Can I Collect SSI & My Ex-Husband's Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income work together to provide a basic income to low-income individuals who qualify. Qualification for one benefit does not qualify for the other as they have different standards and derive from separate funds. Social Security comes from taxes paid over a lifetime of work; SSI funding is from general revenue taxes.

  1. Ex-Spouse's Social Security

    • To qualify for your ex-spouse's Social Security retirement, you must have been married ten years and divorced at least two years. You must be at least age 62 and unmarried to collect Social Security benefits on your spouse's work history. The spouse must also qualify for Social Security retirement benefits but does not have to file for benefits. Your ex-spouse must have a minimum of ten years or 40 credits of work history, paying into the Social Security system, to qualify for benefits. If you both qualify, you may be entitled to receive Social Security retirement benefits. As an ex-spouse, you may receive 50 percent of his full retirement benefit when you are of full retirement age. Full retirement age is 66 for individuals born between 1943 and 1954. You receive 35 percent if you collect spousal benefits at age 62.

    SSI

    • You must have low income and few resources to qualify for SSI, since the basis for this program is need. If you qualify with less than $2,000 in resources and income less than about $1,400 a month, you may receive SSI benefits. Social Security subtracts any income you receive from your ex-spouse's Social Security from SSI benefits to give you the total available benefit. Some states supplement the SSI benefit, and the calculations depend on state supplements in addition to the federal base amount. You can calculate possibilities without the state benefit.

    Calculations

    • The federal SSI benefit is $674. Social Security subtracts your earned and unearned income from that amount. If you have earned income, the first $65 is exempt and other earned income counts at 50 percent. For example, if you make $200, $65 does not count, but you divide $135 by two to arrive at the subtracted amount of $67.50. Unearned income is where Social Security applies your spousal benefit from your ex-spouse. The first $20 of unearned income each month does not count. All other unearned income counts at 100 percent. Assume you receive $400 in Social Security spousal benefits. Twenty dollars does not count, and Social Security subtracts $380 from your $674. You receive $294 in SSI benefits and $400 in Social Security benefits unless you have other income each month. This does not account for the state supplement to SSI.

    Advantages

    • You receive more money by combining the two sources; you also qualify for some benefits you do not receive with Social Security alone. As an SSI recipient, you may qualify for food stamps in all states except California. You may receive Medicare if you are age 65 as a Social Security recipient, but several programs assist with Medicare payments if you qualify for SSI. In general, Medicare is associated with Social Security and Medicaid relates to SSI. You should have inexpensive medical coverage through these sources with payment assistance for Part B medical care and Part D prescription coverage.

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