Massachusetts Court Discusses Eligibility for Social Security Widow’s Insurance Benefits

Social Security benefits are not only available to individuals who have earned and income or are disabled, but also to the individual’s prior or current spouse if the individual dies. Regardless of whether a person is eligible for Social Security benefits, however, he or she will not receive any benefits if he or she does not provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with the necessary documentation. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts recently explained the requirements for receiving Widows Insurance Benefits in a case in which the plaintiff appealed the initial denial of her claim. If you believe you are eligible for Social Security benefits, including Widows Insurance Benefits, you should meet with a knowledgeable Massachusetts Social Security Disability attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the plaintiff was married to the decedent from 1965 through 1982, when they divorced. The decedent began collecting disability benefits in 2001 and died in 2008 when he was 69. After the decedent’s death, the plaintiff filed a claim for Widows Insurance Benefits. The SSA then sent a written request to the plaintiff for proof that she was married to the decedent, evidence of her divorce, and evidence of the decedent’s death. The SSA sent the plaintiff a follow-up letter as well, stating that if she did not provide the requested documentation, her claim would be denied.

It is reported that the plaintiff failed to submit the documents and was notified that her claim was denied, and she had 60 days to appeal the decision. In 2013, the plaintiff submitted a second claim for Widows Insurance Benefits. The claim was approved, and she was paid benefits at a reduced rate. She then filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing, in part, that she was entitled to benefits since 2008.

Widows Insurance Benefits

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration. First, the court noted that a claim may only be reopened under certain circumstances. Specifically, it could be reopened within one year, for any reason, within four years, if the plaintiff demonstrated good cause, or at any time, if the plaintiff established the decision was obtained by fraud or similar acts. In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the denial of her 2008 claim was ambiguous because it stated she was required to produce proof of her marriage under the laws of Brockton, Massachusetts, but that Brockton Massachusetts did not have any laws regarding marriage. As such, she argued that she was led to believe she was not entitled to such benefits. The court found that this was insufficient to establish fraud, as required to reopen the claim five years later. Additionally, the court noted that the SSA sent the plaintiff explicit requests for documentation. Thus, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration.

Meet with a Seasoned Social Security Attorney About Your Case

If your spouse or ex-spouse recently died, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Benefits and should speak with a seasoned Massachusetts Social Security Disability attorney regarding your rights. The trusted Social Security attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan can advise you of what benefits you may be eligible to recover and assist you in seeking such benefits. You can contact us at 508-822-6600 or through our form online to set up a meeting.