It is an unfortunate reality that some claimants pass away while an application for Social Security Disability benefits is pending; however, if a claimant dies while their disability application is pending, the SSA provides that members of the claimant’s family may still recover their benefits, provided there is an appropriate “substitute party.”

Standards for a Substitute Party

A substitute party must be a surviving family member who can stand in place of the claimant before the Social Security Administration. Priority of payment is given in the following order:

  1. Surviving spouse either (a) living in the same household as the deceased person at the time of their death or (b) who, during the month of death, was entitled to a monthly Social Security benefit on the same record as the deceased.
  2. The child/children (in equal shares) of the claimant if, during the month of death, they were entitled to a monthly Social Security benefit on the basis of the same earnings record as the deceased. (Generally, minor children).
  3. Parent(s) (in equal shares) of the claimant if, during the month of death, they were entitled to a monthly Social Security benefit on the basis of the same earnings record as the deceased.
  4. To a surviving spouse (or spouses, in equal shares) who do not qualify under Number 1 above.
  5. To children not qualified under Number 2 above (in equal shares). (Generally, adult children).
  6. To parents , not qualified under Number 3 (in equal shares).
  7. To the legal representative of the deceased claimant’s estate.

Payment will be given in full to the person(s) in the highest level of priority.

How To Become Recognized as a Substitute Party for an SSDI Application

In order to be recognized by the Social Security Administration as a substitute party, the Administration must first receive a death certificate for the deceased claimant as well as a substitution of party form- known as a ‘Form HA – 539’ completed by the substitute party. Once Social Security receives this paper work, the deceased claimant’s family member is considered a substitute party and stands to receive benefits if the Administration determines the claimant was disabled during the period alleged in the claim. This may involve the substitute party appearing and testifying at the deceased claimant’s hearing, if necessary.


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Are The Disability Benefits Awarded Differently?

Disability benefits in a substituted party case can, at most, be awarded for the period between when the claimant’s disability began (onset date) to the date of their death. Contrast this with an application involving a still-living claimant, where benefits can be awarded for an ongoing basis. It is also important to consider that a substitute party may also be entitled to Social Security Survivors Benefits in addition to the deceased claimant’s disability benefits.

About Citizens Disability, LLC:

Since 2010, Citizens Disability has been America’s premier Social Security Disability institution. Our services include helping people in applying for SSDI benefits, managing the process through Reconsideration, and representing people in person at their Hearing, and if necessary, bringing their case to the Appeals Council. Our mission is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, helping them receive the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may be entitled. Learn more about us and disability benefits like SSDI & SSI or give us a call (800)492-3260.