The Social Security Administration reports that 96 percent of current workers in the United States accrue Social Security benefits. Social Security provides benefits for the worker and the family, including the spouse, ex-spouse and children. Social Security benefits include retirement, disability and survivor monthly payments, and the spouse can receive a monthly benefit payment in the event of any one of these situations.
A spouse married to a worker who qualifies for Social Security retirement may take Social Security benefits as early as age 62. The worker must file for benefits and qualify before the spouse can receive benefits based on the worker’s work history. If the worker does not choose to take benefits at that time, suspension of benefits allows the spouse to receive benefits while the worker’s benefits continue to accrue. An ex-spouse may receive benefits without the worker filing for benefits, but must have been married to the worker for 10 years before divorce and must not remarry prior to age 60.
A disabled worker’s spouse qualifies for benefits at age 62, or at any age if caring for the worker’s child under the age of 16 or worker’s disabled child. The worker must qualify for Social Security disability before the spouse can qualify for spousal benefits. An ex-spouse at 62 can qualify for benefits based on the worker’s disability if personal benefits are less or if no other benefit exists.
A spouse is entitled to survivor benefits upon death of the worker who has sufficient credits or quarters of employment. The spouse qualifies as early as age 60, or at any age if caring for the deceased’s child under the age of 16 or disabled. An ex-spouse married to the worker for 10 years or caring for the deceased’s child may also receive benefits.
Amount of Benefits
Social Security bases the spouse’s benefit calculation on the worker’s full retirement age benefit. Workers born between 1943 and 1956 reach full retirement age at 66. A spouse or ex-spouse accepting spousal benefits based on retirement at 66 receives 50 percent of the worker’s benefit. At age 62, the spouse receives 35 percent of the worker’s benefit. That figure is 32 1/2 percent for a worker born after 1959 retiring at age 67. A spouse receives benefits based on a disabled spouse’s work history up to 50 percent of the worker’s benefit. A spouse receives 71.5 percent of a worker’s full-retirement-age benefit at age 60 if the worker dies. Collecting survivor benefits at full retirement age gives the spouse 100 percent of the worker’s benefit unless the worker collected early retirement benefits before death. In that event, Social Security bases all survivor benefits calculations on the worker's early retirement benefit.