My husband and I have been living separately for about 10 years before he died two years ago in their province. He went home to their province to find a decent job, however, he was not able to find one until he became sick and eventually died. We did not have communication after he left for the province, and I only found out that he passed away through his sister who I accidentally met in Manila. We do not have any children and are independent from each other. I filed for death benefits as surviving spouse with the Social Security System, but my claim was denied because, according to the SSS, I was not dependent upon my husband for support at the time of his death. Now that my claim is denied, can the siblings of my husband claim for the death benefits?
According to Republic Act (RA) 8282 otherwise known as the Social Security Act of 1997, the primary beneficiaries of a member of the Social Security System (SSS) who has paid at least thirty-six (36) monthly contributions prior to the semester of death shall be entitled to death benefits or a monthly pension. If there are no primary beneficiaries, his secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to lump sum benefits equivalent to thirty-six (36) monthly contributions (Section 13, RA 8282).
Under Section 8 of the law, a spouse can only be qualified as primary beneficiary if he/she can prove that he/she is not only a legitimate spouse but also dependent, that is, one who is dependent upon the member for support. Thus, the claimant-spouse must therefore establish two qualifying factors: that she is the legitimate spouse; and that she is dependent upon the member for support (Social Security Commission and Social Security System v. Teresa G. Favila, G.R. No. 170195, March 28, 2011). The denial of your claim for death benefits as primary beneficiary was clearly based on the foregoing considerations because you were already separated from your husband for ten (10) years before he died and that, according to you, you were living independently from each other.
As to the entitlement of your husband’s siblings to the death benefits, the SSS may not grant the death claim to them even if you do not qualify as a primary beneficiary unless they are designated as secondary beneficiaries by your husband. Section 13 of RA 8282 provides that the secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to death claim in the absence of a primary beneficiary. The secondary beneficiaries under the law are the dependent parents of the SSS member and in the absence of such parent, the person designated by the member as secondary beneficiary shall be entitled to death benefits (Section 8 [e][k], RA 8282).
We hope that we have answered your query. Our legal opinion may vary if other facts are stated or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com