Does a Spouse’s Earning History Affect SSDI Survivor Benefits?

Does a Spouse’s Earning History Affect SSDI Survivor Benefits?

In many cases, a widow or widower has a choice between receiving Social Security disability survivor benefits based on their deceased loved one’s earning history or receiving Social Security disability benefits based on their own earnings history. The purpose of Social Security disability survivor benefits is to provide income to surviving spouses to help them cope with the financial burdens caused by the loss of financial support from their loved one, or to help the surviving spouse to financially cope given their own age and disability challenges, when they may not have earned as much as their deceased spouse did.

But does the surviving spouse’s own earning history play a factor in whether they can collect Security Disability survivor benefits? It is important to understand that a surviving spouse’s earnings record does play a role in the amount of Social Security survivor benefits that are paid out. Earning too much may make a surviving spouse ineligible for Social Security survivor benefits.

When Surviving Spouse’s Earning Record Is Less Than The Deceased’s

In situations where the surviving spouse generally earned less over their work history than their deceased spouse, survivor benefits are usually paid. When calculating a survivor’s benefit amount, the SSA looks at the couple’s combined primary insurance amount (PIA), i.e., the combined amount of Social Security disability insurance benefits that the couple together would be entitled to. Survivor benefits are calculated based on the couple’s combined PIA.

  • Aged Widow or Widower. An aged widow or widower at full retirement age (which is currently 66 years of age for people born from 1943-1954 and 67 for those born in 1960 or later) would be entitled to 100% of the PIA. If the surviving spouse is not disabled, then he or she can start collecting reduced benefits at the age of 60, with full benefits kicking in when the surviving spouse reaches full retirement age or beyond.
  • Disabled Widow or Widower. A disabled widow or widower not at full retirement age would be eligible for 71.5% of the PIA and can start collecting benefits as early as the age of 50 if the surviving spouse had a disability before or within seven years of the deceased’s death.
  • Child-in-Care Widow or Widower. When the surviving spouse does not remarry and is providing care for a child that he or she shared with the deceased and is under the age of sixteen (or is disabled), then the surviving spouse can also receive survivor benefits at any age based on the deceased’s earning record. A child-in-care widow or widower not at full retirement age would be entitled to 75% of the PIA.

When Surviving Spouse’s Earning History is Greater Than the Deceased’s

In some cases, a surviving spouse will have an earning record that is too high to allow Social Security to pay out survivor benefits. Instead, the high-earning surviving spouses are eligible for Social Security disability benefits based on their own earning history.

Working Can Impact Survivor Benefit Eligibility

Furthermore, there may be limits on how much a surviving spouse can work (i.e., earn) and still receive Social Security disability survivor benefits. If you hold a job and also want to claim your survivor benefits, you should speak to an experienced Social Security disability attorney to discuss whether you earn too much to qualify or how your earnings could impact the amount of benefits that you receive.

Speak With A Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

Navigating the complex system of Social Security disability survivor benefits can be tricky after your loved one passes away. If you need assistance applying for disability survivor benefits, contact an experienced disabilities law attorney today. At the Klok Law Firm LLC we want to see you get the benefits you are entitled to.

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