof of this must be submitted to SSA within two years of your child’s death)
When a person dies it can be a very difficult time for the surviving family members, especially when important choices such as these must be made. Because of this, it is advisable to seek the advice of a qualified Social Security attorney to help best decide who the Substituted Party can be, and guide that person through the remainder of the disability determination process.Written by Anna Westfall & edited by Attorney Andrew November
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