Collecting Social Security disability from a deceased or divorced spouse

Many times people wonder if they are entitled to any Social Security benefits from their deceased or divorced spouse. Whether they are interested in retirement or disability benefits, if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, there is a possibility that the surviving or divorced spouse is entitled to benefits based on the Social Security number of the ex or deceased spouse.

A divorced spouse may qualify to collect disability benefits based on the other spouse’s work record if the marriage lasts at least 10 years, the claimant is not remarried and is at least 62 years of age. For example, if Couple A marries and remains married for 17 years, then divorce, the wife may be entitled to collect on her ex-husband’s benefits when she turns 62. If the ex-husband becomes disabled, the wife may collect as early as age 50. The wife must also not be entitled to an equal or greater benefit based on her own work record.

If the former spouse is eligible for a benefit but has not yet applied for it, the divorced spouse may still receive the benefits if the divorce was at least two years prior. Using the example above, if the divorce was final in 2008, the wife may apply for benefits as soon as the ex-husband reaches age 62, regardless of whether he has applied to collect his own benefits at that time.

If the spouse or former spouse has died and an individual is interested in claiming benefits of the deceased spouse, similar rules apply. First, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. The surviving spouse must be at least 60 years old and not entitled to a greater benefit through his or her own work record. If the claimant is seeking benefits because of a disability, the individual must be at least 50 years old, married at least 10 years to the deceased spouse and not entitled to a greater benefit through his or her own work record.

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Published by Jennifer J. Allen, Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C.


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