According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) nearly $450,000,000 in Social Security benefit checks go uncashed each year. These uncashed checks as an unclaimed asset can be recovered but there is a 3 year time limit. In addition there are $millions of unclaimed benefits being held. Many survivors or heirs of decedents who paid into Social Security are not aware they are entitled to receive benefits. A widow or widower, the decendent's children and even the decendent's parents maybe eligible to receive benefits. Also, many are not aware of the one-time lump sum death benefit which could be payable to either the spouse or to the decendent's minor children.
Another source of unclaimed Social Security benefits arise because many are not aware that if a person paid into Social Security and died prior to receiving any benefits, the decendent's spouse and/or children may have been entitled to receive benefits based on the deceased individual earnings.
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a huge database containing vital information such as SSNs, Social Security application date & state of issuance, date of birth and final Social Security payment for more than 70 million people whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Deaths included in this index may have been included by a survivor requesting benefits or in order to stop Social Security Benefits to the deceased. Most of the information (about 98%) included in this index is from 1962 although some data is from as early as 1937. The reason for this is that in 1962 SSA began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits. Many of the earlier records have never been added to this computerized database.
Also included in the millions of records are approximately 400,000 railroad retirement records from the early 1930s for those who are entitled to receive pension benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1934. These railroad workers' Social Security Number begin with numbers in the 700-728 range. After 1963, railroad workers were issued a SSN based on where they applied -just as everyone else. (For more information on Railroad Retirement Benefits go to RRB Search).
It is possible that SSDI may not have record of many individuals for several reasons. One, deaths prior to 1962 were never recorded in the computerized databases. Two, in the earlier days of its computerized records, the records only tracked were for claims filed. If a person was not receiving benefits and no claim for death benefits ever filed, there was no reason to enter that record into the computerized system. Third, many teachers and other municipal employees often were covered by separate retirement programs and therefore SSA did not record their information.
Knowledge of the Social Security number of a deceased relative is likely necessary to conduct a thorough unclaimed asset search and is necessary when filing a claim. American Refund Services has access to all the databases to locate the deceased unclaimed Social Security benefits, as well as, access on how to find the deceased's SSN if not known.. (There is a $18.00 fee for this Service.)