How Does Marriage Affect Social Security Disability?

October 15th, 2020 Social Security Disability
picture of a married couple on their wedding day holding a bouquet of white roses

Social Security decisions become more complicated for married couples, especially if one spouse earned much more than the other and is entitled to more benefits. Each spouse has a choice: take benefits on their own earnings record or the spouse’s record. Whether getting married will stop or lower your disability benefits depends on whether you’re collecting SSI disability benefits, Social Security disability insurance benefits, adult child benefits, or survivors’ benefits based on the record of your deceased spouse or ex-spouse. Let’s look at each situation.

Remarrying and Social Security

Social security benefits are earned by paying into the Social Security system through payroll deductions. Remarriage can affect your benefits. Not your retirement benefits, but any benefits you are collecting on the record of a deceased or former spouse. Experts recommend you assess your Social Security prospects before that second trip down the aisle. 

Survivor Benefits

To receive for survivor benefits, you must:

  • Have been married to the deceased for a minimum of nine months (unless the death was accidental or occurred in the line of duty, in which case there is no minimum time).
  • 60 or older, 50 and disabled or caring for a child of the deceased under 16 or disabled (no age minimum).

If you are currently receiving benefits as the widow of a Social Security disability recipient, you will lose your benefits by getting remarried before age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled).

Divorce Benefits

If you’re receiving Social Security benefits under an ex-spouse’s work record, getting married will cause you to lose your benefits.

Adult Child Benefits. 

If you’re an adult disabled child receiving benefits under your parent’s work record, you will lose your SSDI benefits by getting married. Though, in some circumstances, a disabled adult child may marry another disabled adult child without either person losing benefits.

Social Security Disability and Spousal Benefits

If you decide to receive spousal benefits, the amount you get will be determined by factors including your spouse’s full benefit, your work history and when you begin payments.

You qualify for spousal benefits if:

  • You are 62 or older (unless you are caring for a child under 16 or disabled, in which this rule does not apply).
  • You’ve been married for a minimum of one year.
  • Your spouse is currently collecting retirement benefits.

There is no maximum for couple’s benefits, but there is a maximum family benefit. The maximum caps how much a family can receive from Social Security based on a single wage earner’s record. This includes that worker’s retirement or disability payments plus spousal and children’s benefits. Depending on your age when filing a claim, spousal benefits can range from 32.5% to 50% of your spouse’s primary insurance amount.

SSI and Marriage

When you’re married, a portion of your spouse’s assets and income are “deemed” yours. This includes work salary, SSDI payments, and other forms of income. If the person you’re marrying makes a modest income, it’s entirely possible that when your spouse’s income is added to yours, this may put you over the SSI eligibility limit. In turn, getting married may reduce the amount of your SSI benefit or possibly cause the payments to stop completely.

If the person you are married to is also collecting SSI, one or both of you will likely see your benefit amount reduced. This is because the full SSI payment in 2020 for an individual is $783. The rate for a couple receiving SSI is $1,175, which is less than double the individual payment.

How Marriage Affects Those With “Dual Eligibility”

“Dual eligibles” is what Social Security calls those who receive SSDI and SSI. If you collect benefits from both programs, are getting married, as discussed above, could cause you to lose SSI benefits. However, your SSDI benefits will not likely be affected. However, what might change is your dual eligibility status for Medicaid and Medicare. There is a complicated system between Medicaid or Medicare called “Medicaid crossover,” which dictates which program pays for what.

The Disability Attorneys of Michigan are Here For You

If talking to Social Security about these issues doesn’t clear up your concerns, and don’t know how getting or being married or divorced will affect your Social Security benefits – you may want to contact a qualified Social Security disability attorney.

If you’re still unsure whether your marriage could affect your benefits or if you think your benefits were wrongfully reduced or terminated after you got married, call the Disability Attorneys of Michigan to discuss your options. We’re here to answer your questions and help you determine the best path moving forward. Fill out of the contact form or give us a call today for a FREE consultation at 800-701-5524.

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I will never forget you and the hard work you did to secure my Social Security Disability benefits. Thank you!

- Christine C.