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Is there a time requirement for survivor benefits?

Q. How long must a couple have been married for survivor benefits to be payable when a spouse dies? A. This question does not have a specific answer. Always contact Social Security about potential benefits whenever there is a death in the family....

Q. How long must a couple have been married for survivor benefits to be payable when a spouse dies?

A. This question does not have a specific answer. Always contact Social Security about potential benefits whenever there is a death in the family. In very general terms, a person can potentially qualify for widow or widower benefits if married to the deceased for at least nine months just before death, but there are exceptions to this, especially if children eligible for survivor benefits are involved, and often the duration of marriage requirement does not apply.

For more information, call (800) 772-1213, (800) 325-0778 for the hearing impaired or log on to www.socialsecurity.gov .

Q. What month do SSA retirement benefits begin?

A. A person meeting all requirements can receive reduced retirement benefits beginning with the first full month that he or she is age 62. Benefits are not paid for the month you reach age 62 unless your birthday is on the first or second day of the month. Benefits are paid in the month after the month for which they are due.

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Q. Can I request a Social Security statement now or must I wait for the automatic one?

A. You can request one now. Providing estimates for retirement, disability and survivor benefits, including family benefits, the statement is a useful family financial planning tool. Most workers are automatically mailed a yearly statement about three months before their birthday if they are at least 25 years old and not receiving SSA benefits. You can request one online earlier, but doing so cancels the automatic statement for that year. Your next automatic statement then would be in the next year.

General information questions can be sent to Howard I. Kossover, SSA, 402 DeMers Ave, Suite 300,Grand Forks ND 58201; phone (701) 772-5518 ext. 200; fax: (701) 772-8622; e-mail: howard.kossover@ssa.gov . Please include the name of the paper in which you read the article. General information also is available on the agency Web site, www.socialsecurity.gov , or by calling the national toll-free number, (800) 772-1213.

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