Widow's Disability Benefits for Surviving Spouse
Being the surviving spouse may entitle you to disability benefits. If after reading this page you think you may
have a claim for Widow's Social Security Disability benefits, then you should contact your local SSA office to file a claim.
In order to receive disability benefits, the claimant must satisfy the non-medical determination of entitlement as well
as prove that they are disabled. Most people meet the non-medical requirement by the fact that they have worked and
built up Social Security credits over the course of their professional life. However, there are a few situations in
which a claimant can meet the non-medical requirement based on their relationship to a wage earner. The two situations
that come to mind are: the disabled adult child of a deceased or retired wage earner; and the other is the surviving
spouse of a deceased wage earner. Recently I represented a widow who had lost her husband about 15 years before.
And, as I reviewed her case, I realized that there are probably many people in similar situations who just do not realize
that even though they have not worked in many years, if ever, they still may be credited with their deceased spouse’s
earning’s record and be entitled to disability benefits.
Test for Widows Benefits
If you are a surviving spouse who becomes disabled, you can claim benefits on your deceased spouse’s account if:
are between the ages of 50 and 60;
2. Your condition meets the definition of disability for adults, and
disability started before or within seven years of your deceased spouse’s death.
If you have read this carefully,
you will have noticed that the client I referred to above had lost her husband 15 years before claiming disability.
So, how is it that she still has a claim? She still has a claim because when the deceased leaves a minor-aged child,
the 7 year period is extended.
“If a widow or widower who is caring for the worker’s children receives
Social Security benefits, he or she is still eligible if their disability starts before those payments end or within seven
years after they end.” SSA.govdibplan/dqualify9.htm
Here are some examples:
Jane’s husband John dies in 1993. He leaves no children. John had
a good income and always paid his taxes. Jane is 30 when John dies. In 2013, Jane is 50. She has never worked
for profit, and thus, has never paid Social Security taxes. Her medical records support a finding that she has been
disabled for 10 years. Can she get disability benefits based on John’s wages? It seems that the answer is
NO. Her disability began in 2003, not within seven (7) years of John’s passing in 1993.
Jane’s husband John dies in 1993. He has 3 minor-aged children. His wife does not return to
work and collects as a widow caring for the worker’s children through 2010, when the youngest child reaches majority.
Jane’s medical records support a finding of ongoing disability as of age 46. Jane applies for benefits in 2012.
Can she get disability benefits on John’s earnings? It appears that the answer is YES. She will have
to wait until 50, so she cannot collect as of the date she applied, but based on the regulation, it appears that she should
be deemed eligible as long as she can prove disability after she reaches age 50 and before 2017 (the expiration of the extended
7 year period, here is 2010 - 2017).
Jane’s husband John dies in 1993. He
has 3 minor aged children. Jane does not work and collects as a widow caring for the worker’s children through
2010. At age 49, she gets married to Dave. At age 53, she becomes disabled. She has no work record of her
own, and certainly cannot collect on Dave’s wages. Can she collect on John’s wages? No. The
regulations preclude the benefit if the disabled spouse successfully remarries before the age of 60. If she and
Dave divorce, she may be entitled to John’s benefits as of the date of the divorce. http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.04/handbook-0406.html
Same basic fact pattern - Jane’s husband John dies in 1993. He has 3 minor
aged children. His widow collects as a widow caring for the worker’s children through 2010. At age 49, she
marries another woman – Deborah. At age 53, she becomes disabled. Jane has no work record of her own,
and certainly cannot collect on Deborah’s wages. Can she collect on John’s wages? The regulations
say YES. Why? At this time, “[e]ntitlement is not affected if you enter into a same-sex marriage or union.
The Social Security Administration does not recognize the marriage for benefit purposes.” http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.04/handbook-0406.html
Like SSI applications and DAC (Disabled Adult Child) applications, Disabled Widow/Widower applications cannot be executed
over the Internet. Currently you must make an appointment for either a phone interview and/or a meeting with an agent
at the local Social Security office. Even if you do not fit into any of the examples that suggest that you would get
benefits, I strongly urge you to speak to a Social Security agent and, if you believe you are disabled, put in an application
if you are unsure of your entitlement eligibility. Sitting down with an agent may well lead you to a better understanding
of why you are in an exceptional situation that will allow the application to be considered. And, if the local
office does get it wrong and tells you that you are not entitled to the deceased wage earner’s credits, at least now
you have a protected filing date secured as you continue to research your entitlement. This page was written by Tracey
Cohn, Esq. Attorney at Kazmierczak and Kazmierczak, LLP