My wife died last July, and I intend to claim her death benefits with the SSS. This is despite the fact that, as early as 2006, we have already been separated and I am already cohabiting with another woman with whom I have a child. My wife and I have two children together, and my salary is not enough to support them. Can I claim my wife’s death benefits despite us being separated when she died?
When a Social Security System (SSS) member who has paid at least thirty-six (36) monthly contributions dies, his/her primary beneficiaries are entitled to receive a monthly pension. This is pursuant to Section 13 of Republic Act No. 8282, or the Social Security Law of 1997, which provides:
“SEC. 13. Death Benefits. – Upon the death of a member who has paid at least thirty-six (36) monthly contributions prior to the semester of death, his primary beneficiaries shall be entitled to the monthly pension: Provided, That if he has no primary beneficiaries, his secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump sum benefit equivalent to thirty-six (36) times the monthly pension. If he has not paid the required thirty-six (36) monthly contributions, his primary or secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump sum benefit equivalent to the monthly pension times the number of monthly contributions paid to the SSS or twelve (12) times the monthly pension, whichever is higher.”
In addition to this, Section 8 of the same law enumerates who the primary beneficiaries of a member are. In this provision, it states that the primary beneficiaries of a member are the dependent spouse, until s/he remarries, the legitimate, legitimated, legally adopted and illegitimate children:
“Section 8. Terms Defined.- For purposes of this Act, the following terms shall, unless the context indicates otherwise, have the following meanings:
“(k) Beneficiaries – The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted and illegitimate children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member: Provided, That the dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to fifty percent (50 percent) of the share of the legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children: Provided, further, That in the absence of the dependent legitimate, legitimated children of the member, his/her dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to one hundred percent (100 percent) of the benefits. In their absence, the dependent parents who shall be the secondary beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all the foregoing, any other person designated by the member as his/her secondary beneficiary.”
Despite this, being legally married to a member is not enough to be considered as a primary beneficiary. This has been held by the Supreme Court in Social Security System vs. Aguas (G.R. No. 165546, February 27, 2006; ponente, former Associate Justice Romeo Callejo Sr.):
“On the claims of Rosanna, it bears stressing that for her to qualify as a primary beneficiary; she must prove that she was the legitimate spouse dependent for support from the employee. The claimant-spouse must therefore establish two qualifying factors: (1) that she is the legitimate spouse, and (2) that she is dependent upon the member for support.
The obvious conclusion then is that a wife who is already separated de facto from her husband cannot be said to be dependent for support upon the husband, absent any showing to the contrary. Conversely, if it is proved that the husband and wife were still living together at the time of his death, it would be safe to presume that she was dependent on the husband for support, unless it is shown that she is capable of providing for herself.” (Emphasis supplied)
Considering that you have long been separated from your wife, you cannot be considered as her primary beneficiary. Thus, you cannot claim your wife’s death benefits from the SSS.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
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.