How To Get Disability From Your Current or Former Spouse

by fihguide   ·  4 months ago  

You may know this, but many people don’t – you may qualify for disability benefits through a former or current spouse. We get many questions about Social Security disability for husbands and wives, so we’ll explain the process here. You’ll learn age limits, how they calculate payments and other crucial info that may help you get approved below.

Step 1: How to Confirm Your Eligibility for SSD Benefits Through Your Current Spouse

Once your husband or wife starts drawing regular Social Security or SSD benefits, you may also qualify for payments.  Here’s how to know if you’re eligible:

  1. When did you two get married? If it was more than a year ago, move on to question #2. Otherwise, you cannot apply for spousal SSD until after your one-year anniversary.
  2. Do you have kids younger than 16 living at home? If yes, move on to question #4. If no, answer question #3 first.
  3. Are you at least 62 years old? If yes, move on to question #4. If no, stop here – you cannot qualify for spousal SSD benefits.  
  4. Do you already get some Social Security benefits each month? If yes, then you cannot get spousal SSD payments. (For example: If you’re already drawing early retirement benefits or getting disability payments through your own work record.) If no, move on to question #5.
  5. Is your personal monthly income from all sources combined less than $1,260? If yes, great! You almost certainly qualify for SSD benefits through your spouse. Otherwise, you make too much money to qualify for spousal SSD. (All sources combined includes things like child support/alimony payments, earned interest, paychecks, dividends, etc.)

Step 2: How to Confirm Your Eligibility for SSD Benefits As a Divorced Spouse

If your ex-husband or wife gets SSD benefits each month, you may still qualify for spousal disability after your divorce. Here’s how to check your eligibility:

  1. How long did your marriage last? If it was 10 years or longer, move on to question #2. Otherwise, you cannot apply for SSD benefits through your former spouse.
  2. Did you marry anyone else after your divorce? If yes, stop here – you can’t get disability benefits through your former spouse. Otherwise, move on to question #3.
  3. Do you have any kids with your former spouse who are younger than 16 and living in your home? If yes, move on to question #5. If no, answer question #4 first.
  4. Are you at least 62 years old? If yes, move on to question #5. If no, stop here – you cannot qualify for spousal SSD benefits.
  5. Do you already get some Social Security benefits each month? If yes, then you cannot get SSD payments through your former spouse. (For example: If you’re already drawing early Social Security or getting disability payments through your own work record.) If no, then move on to question #6.
  6. Is your personal monthly income from all sources combined less than $1,260? If yes, great! You almost certainly qualify for SSD benefits through your former spouse. Otherwise, you make too much money to qualify for spousal SSD. (All sources combined includes things like child support/alimony, earned interest, paychecks, dividends, inheritance, etc.)

Step 3: Which Social Security Payment Will You Get & How Much?

Age plays a role in whether you qualify for SSD benefits through a current or former spouse. If you have kids younger than 16 at home, you can qualify for spousal SSD at any age. Otherwise, you cannot get spousal Social Security before your 62nd birthday. However, that’s also when you can start drawing early retirement from Social Security. If you qualify for a higher Social Security benefit on your own work record, you won’t get spousal SSD payments. The most any spouse can receive in monthly SSD or Social Security benefits is 50% of the qualifying worker’s payment amount.

Here’s an example of how that works:

  1. Janet, Bob’s wife, just turned 63. She stopped working 10 years ago to care for an aging parent.
  2. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), Janet’s normal retirement age is 66.
  3. Bob, who’s 60, receives $2,000 in Social Security disability benefits each month.
  4. Janet applies for SSD benefits through Bob, her spouse. As Bob’s spouse, Janet can qualify for a maximum of $1,000 in monthly SSD benefits.
  5. The SSA then applies the early retirement reduction formula to that $1,000 spousal benefit. Because Janet is 36 months away from full retirement age, she cannot get more than $750/month in spousal SSD benefits.
  6. The SSA checks Janet’s work record. If Janet applies for regular Social Security at age 66, she qualifies for $800/month in benefits. They then apply the early retirement reduction formula to Janet’s benefit if paid on her own work record. Janet’s early retirement payment on her own work record at 63 is $600/month.
  7. Because Janet qualifies for more money through her spouse, Bob, the SSA pays her $750 in monthly benefits.

Documents You Need to Apply for Spousal Disability Benefits

Here are the documents you must submit in order to qualify for SSD benefits through a current or former spouse:

  1. Your original birth certificate (the SSA will not accept copies or photos of this document).
  2. Copies of your W-2 or self-employment tax returns for the last year.
  3. Your original marriage certificate (the SSA will not accept copies or photos of this document).
  4. If you’re divorced and applying through a former spouse, your original, final divorce decree. (The SSA will not accept copies of this document.)
  5. Your military service discharge papers, if applicable (you must submit originals, the SSA won’t accept any copies).
  6. Were you born outside the U.S.? You must also submit proof you’re an American citizen or resident with lawful alien status. The SSA will not accept copies; you must submit original documents for this section, if applicable.
  7. A canceled check or papers with your current banking information. This allows the SSA to direct-deposit monthly benefits directly into your account. Otherwise, those checks might go to your current or former spouse.

Related: How to Apply for Social Security Disability