Does SSA reclaim benefits when someone dies?
May 7, 2007 5:07 PM   Subscribe

My grandmother died last Friday. I've been handling her finances for years. She just got her (meager) pension and disbursement from Social Security days before passing. I've talked to the pension people and there's no issue there, but is SSA going to want to reclaim their May disbursement?

It may seem like it's too soon to be asking these questions but since she passed I've just been trying to keep busy.

I ended up paying the nursing home $414 for the few days of May she occupied the room. After her insurance premium and the $40 allowance for toothpaste and such, that leaves about $197 left from the original disbursements. Since my grandmother had no other assets left, I'd like to put that money towards the funeral to ease the financial burden on my mother (even a little). But I don't want to use it if SSA is going to reclaim it.

Has anyone been through this? Right now I'm probably just going to leave the potential reclaimed funds in the account and use every other cent for the funeral.
posted by friarjohn to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Google "social security death benefits":
posted by jellicle at 5:12 PM on May 7, 2007

You have to be alive at 11:59 PM on the last day of the month to keep that month's check.
posted by Jandasmo at 5:20 PM on May 7, 2007

Chances are they're going to want that back. They will just autodebit it right back out of the account that it came from. Like the SSA page says, notify them and notify the bank.

I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:25 PM on May 7, 2007

My sympathies. SSA will want it back. They arrived for my Mothers, so unless the rules have changed they will want to be reimbursed.
posted by fluffycreature at 5:49 PM on May 7, 2007

I'm sorry for your loss.

Yes, as others have noted, we're going to want the money back. When you call SSA's 800-number (1-800-772-1213) you will need to provide your grandmother's name, date of birth, SSN and date of death. You will also be asked if there are any survivors (meaning a spouse, minor child, or disabled adult child) who would be eligible for benefits on her record.

It's a very simple transaction with SSA; it took me all of about 5 minutes when my grandmother died last year. Don't be surprised if the teleservice rep tells you that the funeral home has already notified them.
posted by weebil at 6:34 PM on May 7, 2007

Yes, I have to go through the same thing... my dad died last Friday, and I've been told by my cousin to expect that Social Security will claw back all of the $$$ they put into his account on the first. I thought maybe they'd pro-rate it, but no such luck, apparently.

The funeral home told me that I should contact Social Security now, even before I get certified copies of the death certificate. Although they said that because everything's electronically filed these days, the county's vital-statistics office would probably let Social Security know about Dad's death anyway, but that I should make the first contact with the SSA now.

(On a completely different note: last Friday was also my birthday—odd how these things happen, eh, but Dad lasted long enough to wish me a happy birthday when we talked on the phone on Thursday evening, so I think he figured that once he told me that, he didn't need to hang on any longer. They say that people with terminal illnesses will often stay alive until a particular important event, such as birthdays or anniversaries or whatnot.)

I'm sorry, friarjohn, for your loss, too. It's hard, but we'll both get through it, I know.
posted by kentk at 8:22 PM on May 7, 2007


Condolences on your loss as well. It was hard enough losing my grandmother. I don't know how I'm going to handle it when I lose my parents.

I'll give SSA a call tomorrow. I'm a little (more than) perturbed that SSA will take the entire payment back. Now I wish I hadn't paid the nursing home (although they do deserve the money). I wonder what would happen if I pulled out everything but the prorated about out of the account. I suppose the bastards would come after me.

Thanks everyone for the replies.
posted by friarjohn at 10:29 PM on May 8, 2007

I just called SSA this morning, to notify them of my dad's death. I asked what the deal was regarding them retrieving their money—the Web page seems to suggest that even if it's direct deposit, you're supposed to notify the bank and tell them to send back the money, as opposed to the Social Security Administration sending an electronic withdrawal notice to the bank for the amount of the last month's check (which is what I thought they'd do).

Well... It turns out that Social Security runs a month behind! So the checks that friarjohn's grandmother and my dad got on the first of May are really for the month of April. So we get to keep that money, after all. Since it's early enough in the month, they simply will stop issuing checks, and won't issue any in June, so we don't have to worry about anything.

Where I think it would be an issue would be someone who dies on the 25th of the month, let's say—by the time the heirs notify SSA, it may be too late to prevent the electronic payment on the first of the next month, and then they'd have to send the fistfull of dollars back to Uncle Sam.

At least now we know!
posted by kentk at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2007

Kent is indeed correct. I discovered the SSA arrears payments this morning when talking to the Funeral Director and visited the local SSA office to confirm.
posted by friarjohn at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2007

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