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Survivor Benefits for Families of Deceased Servicemembers and Overseas Contract Workers

By: Virginia P. Reno, Anita Cardwell, and Joni Lavery
Published: November 2006
Social Security Brief No. 23 ~ October 2006

Summary: Social Security is best known as a retirement program, but it is also an important source of income security for families with children, including families of servicemembers who risk their lives in military service. When a member of the armed forces dies, his or her family may qualify for Social Security until the youngest child completes high school. A widowed spouse, with or without children, is entitled to benefits for life (or until remarried) from the Department of Veterans' Affairs when a servicemember dies. Benefits from both sources are paid in full to families eligible for both. Families of Americans who die while working overseas for companies under contract with the U.S. government are eligible for both Social Security and a special workers' compensation program provided under federal law.