Applying for Spousal Social Security Disability Benefits

Did your husband or wife get approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits? Then we have good news: You may be able to collect payments under your spouse’s record, too. But since it’s a government-run program, spouses who apply must meet first a few eligibility requirements. Get all the facts you need to know before applying for spousal Social Security disability benefits below.

Applying for Spousal Benefits If You Haven’t Reached Your Full Retirement Age Yet

If you’re younger than your own full retirement age, you can still file for benefits under your spouse’s record. According to the SSA’s rules, however, there are a few catches:

  1. You must be married for one full year (12 months) before you can apply. That doesn’t mean you have to wait a year after your husband or wife starts getting SSDI to file! It just means you can’t marry someone a month after they qualify for SSDI and start getting payments yourself.
  2. Divorced people can also apply for spousal benefits, under certain conditions. If your ex gets SSDI and your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you may qualify for spousal benefits. However, that’s only true if you are not currently married or eligible for early retirement benefits.
  3. Spouses aged 62-64 can probably qualify, but may pay an early retirement penalty. If you cannot get a higher benefit amount filing on your own work record, then yes, you’re likely eligible for spousal disability benefits. But once you reach full retirement age (FRA), your own Social Security payments are permanently reduced.
  4. If you have a child younger than 16 living at home, that early retirement penalty doesn’t apply. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is if the person applying for spousal benefits earns more than $1,520/month from working. If that applies to you, then you’ll get a dollar less in spousal benefits for every $2 you earn above that amount.

Honestly, this stuff is so confusing that a free consultation with a disability lawyer may help you. That way, you can get specific answers about your personal situation before applying for spousal disability.

Applying for Spousal Benefits If You’re Already At Full Retirement Age

If you’re already at full retirement age (65 or older), you’ll receive your own regular Social Security payments first. The SSA uses your highest work earnings over 35 years to calculate this monthly payment amount. However, if you’re able to collect a higher amount under your spouse’s SSDI, the agency will pay you spousal benefits instead. That’s because everyone getting disability benefits automatically switches over to regular Social Security payments at 65. In other words, the amount you receive won’t change at all!

Which People Are Ideal Candidates for Spousal Disability Benefits?

Some people should have much better luck applying for spousal SSDI benefits than others. Here are some examples of who should apply:

  • Stay-at-home parents who cannot draw early retirement benefits at 62. You have to earn 40 work credits in order to qualify for regular Social Security or SSD benefits. Some people only work a few years before staying home to raise their kids. If that’s you, then you’re a great candidate for spousal disability!
  • Spouses working jobs that don’t withhold FICA taxes. Not everyone who works pays Social Security taxes. Federal/state employees, teachers, police officers and firemen usually earn pensions and benefits through unions. Service-industry workers (bartenders, wait staff, housekeepers, nannies) typically don’t pay FICA taxes, either. But earning more than $18,240 annually may still disqualify you for spousal benefits.
  • Parents caring for disabled children. Caring for a disabled child who’s currently younger than 22? Then you’ll probably qualify for spousal benefits. And spousal benefits are payable after 22 if your child’s disability started before that birthday.

Important: If your husband or wife receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you cannot get spousal disability benefits. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) handles payments for both programs, they are not the same thing. The SSI program does not provide any spousal benefit payments.

Did you know that having a Social Security attorney file your spousal disability claim triples your chances for winning benefits within 6 months? You can also get free legal advice over the phone from an experienced lawyer near you before you apply. Talking to someone local who understands exactly what to say (or not say) on these forms can help you avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes. For example: The SSA can reject your application if you staple the pages together, write in the margins or leave a required field blank. Getting legal assistance with your claim helps you avoid simple paperwork errors and get paid the most benefits you deserve faster.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now:

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.