Under Social Security, a widow or widower can collect benefits based on their deceased spouse’s eligibility for SSI. However, a widow or widower who becomes disabled can also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits based on their own work history. While you cannot collect both SSDI and widow’s benefits, you could potentially be eligible for the program where the monthly benefit amount is higher. We can help you maximize your financial benefits, based on which program you qualify for and help you seek the benefits you deserve.
At Disability Law Group, we focus exclusively on helping people like you get the benefits they deserve. We know that the Social Security system can be confusing and frustrating, especially if you have had your benefits applications denied. Our legal team has the knowledge and experience you can trust with your case, freeing you from the hassle and worry of pursuing your benefits alone. We will keep you informed throughout the application process so you can feel confident that you have dedicated advocates on your side.
Ready to discuss your legal rights to SSDI and widow’s benefits with a knowledgeable Michigan SSDI lawyer during a free initial consultation? Then, contact Disability Law Group today. We can answer your questions and help you seek the benefits you need after suffering a life-altering disability.
What Is SSDI?
Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, pays financial assistance to qualifying individuals who become disabled from performing any substantial gainful work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. This disability must last at least twelve months or arise from a medical condition expected to result in death. A person can qualify for SSDI if they or certain household family members have a qualifying work history, which means they have paid taxes into the Social Security system for a minimum amount of time. The amount of qualifying work history a person needs to apply for SSDI will depend on their age at the time of their disability.
The amount of disability benefits that a person can receive through SSDI depends on the results of a formula that accounts for the worker’s average lifetime earnings before they became disabled.
What Are Widow’s Benefits?
Widow’s benefits, also known as survivor’s benefits, pay money to the surviving spouse of a person who worked long enough to become eligible for Social Security. Widow’s benefits pay a surviving spouse the Social Security benefit their deceased spouse received, or the benefit amount their spouse would have received if they had applied for Social Security on the date of their death.
A qualifying surviving spouse can begin receiving reduced retirement benefits at age 60. A surviving spouse who became disabled before their spouse’s death or within seven years of their spouse’s death may apply for benefits as early as age 50. Surviving spouses may also collect benefits at any age if they have not remarried and they care for a child of the deceased worker under the age of 16 or who has a disability and receives child’s benefits. However, a surviving spouse will not receive their deceased spouse’s full benefit amount until the surviving spouse reaches full retirement age.
Remarrying after age 60, or age 50 when disabled, does not affect a widow’s or widower’s eligibility for survivor’s benefits.
Surviving spouses may collect survivor’s benefits and then switch to their retirement benefits if their retirement benefit becomes larger than the survivor’s benefit. This process is usually automatic and can be dealt with directly through the SSA.
In addition to widow’s benefits, a surviving spouse may also collect a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255.
What Happens If You Already Receive SSDI Benefits Before You Become a Widow
If you were already collecting SSDI benefits when your spouse passed away, you may have the right to collect a widow’s survivors benefit in certain circumstances. If you receive a higher SSDI benefit than the widow’s benefit you would collect, you will continue to receive your regular SSDI benefits. However, if you have a widow’s benefit larger than your SSDI benefit, you will continue receiving your SSDI benefits plus an “excess survivor benefit” equal to the difference between your SSDI and widow’s benefits. The total of your SSDI benefit and excess survivor benefit must equal your widow’s benefit. This process is usually automatic, so you shouldn’t need to worry about it.
What Happens If You Become a Widow Before You Become Disabled
Your eligibility for benefits if you become disabled after your spouse has died will depend on various factors. You can apply for widow’s benefits if you become disabled within seven years of your spouse’s death once you reach age 50. Otherwise, you become eligible for widow’s benefits regardless of disability at age 60. However, the Social Security Administration will only pay you the higher of your SSDI benefit or widow’s benefit.
You can collect a widow’s benefit and defer applying for your retirement benefit up to age 70 if deferring your retirement benefits would cause those benefits to become higher than your widow’s benefit or SSDI benefit.
What Is the Eligibility for SSDI or Widow’s Benefits
You must meet the following qualification to apply for SSDI benefits:
- You have a severe injury or illness that renders you unable to perform any gainful work, depending on your education and experience, which exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
- You do not earn more than the current earnings cap for SSDI.
- Your doctors expect your disability to last at least 12 months or result in death.
- You have acquired the minimum number of work credits for your age. Work credits are calendar quarters in which you paid at least the minimum required Social Security tax.
To qualify for widow’s/survivor’s benefits, your deceased spouse must have a sufficient work history to become eligible for Social Security benefits. You can begin receiving widow’s benefits as early as age 60, or at age 50 if you become disabled before your spouse’s death or within seven years of their death. You could receive survivor’s benefits even if you and your spouse divorced if your marriage lasted at least ten years. Remarrying after turning 60 will not affect your eligibility for widow’s benefits.
However, remember that you cannot receive widow’s and SSDI benefits at the same time. However, you can receive the higher amount for either program if you qualify for both programs.
Contact a Michigan SSDI Lawyer to Learn More About Your Rights
Do you have questions about your ability to receive SSDI and widow’s benefits? Then, contact Disability Law Group today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Michigan SSDI attorney. We specialize exclusively in disability law and have helped thousands of clients just like you get life-changing benefits. Let us help you pursue the benefits you deserve, and, remember, we don’t get paid until YOU do!