Dear Liz: My husband and I were married after dating for over four years, but he died suddenly on our honeymoon. When I got home, I was told by our local Social Security office that I did not qualify for survivors benefits because we were not married long enough. I am going to be 66 next month and he was already receiving Social Security benefits. People have been advising me to look into getting this marriage benefit, even by contacting my Congressional representative, since I don’t plan to apply for my own benefit until I’m 70 and could really use the survivor benefit now.
Answer: Social Security isn’t likely to help you cope with your devastating loss. The rule that couples have to be married for at least nine months is meant to prevent deathbed marriages designed just to give the survivor benefits.
There are some exceptions to the nine-month rule, such as when the death was accidental or in the line of duty for service members, or if you had a child together. The exceptions are outlined on the Social Security’s site: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-0335.htm