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Can a spouse get SSDI benefits?

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

If you are collecting Social Security Disability Insurance, you may be entitled to additional benefits for your family members.

Author Attorney Greg Reed:

spouse ssdi disability

Under certain circumstances a spouse may be eligible to receive disability benefits.

Auxiliary benefits, sometimes called dependents’, or secondary benefits, may be paid to the child, spouse, or parent of an SSDI beneficiary. The application process for auxiliary benefits is similar to the application process for SSDI, except that applicants for auxiliary benefits do not need to be disabled. Instead, they must meet a strict criteria of dependency guidelines. If eligible, the amount of benefits received is based on the disabled family member’s tax contribution to the Social Security program while employed.

When the Social Security Act was first created in 1935, benefits were approved only for insured workers with disabilities.

When it became obvious that a disabled worker who served as the main provider for a family needed more money to support a spouse and children than a single insured worker, auxiliary or secondary benefits were instituted. First, dependent wives and children were added as beneficiaries and later dependent parents and male spouses. In 1975, the United States Supreme Court held in Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld that a gender-based distinction in the Social Security Act that allowed widows but not widowers to collect special benefits while caring for children was a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It wasn’t until 1983 that gender-based distinctions in Social Security programs were eliminated. Today, men and women share the “breadwinner” role and responsibilities of raising children equally and may be eligible for Social Security auxiliary benefits.

When does a spouse qualify for dependent benefits?

In order to be eligible for the spouse’s SSDI benefit, the spouse of a disabled worker:

  •    Must be married to the insured worker for one continuous year before the worker filed for disability benefits OR must be the mother or father of the insured worker’s biological son or daughter; AND
  •   Must be 62 or older; or
  •   Have a child in care under 16 or a disabled child over 16 that is entitled to benefits on the worker’s Social Security record. When the child reaches age 16, the child’s benefits continue, but the spouse’s benefits stop unless he or she is old enough to receive retirement benefits (age 62 or older) or survivor benefits as a widow or widower (age 60).

If you have been denied disability don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.

If the insured worker is divorced, even if the insured worker has remarried, their ex-spouse may qualify for benefits on the insured worker’s record.

How does an ex-spouse qualify for dependent benefits?

  •    Must have been married to the insured worker for at least 10 years
  •   Must be at least 62 years old
  •   Must be unmarried
  •   Must not be eligible for an equal or higher benefit on his or her own Social Security record or another person’s Social Security record.

If the ex-spouse has remarried and divorced, Social Security will ignore the marriage and the ex-spouse will still be eligible for auxiliary benefits.

The amount of the benefits paid to a divorced spouse does not affect the amount of benefits paid to the disabled worker or their current spouse.

What are “mother’s or father’s” benefits?

If an insured worker becomes disabled, or dies while collecting Social Security Disability benefits, a spouse or divorced spouse can receive benefits if the spouse cares for at least one child of the disabled worker who is under age 16 or over 16 and disabled.

If the disabled child is over age 22, they must have become disabled before age 22. These benefits are called “mother’s or father’s benefits.” If the spouse continues to care for a disabled child after age 16, the spouse may still receive benefits, but the spouse must explain to Social Security that they have parental responsibility for the child to continue benefits. The ten-year marriage requirement does not apply to divorced spouses for mother’s or father’s benefits.

How much are auxiliary benefits for the spouse of a disabled worker?

A spouse usually receives 50% of a disabled worker’s monthly SSDI payment, but if the disabled worker’s children are also receiving dependent benefits, that amount can be less.

The total amount of the children’s benefit and spouse’s benefit will not be greater than the maximum family benefit (generally 150% of the disabled worker’s monthly SSDI payment). Benefits paid to a divorced spouse are not counted toward the maximum family benefit and won’t affect a current spouse’s or child’s benefits but, benefits paid to a divorced spouse who is collecting a mother’s or father’s benefit are counted toward the maximum family benefit, If the spouse has his or her own qualifying earnings record with Social Security, Social Security will pay that benefit amount first; if the amount the spouse is entitled to based on the disabled worker’s record is higher, Social Security will combine the benefits so that the spouse receives the higher amount. If the spouse collects benefits based on caring for a child under 16 and is employed at the same time, Social Security will reduce benefits if the spouse makes over $18,240 per year (or $1,520 per month).

Can I get disability benefits if my deceased spouse was receiving SSDI?

Though you cannot receive disability benefits, under certain circumstances you can receive survivor’s benefits.

If a disabled worker dies while receiving Social Security disability benefits, the surviving spouse can get benefits if:

  •    They were married for at least one year while the disabled worker was receiving SSDI; and
  •   The surviving spouse is 60 years old or older; or
  •   The surviving spouse is disabled and between 50 and 60

If the surviving spouse becomes eligible to receive higher Social Security benefits on his or her own record, benefits will end, and if a surviving spouse remarries before age 60 (or age 50 if disabled) Social Security benefits will be denied.

A surviving divorced spouse is entitled to benefits if:

  •    The ex-spouse is 60 years old or older; or
  •   The ex-spouse is between 50 and 60 and disabled.

The amount a surviving spouse or surviving ex-spouse receives depends on how old the spouse or ex-spouse is and whether they are taking care of the deceased worker’s children.

The amount varies between 75% and 100% of the deceased worker’s monthly amount. Additionally, if a disabled worker dies while receiving SSDI, their surviving spouse will receive a death benefit of several hundred dollars provided that the surviving spouse was living in the same household. If an ex-spouse will receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, their Social Security benefit based on the insured worker’s record may be affected.

How do I apply for the spouse’s SSDI benefit?

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Once your husband or wife has been approved for SSDI, you should call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 to apply for the spouse’s SSDI benefit.

You will need to provide your birth certificate, marriage certificate, Social Security number and your disabled spouse’s Social Security number, and bank routing information.

Auxiliary benefits provide much needed financial assistance to workers receiving SSDI and their families.

If you have applied for auxiliary benefits and been denied, an experienced disability attorney can help you appeal the decision.

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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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