Monday, October 20, 2014

Benefits for Disabled Widows or Widowers

The loss of your spouse can be a devastating event specially if you suffer from an illness or condition that does not allow you to support yourself financially.  Under Social Security rules, you may be eligible for disability benefits based on your spouse's earnings record if your spouse was fully insured under the SSDI program at the time of his or her death.  
Moreover, to be able to receive benefits under your spouse's record you must also meet the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 50 years old.
  • You must show that you are disabled.  Note that the criteria used to determine whether you are disabled is the same one used to determine eligibility for all other adult applicants.  (SSA will use the 5 step sequential evaluation process.)
  • Your disability started between the age of 50 and 60, and
  • Your disability began before your spouse's death or within 7 years of his or her death.
Widows and widowers who are eligible to receive this benefit get 71.5% of the SSDI benefit that their spouses' would have received if they were alive.  Also, if you divorced prior to your spouse's death, you might be eligible for benefits if your marriage lasted 10 years or more.  However, if you were married to your spouse at the time of his or her death but your marriage lasted 9 months or less, you will not be eligible for benefits.  There are some exceptions to this rule.  For example, if you were married for 9 months or less, you might still be eligible for benefits if you are the parent of your spouse's child. 
Unfortunately, you cannot apply online for widow or widower benefits.  (Don't ask my why.  Its just the way the SSA bureaucracy works.)  You need to call by telephone and make an appointment or, visit your local SSA field office.