I won't claim to know the intent of the Social Security Act, but I'd say Social Security survivor benefits are meant to provide income to those who can not work to support themselves. This means survivor benefits go to :
In other words, unlike most commercial life insurance, Social Security survivor benefits aren't a simple lump sum or annuity that you'd receive at time of death irrespective of your life situation.
So even if your mother didn't work a day in her life, she likely will qualify for (reduced) survivor benefits at age 60 (50 if disabled). If she did work, she'll get the higher benefit from either her work record or your father's work record.
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