Applying for Spousal Social Security Disability Benefits

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 (turn 65), 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 $1,470/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 over 10 years to qualify for regular Social Security. Some people only work a few years before staying home to raise kids. If that’s you, you’re a great candidate for spousal disability benefits!
  • 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 $17,640 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.

You May Qualify for Professional Legal Assistance

Navigating the SSDI application process can be rather confusing, so you may want to seek professional assistance from a specialized Social Security attorney or advocate. He or she will have the background knowledge needed to help you understand what your best course of action is and how you can accurately complete your claim. Doing this will provide you with the best chance of approval the first time you apply.

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