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Scenario: In USA, a person is receiving $1900 monthly from Social Security. His parents receive a total of $1200 monthly. (These numbers are rounded from a particular family’s actual amounts.) The parents are officially dependents of the son. (Not likely, given those amounts, but possible.)

According to “Survivors Benefit Amount” (as I understand), if the son dies, the parents can give up their $1200 and instead get 150% of the $1900. This means that instead of three people living on $1033 each, two people would be living on $1425 each. This doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

Did I miss some detail, or is this analysis really correct?

This is not the family’s actual situation, just something I noticed when I was trying to help them.

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  • Why doesn't that make much sense? I'm not sure what you think the concern is from the facts you've outlined?
    – quid
    May 20 at 18:17
  • Doesn’t make economic sense to increase their effective per capita income if what they had before was sufficient. But the question is whether my analysis is accurate, not whether the rule is logical. I don’t expect logic from bureaucracy.
    – WGroleau
    May 20 at 18:21
  • @WGroleau Why wouldn't this make sense? Three people can live in a house on a more economical per capita basis than two people can. I would expect the per capita benefit to rise even more for only 1 person.
    – Glen Yates
    May 20 at 18:56
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The criteria are rather strict, but in a case where the son had high earnings throughout his working life (while his parents did not have especially high earnings), then the parents would fare better as survivors on the son's record of earnings.

From your web link,

  • Criterion: Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
  • Benefit: Two surviving parents — 75 percent to each parent.

Each parent would have to qualify as being dependent on the son, to receive 75% of the son's benefit.

In your scenario, I don't see the parents as dependent on the son prior to his death. They had $600 each by their own rights, and it doesn't seem that the son contributes more than $600/month to each parent. That would only leave him with $700/month, which doesn't seem defensible.

Long story short, the parents may not have qualified as dependents prior to the son's death. If they did not qualify as dependents then, they do not qualify as survivors now.

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  • So your answer to my question is that I interpreted it correctly?
    – WGroleau
    May 20 at 19:23
  • Please see my edited answer. The last paragraph indicates that I don't think the parents were "dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support." If they weren't dependents, they are not now survivors. It would be best to talk with a CFP, as I'm not an expert, just an amateur looking at the same SSA web page that you are. May 20 at 19:26
  • For that family, they weren’t dependents. But I lived comfortably for a few years on much less than $2000, and gave away a lot, so I thought it was possible.
    – WGroleau
    May 20 at 19:31
  • If they all lived in a house owned free-and-clear by the son, it's easy for them to be his dependents. Otherwise, you'd have to show the receipts to make the case, I'll bet. May 20 at 20:14
  • From my experience living cheap, I'd say that the $700 is possible but difficult. Anyway, it's just curiosity on a hypothetical situation.
    – WGroleau
    May 20 at 22:01

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