The phrase “marriage and disability” isn’t usually at the top of our minds when we say the big “I do,” but often, the two do go together at some point in the course of our lives. The good news is that if your spouse becomes disabled and cannot work due to injury or illness, you are likely entitled to disability benefits.
A recent question from one of our readers addressed this very situation: Question: “I have a marriage and disability question for you. Can I receive benefits by being married to a person who receives disability?”
Answer: Yes, if your spouse is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you qualify to receive benefits as well.
Marriage and Disability: Who Qualifies?
When a person starts receiving SSDI disability benefits from the federal government, some members of their family may also qualify for benefits. Dependent benefits may be available to the eligible worker’s:
- Current or former spouse (if divorced)
- Adult offspring that became disabled younger than age 22
If you are one of these people, then you can apply for payments. To begin receiving benefits, be sure to have your Social Security number and birth certificate ready. The agency will also ask for proof of your marriage and dates of any prior marriages, if applicable.
Social Security recognizes all valid weddings of opposite-sex and same-sex couples when it comes to marriage and disability benefits, regardless of the state where they live.
Marriage and Disability: Does It Matter If We’re Divorced?
If the person on disability is your former spouse, you may still qualify for your ex-spouse’s benefits. This is true even if your former spouse remarried. To qualify on their record, your former marriage must last for at least 10 years before your divorce goes through. In addition, you yourself must be:
- At least 62 years old
- Not currently married to another person
- Not eligible for an equal or higher benefit on your own Social Security work record, or on someone else’s record
How Much Money Will I Receive?
There is an upper limit to the total amount SSDI can pay your family. Each family member may be eligible for a monthly benefit of up to 50% of your spouse’s total disability benefit amount.
The total depends both on your spouse’s benefit amount and the number of qualifying family members. The total amount you and your family will receive is usually 150%-180% of your spouse’s disability benefit.
Benefits are payable to spouses who are 62 years old (or older), unless they collect a higher Social Security benefit based on their own earnings record. Benefits are payable to spouses at any age when caring for a child younger than 16 or who became disabled before age 22. If you also worked under Social Security, the agency always pays that amount first. However, if your spouse’s benefit amount is higher, you will get a combination of those benefits equal to that higher amount.
You Cannot Receive SSI
It is important to note the difference between SSDI and other types of federal benefits. For example, there is no dependent benefit for spouses or children of people getting SSI, or Supplemental Security Income. SSI a means-tested program based on financial need. It provides cash assistance to people who are at least 65, blind or disabled, and who have very low income and limited assets. The federal government’s general tax revenues fund the SSI program’s benefits, not Social Security payroll taxes. Therefore, this benefit requires no work history from its recipients. So when it comes to marriage and disability benefits from SSI, then spouses cannot qualify for those payments.
If you’d like an expert to walk you through the difference between the two types of benefits, please reach out to a lawyer in our network.
Help is available to ensure you receive all the payments you qualify for! Speak to an experienced Social Security disability lawyer for free about your potential case today.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online SSD benefits evaluation now!
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.