Although most disability programs, including the one administered by the Social Security Administration, don’t provide benefits to workers to completely replace their earnings, a married couple with a worker who receives Social Security Disability may qualify for additional benefits, with both spouses qualifying for SSD payments. In the case that both spouses work – as opposed to single-income couples – and both become disabled and can’t work, each spouse may draw their own SSD payment, or, in the case that spouse benefits are greater, one may choose to receive spouse benefits. A recipient can’t receive individual SSD and spouse benefits simultaneously.
Social Security Disability Basics
The Social Security Administration provides long-term disability benefits to workers who become injured and are completely disabled so they can’t return to work. The administration only provides disability benefits to workers who are completely disabled – partial disability is only covered by workers’ compensation – based on the amount of money they earned during their working career. The disability doesn’t need to be permanent to qualify for benefits, although the primary beneficiary must be expected to be out of work for at least one year because of the disability.
SSD Spouse Benefits
The spouse of a worker who receives SSD payments may be eligible to receive spouse benefits based on her husband’s SSD. In most situations, to qualify for SSD spouse benefits, a spouse must be at least 62 years old to receive spouse benefits. A spouse of a SSD recipient who cares for a child age 16 or younger, or cares for a disabled child of any age, may also receive spouse benefits regardless of her age. In addition to spouses, a SSD beneficiary’s children may also qualify for SSD benefits of their own.
Spouse Benefit Amount
A spouse who qualifies to receive benefits based on his wife’s SSD payments typically receives 50 percent of his spouse’s benefit, which is paid via a separate benefits check cut on the same day the primary beneficiary’s check is written. Disabled children, and those under 17 years old, may also qualify for SSD benefits based upon their parent’s SSD benefit. In this case, the spouse benefit amount may be reduced, as the Social Security Administration caps SSD family benefits at 180 percent of the primary beneficiary’s pension amount. The primary SSD beneficiary’s disability pension depends upon how long he worked and contributed to the Social Security system, and how much his earnings were during that period.
Dual Income Families
As with Social Security retirement pensions, the administration’s spouse benefit policy was crafted around single-income families, where one spouse worked a career and the other served as a homemaker with no contributing wages. If both spouses work, and qualify for SSD payments, each spouse may opt to take their own benefits, as they’re likely to be of a higher value than spouse benefits. Additionally, a working, non-disabled spouse may choose retirement benefits when she reaches age 62 instead of SSD spouse benefits.