WASHINGTON – After hearing from a concerned Cheshire resident, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced on Wednesday new legislation – called the Benefit Adjustment of Social Security Income Compensation (BASIC) Act to strengthen Social Security benefits and help ease the burden on families after a loved one passes away. Murphy’s bill would increase the Social Security one-time payment that surviving family members receive after a beneficiary dies, and require the Social Security Administration to pay a pro-rated amount of the deceased beneficiary’s benefits for the month they passed away.

Under current Social Security Administration policy, surviving family members receive a one-time payment of $255 – often a substantial reduction from the beneficiary’s monthly Social Security benefit—and are forced to pay back the benefits received for the month of their loved one’s death. For example, if a beneficiary dies on May 30th  and Social Security Administration is not notified to stop payment of the May benefit, the surviving family is required to repay the Social Security benefit for the entire month. This can be a financial burden on families since beneficiaries already incurred expenses for the month, such as rent, groceries, or medical bills, prior to their death.

Cheshire resident and Korean War veteran Ray Squire brought this issue to Murphy’s attention after he contacted Murphy’s office over concerns about his family’s ability to pay bills if he passes away at the end of a month. In Connecticut, 91 percent of seniors receive Social Security benefits, and 38 percent of the state’s 65-and-over population would have incomes below the poverty line if they did not receive Social Security.

“Social Security was started for a reason – to help American seniors and their families pay their bills. But right now, the Social Security Administration penalizes grieving families after the death of a loved one by docking their Social Security benefits. For too many families in Connecticut, it forces them into a financial hole as they’re coping with their grief,” said Murphy. “I’m grateful to Mr. Squire for bringing this problem to light. I’ll work hard to get this bill passed so that he and other Connecticut families no longer have to worry about having enough money at a time they need it most.”

“It’s very personal, and it’s something we don’t think about until we’re forced to,” said Mr. Squire, a Cheshire resident who brought this issue to Murphy’s attention. “I’m sure there are a lot of seniors who aren’t even aware of this issue.”

Murphy’s BASIC Act would increase the current $255 lump-sum payment to 50 percent of the deceased beneficiary’s typical monthly Social Security income, with $255 as the minimum payment. The BASIC Act would also require the Social Security Administration to pay a prorated amount of the deceased beneficiary’s Social Security benefits for each day of the month the recipient lives. For example, if the beneficiary dies on May 30th, Social Security will pay an amount of the beneficiary’s typical monthly Social Security income pro-rated at 30 days.