Individuals who are currently interested in receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits (or who are already receiving them) often wonder whether their spouse can get SSD benefits as well. The answer is complicated, but if you and your existing spouse have been married for at least one year, your spouse may qualify to receive a monthly spousal benefit. Divorced spouses, who were married for at least 10 years, and surviving spouses may also be eligible to receive SSD benefits.
The amount of benefits a spouse may be entitled to receive will depend on a number of factors. Generally, an eligible spouse can receive a monthly benefit of up to 50 percent of the disabled spouse’s base SSD benefit amount. A spouse is eligible if:
If age 62 or older. The benefit amount for your spouse is permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months up to their full retirement age.
At any age if the spouse is caring for your child under age 16 or who was disabled before age 22 and is entitled to benefits.
One caveat—your spouse must not be receiving a Social Security retirement or disability benefit of their own that exceeds the spousal benefit. No one can collect the sum of multiple benefits; in cases of what it calls “dual entitlement,” Social Security will pay the higher of the two benefit amounts.
The average lifetime earnings record of the disabled spouse will ultimately determine the available spousal benefits. However, if the couple’s children are also collecting SSD benefits, then the spousal benefits may be reduced. That is because the total social security benefits cannot exceed the maximum family amount. The maximum family amount varies depending on your benefit amount and the number of qualifying family members on your record. Generally, the total amount you and your family can receive is about 150 to 180 percent of your disability benefit.
Surviving Spouse Benefits
If you are the spouse of a deceased who was receiving SSD benefits, you may still be entitled to spousal benefits. Survivor benefits are often quite different than those an individual would be eligible to receive while his or her disabled spouse was still alive. Surviving spouse SSD benefits are calculated as follows:
Surviving spouses who have reached full retirement age (67, unless you were born before 1960) can receive 100 percent of the benefits you would have received if your disabled spouse was still alive. Full retirement age depends on your year of birth:
A surviving spouse who has not yet reached full retirement age but is 60 years of age or older is eligible to receive from anywhere between 71½ percent and 99 percent of the full spousal benefit.
A surviving spouse between the age of 50 and 59 is eligible to receive 71 1/2 percent of your basic benefits.
If your surviving spouse is caring for a child under the age of 16, regardless of your spouse’s age, he or she will be eligible to receive 75 percent of your basic benefits.
Surviving divorce spouses have the same rights as noted above. (It is also important to note that SSD benefits received by a surviving divorced spouse, based on disability or age, will not count against the maximum family amount.)
As long as your surviving spouse meets certain requirements, he or she may be eligible to receive a special lump-sum death payment in addition to monthly benefits.
Survivor benefits for a spouse spouse can be impacted if he or she:
Is eligible to receive retirement benefits, based on his or her own work record;
Is receiving a pension from government or foreign work, not covered by Social Security.
Divorced Spouse Benefits
If you are divorced, even if you have remarried, your ex-spouse may qualify for benefits based on your record. To qualify on your record, your ex-spouse must:
Have been married to you for at least 10 years.
Not be eligible for an equal or higher benefit on their own Social Security record, or on someone else's Social Security record.
Important Note: The amount of benefits payable to your divorced spouse has no effect on the amount of benefits you or your current spouse may receive.
We are here to help if you are a disabled worker who simply wants to make sure your spouse is able to get the benefits he or she may be eligible to receive, or if you are the surviving spouse of a disabled worker and want to find out how to get SSD benefits. ADL is qualified to handle all aspects of SSD, including spousal benefits. Contact a SSD lawyer at our office today, so we can get your questions answered and advise you on how to proceed.