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Why do step children qualify for step father's survivors benefits?

Spokane, WA |

My daughter's dad passed away last month. He had gotten married to a girl in Columbus, Georgia while in the military. His wife had two children already when they met. Her children still have their dad. They have a court order that states joint custody and she receives no child support from the children's dad. My daughter lives with me in Spokane. When I applied for her survivor benefits they told me if my daughter's dad paid for half the support of her children they would receive the benefits also. I guess I just don't understand why when they were not his kids.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. You ask why this is allowed, basically the answer is because that is what the laws governing the payment of Social Security survivors' benefits allows. Some time ago a policy decision was made that step-chidlren who received 50% or more of their support from a step-parent would be eligible for survivors' benefits on that step-parent's account should that step-parent pass away. The funds are to replace the financial support lost when the step-parent stopped providing the support (passed away.) The benefits are not intended to replace the emotional or physical existence of the deceased step-parent.

    Here's the blurb from the SSA website:

    Your unmarried children who are younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time) also can receive benefits. Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid to your stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren or adopted children.

    Stepchildren are eligible for Social Security benefits provided they are dependent upon the step-parent/recipient of Social Security and the step-relationship has existed for at least twelve months prior to applying for benefits. Also the child must depend on the stepparent for at least one-half of her financial support and maintenance. If the parent and stepparent divorce, the stepchild’s benefits will end the month following the month in which the divorce is final.

    Disclaimer Information on this site is provided by Brian Scott Wayson as general information, not legal advice, and use of this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about your specific situation, please call an attorney.

  2. If dad was in the military, you need to check with the Veterans Administration to see if you or the child are eligible for VA benefits. I do not know enough about how dad died or the medicala problems he suffered, but there are several types of benefits for which eligibility needs to be evaluated: Survivors benefits (death in service or death after service), burial benefits, education benefits to name a few. You can start you research at the following website:

    Scroll down to the bottom 1/3 of the page for more information.

    Best of luck to you.

    The exact answers to questions like this require more information than presented. The answer(s) provided should be considered general information. The information provided by this is general advice, and is not legal advice. Viewing this information is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not take any action that might affect your claim without first seeking the professional opinion of an attorney. You should consult an attorney who can can ask all the appropriate questions and give legal advice based on the exact facts of your situation. The general information provided here does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  3. My colleagues have given good answers.

    The short answer is, Social Security is a social insurance program, not an inheritance program, which provides for support of dependents upon the death, retirement, or disability of a wage-earner who has worked and paid sufficient Social Security (FICA) taxes.

    Congress decided that a step-child could qualify for a dependent's check under certain criteria, one of which is that the stepchild was actually supported by the wage-earner. That law states the wage-earner must have been providing at least one-half support of the stepchild.

    This communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship. This communication offers general information based on the limited facts set out in the question, and does not constitute the giving of legal advice. For specific legal advice, consult an attorney in your state who is knowledgeable in this area of law.

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