My husband just passed away; when can I receive survivors benefits?

What benefits do surviving spouses receive?   Photo: Unsplash

We chose several questions about senior benefits eligibility from the calls and letters we received and want to share the information in this month’s column. If you have additional questions on Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, Social Security Retirement Benefit, Supplemental Security Income, or COVID/Flu vaccination, there are three ways you can reach us today:

-Call our Senior Assistance Center at:

(English) 1-800-336-2722, (Korean) 1-800-582-4259, (Chinese Mandarin) 1-800-683-7427, (Cantonese) 1-800-582-4218, (Vietnamese) 1-800-582-4336


-Mail: NAPCA Senior Assistance Center, 1511 3rd Avenue, Suite 914, Seattle, WA 98101

Q: I have received SSRB (Social Security Retirement Benefit) since I turned 62. Will my retirement be increased when I reach my FRA (Full Retirement Age)?

A: No. Because you started receiving retirement benefit earlier than your FRA, it was fixed with the reduced amount permanently. Beneficiaries can collect full amount only when they start to collect retirement at their FRA. They can delay applying for benefit up to age 70 and it will grow by around 8% every year during those delayed years.

Q: I am a U.S. citizen and 58 years old. My husband just passed away. He had received Social Security Retirement. Can I receive survivor’s benefits now or should I wait until I reach my retirement age? Can I get additional assistance for living even when I can receive spouse’s benefits?

A: When you reach 60 years old you can apply for lifetime reduced Surviving Spouse benefit. If you qualify for retirement benefits on your own record, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. You can receive whichever is the higher benefit. If you wait to apply for the survivor benefit until your FRA, you will receive 100% of the SSRB your deceased spouse received.

You may be eligible for Medicaid now if your income is limited. At 65, you should apply for Medicare, and you can try to apply for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and/or MSP (Medicare Savings Programs) depending on your income and assets.

Q: I am 65 years old and have been in the U.S. for 10 years by this September. I applied to be a permanent resident and will be getting my green card soon. When can I enroll into Medicare? I heard there is five-year waiting period. Do I have to wait five years after I receive my green card?

A: To be eligible for Medicare, a person must be 65 or older and must be either a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the U.S. for at least five continuous years. You don’t have to be a permanent resident for the entire five years but need to be a permanent resident when you enroll in Medicare. Your IEP (Initial Enrollment Period) starts when you receive your permanent resident notice with card and lasts for the following three months.

Q: When will my Medicaid Redetermination happen? When will I get my renewal letter from the state? I haven’t gotten a letter from the state. What should I do?

A: When you receive Medicaid Redetermination notice depends on when your Medicaid end date is. In general, Medicaid recipients receive renewal notice 30-60 days prior to their coverage end date but every state has its own rules. Medicaid Redetermination is currently in progress and will continue for 2023 and expected to continue on a rolling basis through 2024.

It is very important to pay close attention to all communications sent by your State Department of Health, so your renewal goes smoothly and to avoid a loss of your insurance. That is why it’s important to keep your contact information up to date. If you think you should have received your redetermination paperwork but haven’t, you can call your local Medicaid office.

National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of AANHPI older adults and their families.  We operate a NAPCA Senior Assistance Center for Older Adults and Caregivers and we are available in five different languages.   

Leave a Reply