What Happens If I Die Before a Decision is Made on My Disability Case?

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Question

I applied for disability benefits last month. I have esophageal cancer and will undergo surgery next week. My prognosis is questionable, depending on how the surgery goes. What happens if I die before I get approved for benefits?

Answer

Sadly enough, a disability claimant (applicant) with a pending case does sometimes die before a decision is made by a Social Security disability examiner or an administrative law judge.

Can a claimant's disability claim proceed in a scenario such as this? Yes. A deceased claimant's surviving family member may continue to pursue the disability claim for the benefit of the claimant's estate. A family member or the estate can collect disability benefits owed from the date of disability onset (SSDI) or the date of application (SSI) to the date of death. 

The family member who continues the claim will need to submit a copy of the claimant's death certificate as well as a completed "substitution of party" form. If an attorney was representing the claimant, the Social Security Administration will follow its normal procedure when it's time to process the attorney's fee. For more information, see our article on continuing a disability claim after the applicant dies.

In addition, if the disability claim is approved and the claim was for SSDI, surviving family members may be eligible for a continuing dependents benefit. For more information, see our section on dependents benefits.

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