Divorce can have surprising legal effects on various areas of your life and your legal rights. Social Security Disability (SSD) is usually available for people who are no longer able to work, so that they can still receive a living wage. Spouses are also able to tap into their working or disabled spouse’s benefits if they do not work themselves – but what about divorced spouses?
Luckily, the Social Security Administration’s rules for divorced spouses may allow you to receive benefits. If you are divorced and looking to receive Social Security Disability benefits through your ex-spouse’s benefits, talk to an attorney. In Arkansas, Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, works to help disabled Arkansans receive the benefits they need for a living wage. For a free consultation on your disability case, talk to Ken Kieklak, Arkansas Social Security attorney, today.
Receiving Social Security through Ex-Spouse
The SSA allows divorced spouses to collect Social Security Disability benefits through their spouse’s benefits. This usually happens when a spouse who does not work, such as a stay-at-home parent or a homemaker, wants to receive benefits. The rules are quite similar for both the typical Social Security retirement benefits that many Americans receive and the disability benefits our attorneys can help with.
The benefits that a spouse receives through their working spouse’s benefits are usually halved. The working spouse will still be able to take their full benefits, but the non-working spouse only receives half of what they would otherwise receive. The amounts might also be reduced based on your age. For disability benefits, you will receive the full half of your spouse’s benefits if you start taking disability benefits at your full retirement age, but they may be reduced to lower than half if you start taking the benefits earlier.
These rules are similar for ex-spouses. You are eligible to receive benefits through your former spouse’s Social Security Disability benefits as long as you meet the following criteria:
- You are not re-married
- You are 62 years-old or older
- Your former spouse is entitled to Social Security Disability
- Your own work history will entitle you to less benefits than your ex-spouse’s work history
Since every American worker has the potential to be eligible for their own Social Security benefits, the SSA will not let you take benefits through your ex-spouse if you would be entitled to higher benefits in your own right. Additionally, you cannot receive benefits from your ex-spouse if you remarried; you would instead need to apply for disability benefits on your own or use your current spouse’s benefits.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability through a Former Spouse
If you are yourself disabled and worked for many years, you might qualify for disability payments on your own. This might eliminate the need to apply through your ex-spouse’s benefits altogether. On the other hand, if you are not disabled but your ex-spouse is, you might be entitled to receive benefits through them. There is no requirement that a spouse who relies on the other (or former) spouse’s income to be disabled. Instead, they may receive halved benefits if the disabled spouse is eligible. This means we must look at what it means for your ex-spouse to qualify for disability in the first place.
The most obvious requirement to qualify for Social Security Disability is that the applicant be “disabled.” “Disabled,” as the SSA uses it, has a specific definition. The SSA requires not only that you have some condition that would count as a “disability,” but also that you are unable to work. If your ex-spouse can still perform some work duties, called “residual functional capacity” (RFC), then they might not be considered “disabled.” Similarly, if they are able to work enough to make a certain amount of money – called “substantial gainful activity” (SGA – they may not be eligible for benefits. The SGA limit for 2017 is $1,170, so if your ex-spouse can work enough to make $1,170 per month, they will not qualify for disability.
Further, the SSA is allowed to determine what it considers “disabled.” First, they use a list of qualifying disabilities. For any disabling condition not on that list, you may need extra work to qualify as “disabled.” Second, the severity of your condition might be difficult to understand based solely on application forms. The SSA might require the applicant to undergo evaluations by a doctor – possibly even one of their doctors – to determine if the applicant is truly disabled.
Arkansas Social Security Disability Attorney
If you are divorced and wish to receive Social Security Disability benefits through your ex-husband or ex-wife, talk to an attorney. The system to apply for Social Security Disability benefits is difficult enough to apply for yourself. Applying through a spouse – especially a former spouse – adds extra steps that make the system more difficult. Social Security Disability attorney Ken Kieklak may be able to help you apply and fight Social Security denials on your behalf. Call (479) 439-1843 today for a free consultation on your case.