When a Claimant Dies

With delays in the disability adjudication process taking 2 to 3 years, it is inevitable that some claimants will pass away before their claim comes before a judge.  What does this mean to the survivors?

In an SSDI case, the surviving spouse (or surviving children if there is no spouse) can elect to pursue the claim all the way to a hearing.   Just last year I appeared with a surviving spouse at a hearing and we were able to convince the judge that the deceased claimant did meet the requirements for disability prior to his death.  In this particular case the medical record was strong and the surviving spouse gave compelling testimony.

Since there will be no on-going benefits, judges treat the claims of deceased claimants as closed period cases.  In my experience, judges tend give claimants more of the benefit of the doubt, and seem to be more inclined to approve closed period claims because there will be no on going obligation to Social Security.

If you are the surviving spouse or child of a deceased claimant, you will need to file Form HA-539 – Notice Regarding Substitution of Party Upon Death of Claimant.