Marriage and SSD benefits


Most Chicago residents know that changes in living situation, such as increases in income or a return to work, can affect a person’s eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. However, many people do not realize marital status can also determine whether a person receives disability benefits. Under some circumstances, SSD beneficiaries may lose their benefits after they get married.

Distinct eligibility criteria

SSD benefits are not awarded based on financial need, so the increase in income and the other financial benefits associated with marriage do not affect a person’s eligibility for benefits. However, people who collect benefits based on another person’s earnings record may lose those benefits after marrying. Depending on the type of dependents benefit the individual receives, the following rules typically apply:

  • Ex-spouse’s benefit — a dependent ex-spouse’s new marriage always results in the loss of this benefit. However, if the new marriage ends in death, divorce or annulment, the ex-spouse may be able to start collecting this benefit again, if a greater benefit is not available through the earnings record of the more recent spouse.
  • Survivors benefit — a person who receives a survivors benefit based on the earnings record of a deceased spouse or a deceased ex-spouse may lose eligibility for the benefit after remarrying, though this depends on age. Surviving spouses and former spouses may remarry after age 60 without losing their benefits. If these spouses are disabled, they may marry again after age 50 without losing their survivors benefits.
  • Adult disabled child’s benefit – an adult child who has a disabling condition and collects a benefit based on a parent’s earnings record generally loses the benefit upon marrying. However, a disabled adult child who marries another disabled adult child may be able to keep his or her benefit.

People who collect SSD benefits based on their own earnings records can continue collecting benefits regardless of marital status, as long as they meet other Social Security criteria. After marriage, a beneficiary’s new spouse and stepchildren may even be eligible for dependents benefits. However, total benefits for family members are capped at between 50 and 80 percent of the disabled worker’s benefit amount, which may limit the benefit amount that new family members can receive.

Anticipating changes

Anyone who currently receives SSD benefits, whether as a direct beneficiary or as the dependent family member of a beneficiary, should understand that marriage might impact entitlement to the benefit. These individuals can often benefit from speaking with an SSD attorney who can explain how marriage may impact the benefits the individual and any new family members receive.

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