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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits may be claimed by both spouses; however, each spouse must meet his or her own eligibility requirements. SSDI benefits consider the work history and earnings of each person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes for the required number of years.
Family Benefit Amounts
If neither spouse has children eligible for SSDI family benefits, and neither spouse claims the other’s benefits, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) family benefit won’t apply. The family benefit comes into play when eligible dependents, such as children or spouses, receive benefits based on the work history of the individual with a disability.
In the case of eligible dependents receiving benefits, the total family benefit can’t exceed a certain limit, typically defined at 150 to 180 percent of the disabled individual’s benefit amount. Also, if one spouse is receiving SSDI benefits, the other spouse may be eligible for additional benefits, just as minor children. A spouse and children’s associated benefits are subject to the total family benefit limit.
Even if both spouses have an individual SSDI benefit, the family benefit limit can apply if they have eligible dependents who also receive benefits based on their work history. For example, a married couple with separate SSDI benefits can still have eligible dependents. Also, a married couple with two SSDI benefit-eligible children based on their parents’ work history can receive benefits to a certain percentage of their parents’ full benefit amounts based on their work history. However, the total family benefit amount is still subject to the family benefit limit.
If neither spouse has children eligible for SSDI benefits, then the family benefit limit doesn’t apply, even if both spouses have individual SSDI benefits. Each spouse can receive individual SSDI benefits based on their work history and earnings without eligible dependents.
How Does the SSA Calculate the SSDI Family Benefit Limits?
SSDI caps the total benefits an individual with disabilities and their family members can receive. Calculations, including SSDI family benefits, are as follows:
- An individual with disabilities receives 100 percent of their benefit amount.
- Each eligible family member can receive up to 50 percent of the individual with disabilities benefit amount.
- The total family benefit amount can’t exceed the family limit.
For example, if the person with a disability’s benefit amount is $1,000 monthly, the family benefit limit will range from $1,500 to $1,800 monthly, depending on the specific percentages the SSA uses. If the individual with a disability has two eligible family members, each can receive up to $500 monthly, but the total family benefit amount may not exceed the SSA family limit.
It’s important to understand that the family benefit limit doesn’t affect the benefit amount of the individual with a disability. If they are eligible for the maximum benefit, they’ll receive it regardless of the number of eligible family members.
SSDI is not a Needs-Based Program
Unlike Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if you and your spouse worked enough to qualify as SSA “insured” and now live with disabling impairments that prevent you from working, you can both qualify for SSDI benefits. Even part-time workers can earn enough to maximize their work credits each year, qualifying as insured.
An SSDI monthly benefit payment amount depends on your average monthly earnings during your working years. It may differ significantly from your spouse’s SSDI benefit. SSDI doesn’t limit unearned income, meaning individuals can collect income from investments, rental properties, and other sources while receiving disability benefits.
If both spouses can prove an SSA-approved disability impairment that prevents their ability to work, they may receive benefits. Other factors will not affect the application.
How a Disability Attorney can Benefit Your Application Process
Retaining the services of a disability attorney when applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits can help you with the following:
- Your SSDI application will run more smoothly using a professional with extensive knowledge of the complex process. A disability lawyer knows the required documents and how to fill out the forms, presenting your case in the most favorable light.
- A disability attorney understands the Social Security Administration’s rules and regulations and can help navigate complex requirements and deadlines.
- Most first-time SSDI applications receive a rejection. If your initial application receives a denial, a disability attorney can help with the appeals process. They gather additional evidence to support your claim and represent you at the appeal hearing.
- A disability attorney can help you understand family benefits limits if you have dependent children and the best way to maximize overall benefits for your family.
- Applying for SSDI benefits can be overwhelming. A disability lawyer can help reduce stress and anxiety throughout the process, answering questions and keeping you informed of the status of your claim.
Yes, both spouses can claim SSDI benefits, but each must meet the eligibility requirements based on their independent work history and earnings.
Because of the complexity of rules and regulations, it makes sense to obtain the services of a disability attorney to help apply for and appeal a denial of claims. Without extensive knowledge of SSDI requirements, processes, timelines, and appeals, it’s difficult to receive benefits promptly. A disability lawyer ensures you and your family receive the maximum SSDI benefits you deserve. If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact our Albany office today at (518) 452-6979 and schedule a consultation.