You may be aware that Social Security pays benefits to help disabled people cope when they’re unable to work, but Social Security extends its aid to family members as well. In fact, as of 2011, a spouse can receive a benefit that equals up to 50 percent of her spouse’s current disability benefit. If your family is in need of extra help due to a disabled spouse, it may be time for you to apply for spouse’s benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance isn’t just for the disabled — SSDI also helps spouses, ex-spouses and children to cope with the financial stress of a disabled family worker. SSDI helps pay for medical expenses, prescription drugs and living expenses when a family member has a medical condition that will last at least one year or result in death. A separate disability program, called Supplemental Security Income, is also available to the disabled and their families — but to qualify, you must have a low income and few resources.
You may qualify in two ways to receive benefits on your disabled spouse’s record. First, if you’re at least 62 years old and you aren’t receiving Social Security benefits or your benefit is lower than your spouse’s, you may qualify. You may also be a candidate for spousal benefits if you’re caring for the disabled person’s child under age sixteen. Note that if you are caring for a dependent child, your spousal benefits will stop when the child turns 16 — but if the child is eligible for her own benefits, she may still receive them.
In December 2010, more than 160,000 spouses received benefits on a disabled spouse’s record. The average monthly benefit was around $287, though your actual benefit will be higher if your disabled spouse had a high salary or worked many years while paying Social Security taxes. Only 6,632 spousal beneficiaries in December were male, while 154,313 were female.
How to Apply
If you think you meet the criteria for spousal disability benefits, don’t hesitate to start your application. Go to your local Social Security office to start the process: you’ll need your Social Security number, name and address, marriage certificate and other basic personal information. If you’re 62 or older, you may be able to apply for spousal benefits online. If you’re not sure where your local Social Security office is, use the search tool for the Social Security Office Locator website.