Can I Collect SSDI and Widows’ Benefits?

Usually, you cannot collect the full amount of both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and widow’s benefits, because SSDI benefits are a form of an early retirement program. You could collect the higher amount of the two programs as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. A Michigan SSDI attorney can guide you through the process of applying for benefits and handle your appeals if your claim gets denied or you receive less money than you deserve.

What Happens if You Already Receive SSDI Benefits Before You Become a Widow

Let’s say that you already collect SSDI benefits because you are too disabled to work, and you meet the other elements of eligibility. When your spouse dies, you could start getting a monthly survivor benefit as a widow. The amount you receive will be equal to the higher of the two benefits. 

If your SSDI check is higher than your monthly survivor benefit, you will simply continue to get your SSDI check. If your survivor benefit, also called widows benefit, is more than your SSDI check, then the Social Security Administration (SSA) will continue to send you your SSDI check plus and an excess survivor benefit. The amount of the excess survivor benefit is the difference between your SSDI check and your widow’s benefit. The total of the excess survivor benefit and your SSDI check cannot exceed the amount of the widow’s benefit in this situation.

By way of example, let’s look at what happens when a person who receives $1,200 a month in SSDI benefits becomes a widow with a survivor benefit of $1,800 a month. The individual would continue to receive the $1,200 a month SSDI check, plus a check for $600 a month as an excess survivor benefit.

If the person collected $1,750 a month in SSDI benefits before the spouse died and the survivor benefit was $850 a month, the surviving spouse would get the higher amount, $1,750. The SSA will not add the two amounts. The SSA will only send you the higher amount.

What Happens if You Become a Widow Before You Become Disabled

Regardless of the order in which the two events occur, you cannot get more than the higher of the two types of benefits. If you already collect widow’s benefits when you later become disabled, the SSA will determine the amount of disability benefits you could receive for your disability. The SSA will then pay you up to the higher amount of benefits, either the SSDI or the widow’s benefits. 

Eligibility for SSDI or Widow’s Benefits

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet these requirements:

  • Have a severe illness or injury that causes you to be unable to work enough to support yourself,
  • Not earn more money than the earnings cap for SSDI,
  • Your doctor expects your impairment to last at least a year or to be terminal,
  • You have worked long enough at jobs that paid into the Social Security system through Social Security taxes that your employer took out of your paycheck.

To qualify for survivor’s/widow’s benefits, you must have been married to someone who paid into the Social Security retirement program through his employment. Some people can qualify for widow’s benefits after divorcing the person who later died.

When you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefit will automatically convert to what the SSA will call your retirement benefit. A Michigan SSDI attorney can evaluate your situation and advocate for you. Contact us today.