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Can My Spouse Get SSD Benefits?

One question commonly asked by individuals who are currently receiving or eligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is whether their spouse can get SSD benefits. As long as you and your existing spouse have been married for at least one year, he or she may qualify to receive a monthly spouse benefit. Divorced spouses, who were married for at least 10 years, and surviving spouses can also be eligible to receive SSD benefits. The average lifetime earnings record of the disabled spouse will determine spousal benefits.

The Type of Benefits Your Spouse May Be Entitled to Receive

The type of benefits your spouse may be entitled to receive will depend on a number of factors. In most cases, the spouse of a disabled worker can generally receive up to 50 percent of his or her SSD benefits while the disabled worker is still alive.

If the worker’s children are also collecting SSD benefits, then the spousal benefits may be reduced. Total benefits cannot exceed the maximum family amount. The limit on this amount can vary, but it is usually no more than between 150 and 180 percent of the disabled worker’s basis benefit rate.

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 determined as follows:

  • Surviving spouses who have reached full retirement age will receive 100 percent of the benefits you would have continued to receive if you were still alive.
  • Surviving spouses, who have not yet reached full retirement age but are 60 years of age or older, are eligible to receive anywhere between 71 1/2 and 99 percent of your basic benefit amount.
  • A disabled surviving spouse, who is 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.

Factors That Will Affect Your Spouse’s Benefit Eligibility

Numerous factors will affect your spouse’s benefit eligibility. Until your surviving spouse reaches full retirement age, any amount of income he or she makes above the yearly earnings limit could reduce the benefit amount. For every $2 dollars that your spouse earns over the annual limit (which is set at $15,720 for 2015), $1 will be deducted from his or her benefit payments. Once your spouse reaches full retirement age, his or her earnings will no longer reduce the benefit amount your spouse receives.

Survivor benefits for a spouse or divorced spouse can be impacted if he or she:

  • Gets remarried
  • 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

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. Our attorneys are well qualified to handle all aspects of SSD, including spousal benefits. Contact a Detroit SSD lawyer at our office today, so we can get your questions answered and advise you on how to proceed.

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J.B. Bieske & Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law

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