When you start receiving Social Security disability benefits or retirement benefits, some members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. In order to receive the benefit, an application must be filed with the Social Security Administration. A spouse may be eligible to collect survivor benefits even if they have never worked under Social Security or paid FICA taxes long enough or recently, but they must be at least 62 years of age. Social Security will pay benefits to your spouse at any age if there is a child in his or her care. The child must be under age 16 or disabled before age 22, and entitled to benefits. Further, when you qualify for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, your child(ren) may also qualify as dependents to receive benefits on your record (this includes a biological child, adopted child, stepchild, and even dependent grandchild). In order to be eligible, the dependent child must be:
- unmarried; and
- under the age of 18; or
- under 19 years of age and a full-time student (12th grade or below); or
- 18 years or older and disabled with the disability beginning before age 22.
For the spouse to be eligible, you must be receiving or eligible to receive retirement or disability benefits. If the spouse is eligible for benefits on their own record, they will be paid that amount first. Next, Social Security will look to see if the benefit on your record is higher. Any additional amount on your record is paid to the spouse, making them potentially eligible for more than they would have otherwise received. Your benefit amount will not decrease once benefits are paid to an eligible spouse or family member. In fact, the additional amount due to an eligible family member, added to your own benefit amount, may help you decide to apply earlier instead of waiting to take your benefit. The amount your spouse will receive may be offset or reduced by other variables, such as a pension for work not covered by Social Security (e.g. government employment), and any ongoing work activity by the spouse or eligible family member.
You will need to ensure that the eligible spouse or family member has an application filed for them or on their behalf with the Social Security Administration. While the amount the eligible member can receive varies, generally the total amount that you and your family can receive is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit. Similarly, a divorced spouse who may also qualify for benefits on your record depending on various factors, will not impact the benefit amount payable to you or your family members. If you are divorced, regardless of whether you are remarried, your ex-spouse may be entitled to collect benefits from your record so long as the following criteria is met:
- You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits;
- The amount your ex-spouse is eligible to collect from your record is more than the benefit they would receive on their own record;
- The marriage to your ex-spouse lasted at least 10 years;
- Your ex-spouse is at least 62 years of age; and
- Your ex-spouse is unmarried;
Additionally, the amount your ex-spouse receives from your record will have no bearing on the amount of benefits you or your eligible spouse may receive. You and your spouse may apply online for disability or retirement benefits together or separately, and Social Security will review all applications filed based on eligibility factors. Once your spouse files for benefits on your record, they will want to be ready to supply information to the Social Security Administration to verify their eligibility and receive an approval. Examples of documents you may need to provide to Social Security include:
- Birth Certificate or other proof of birth;
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not both in the U.S.;
- W-2 Forms and/or self-employment tax returns for any years in question;
- Final Divorce Decree, if applying as a divorced spouse; and
- Marriage Certificate.
Whether you are thinking about applying for Social Security disability, retirement, or survivors benefits for you or a loved one, the process can be overwhelming and lengthy. Having an experience lawyer on your side to explain what to expect and help you along every step of the way is invaluable. Our caring attorneys and support staff are equipped with the tools and resources to cut through the red-tape and help you get the benefits you deserve. We care about every single case as if it were our own. Call us today or any time for a free consultation.