Can I Get Social Security Benefits If I'm the Sole Caretaker of My Husband and Can't Work?

by Rod Howell ; Updated July 27, 2017
Millions of wives and widows receive Social Security benefits.

As a wife, you can receive Social Security benefits on your husband’s record if he worked and earned enough work credits prior to having stopped working. You may qualify as well if you worked prior to becoming his caretaker. There are several requirements you, as a spouse or as your own beneficiary, have to meet before receiving benefits.

Eligibility

You might qualify for Social Security disability or retirement benefits on your own. Generally, you need to have paid Social Security taxes and have accumulated at least 40 work credits before you stopped working. However, if you become disabled at a younger age, you can qualify with fewer credits. As of 2011, you earn work credits for every $1,120 you made during the year. Up to four credits can be earned annually. The disability program also requires you to have a qualifying disability lasting longer than 52 weeks that prevents you from working.

Spousal Eligibility

If you don’t meet the disability and retirement program’s requirements on your own, you may qualify for spousal benefits on your husband’s record instead. Both programs generally require a spouse to be at least 62 years of age or older. If your husband dies, you might be eligible for spousal benefits from the Social Security survivors program. Under this program, you receive survivors benefits at 50 years of age if you cannot work due to disability. However, you can be any age under the three programs and receive benefits if you are caring for his children under 16 years of age.

Benefit Amounts

If you’re eligible for Social Security benefits on your record, amounts are based on your lifetime earnings. Each year the Social Security Administration calculates your benefits and sends you a Social Security Statement explaining your amounts. If you’re receiving spousal benefits, amounts are based on how much your husband made. Under the Social Security retirement and disability programs, you receive spousal benefits amounting to one-half of your husband’s full benefit rates. The survivors program pays you 100 percent of your husband’s benefit rate if you are at full retirement age, which is 66 if you were born after 1945 and 67 if you were born after 1962. You receive 71.5 percent if you’re between 60 to full retirement age or 50 to 59 and disabled. If you’re caring for his minor-aged children, you receive 75 percent of his survivors benefit rate.

Considerations

Social Security benefits are paid to you tax-free. If you are receiving spousal benefits, your amounts are reduced by the size of your family. His children are entitled to the same benefits you are. The Social Security Administration limits the amounts families receive to 80 percent of the beneficiaries’ disability and retirement rates and 180 percent of the survivors rates. If the benefit amounts paid to families are to exceed these limits, each member’s payments are reduced proportionately.

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