SSD benefits may be available to surviving spouses of beneficiaries

The surviving spouses and ex-spouses of SSD beneficiaries may be entitled to survivors benefits, but various factors can affect eligibility.

Many people in Columbus may think Social Security Disability benefits are only available to disabled working adults. However, the surviving spouses of former SSD beneficiaries may also qualify for SSD benefits. If specific criteria are met, Social Security can pay survivors benefits to the widows, widowers and even ex-spouses of deceased beneficiaries.

Benefits for surviving spouses

The surviving spouses of deceased beneficiaries can start collecting reduced survivors benefits at age 60. These spouses can also wait to collect full benefits at retirement age. Surviving spouses who are considered disabled may be able to start collecting survivors benefits at age 50. Social Security uses the following criteria to determine whether a worker or surviving spouse qualifies as disabled:

  • Can the worker perform any work that he or she performed in the past?
  • Does the worker's disabling condition allow him or her to adjust to new work?
  • Is the disabling condition non-fatal and expected to last less than one year?

If the answer to any of these questions is affirmative, Social Security does not consider the worker or spouse disabled. Social Security may use medical evidence, analysis from physicians and direct statements from surviving spouses to assess whether a spouse is disabled.

Unfortunately, survivors benefits are not available to disabled widows or widowers who developed their disabling conditions long after the beneficiary's death. Social Security requires the condition to have developed before or within seven years of the beneficiary's passing.

Benefits for ex-spouses

The ex-spouses of deceased beneficiaries may also qualify to collect survivors benefits. These benefits are generally only available if the surviving ex-spouse and beneficiary were married for at least 10 years. However, when the surviving ex-spouse is caring for the deceased spouse's child, the length of the marriage may be irrelevant. If the child is disabled or younger than 16, the ex-spouse automatically qualifies for survivors benefits.

Social Security uses the same age-based rules for ex-spouses, widows and widowers. An ex-spouse may start collecting a reduced benefit at age 60. If the ex-spouse qualifies as disabled, he or she may begin collecting survivors benefits at age 50.

Complicating factors

Surviving spouses and ex-spouses who remarry may lose their entitlement to benefits; however, this is not always the case. Disabled spouses can remarry after age 50 without any effect on their entitlement to benefits. Similarly, surviving spouses can remarry after age 60 without losing their survivors benefits.

Given all of these guidelines, understanding eligibility for survivors benefits can be challenging. For disabled spouses, proving that a medical condition meets Social Security's criteria can also be difficult. Surviving spouses who are considering seeking benefits may want to consider partnering with a Social Security Disability attorney. An attorney can provide advice on a person's eligibility for survivors benefits and the process of securing those benefits.

Keywords: Social Security, disability, benefits