The Honorable Bob Casey
United States Senate
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC    20510

Dear Senator Casey:

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to endorse your bill, the “Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment Act of 2023 (the SWIFT Act).”  Your legislation would offer significant additional protections to surviving widows and widowers whose Social Security benefits under current law are limited and even denied because of certain long-standing technical provisions within the Social Security Act.

Under current law, widows and widowers who become disabled after their spouse dies are not allowed to claim survivor’s benefits until they reach age 50.  In addition, the disability must have begun, in general, no more than seven years after the spouse’s death.  And unlike other disabled beneficiaries, the value of their benefits is significantly reduced if claimed before the widow or widower’s full retirement age (FRA).

Another obscure provision of the Social Security Act, known as the “widow(er)’s limit,” permanently reduces a widow or widower’s Social Security benefit if their deceased spouse claimed retired workers benefits before reaching his or her FRA.  In effect, the widow or widower sees their benefits reduced based on the retirement decision made by the deceased spouse.  More than one-third of widows and widowers see their benefits permanently reduced by this limitation.  Also reducing benefits is the fact that widows and widowers, unlike retired workers, will see no increase in their survivor benefits if they postpone application until after reaching FRA.

Another provision that adversely affects widows and widowers is a rule that ends child-in-care benefits for younger surviving spouses when their youngest child reaches age 16.  Even though the mother or father’s benefit ends at that point, the child continues to receive benefits generally until age 18, a bifurcation that has no rationale other than to reduce program costs.

Your bill, the “Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment Act of 2023,” would:

  • Allow widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses with disabilities to qualify for survivor benefits regardless of their age, and without regard to when the disability begins;
  • Establish that there would be no reduction in the amount of a disabled surviving spouse’s benefit solely because it began prior to the surviving spouse’s FRA;
  • Eliminate the “widow(er) limit,” so that the amount of the surviving spouse’s benefit would be unaffected by the retirement decision made by the deceased spouse;
  • Allow surviving spouses to increase their base benefit by delaying receipt of benefits in much the same way the retired workers accumulate delayed retirement credits by postponing receipt of benefits until after the worker’s FRA;
  • Enable younger surviving spouses with children in their care to receive spousal benefits until the youngest child reaches age 18 (or 19 if the child is still enrolled in a primary or secondary school);
  • Hold current beneficiaries harmless in the sense that individuals currently receiving federal means-tested public benefits will not lose access to those benefits due to any increase in their Social Security benefits resulting from the enactment of this legislation; and
  • Require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to publish a booklet containing information on survivor benefits and the intricacies of claiming decisions and to distribute it proactively to widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses when SSA becomes aware of the death of a spouse.

The SWIFT Act represents a bold initiative to improve the lives of many vulnerable seniors, and the National Committee thanks you for your leadership in developing an impressive package of improvements to the Social Security program.  We look forward to working with you to pass this important legislation.


Max Richtman
President and CEO