How to Collect Social Security Spousal Benefits

couple reviewing their ssd spousal policy

How to Collect Social Security Spousal Benefits

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) pays spousal insurance benefits to the spouses of workers who are eligible to receive Social Security disability or retirement benefits. If you are an eligible spouse of a worker who qualifies for Social Security benefits, you can claim spousal benefits regardless of your own work history.

Who Is Eligible for Social Security Spousal Benefits?

You may qualify for Social Security spousal benefits if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have been married continuously for at least one year to someone who is receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits; you are a divorced ex-spouse who was married for at least ten years to someone who receives Social Security benefits; or, in certain cases, you are a surviving spouse of a deceased person who was entitled to Social Security benefits.
  • You are at least 62 years of age, or you are caring for a disabled child or minor child under age 16 of the retired, disabled, or deceased worker.
  • You are not currently receiving Social Security retirement benefits that are of greater value than your spouse’s, based on your own work history. If you qualify for both, you will be automatically eligible to receive whichever benefits are worth more.

The value of the spousal benefits you can receive varies from 32.5 percent to 50 percent of the maximum benefits your spouse is entitled to at full retirement age (FRA). Full retirement age for people born before 1960 is currently 66 years and two months. FRA gradually increases to 67 for people born in or after 1960.

If you wait to claim your benefits until you reach FRA, you will receive the full Social Security spousal benefits you are entitled to. If you claim your benefits before you reach FRA, your spousal benefits may be reduced.

Steps to Get Social Security Spousal Benefits

If you believe you may qualify for Social Security spousal benefits, your first step should be to make sure you are eligible. To do so, you can use the SSA’s online Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool or consult with a knowledgeable attorney.

Once you know you qualify for benefits, your next step is to gather important information and documents you will need for your application, such as:

  • Your birth certificate or other proof of your birth
  • Proof that you are a U.S. citizen or lawful alien
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns
  • Proof of any illnesses, injuries, or conditions that prevented you from working within the past 14 months
  • Details about any pensions or annuities you expect to receive based on a qualifying work history with a federal, state, or local government agency
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Your divorce decree, if applicable

After you have obtained all of the information you need, you can apply for Social Security spousal benefits in one of three ways:

Why Is It Beneficial to Collect Spousal Benefits?

Even if you are financially comfortable today, you never know what might happen tomorrow. An unexpected injury, illness, or other misfortune could place your retirement savings in jeopardy at any time.

By collecting Social Security spousal benefits, you have the opportunity to establish a solid financial foundation for your future. These benefits increase over time with the cost of living and provide a guaranteed source of income for the rest of your life.

Spousal benefits allow eligible spouses to collect benefits at their spouse’s higher rate rather than a lower rate based on the recipient’s own work history.

When and Why You Need a Social Security Lawyer

Even if you are still in the early stages of considering an application for Social Security spousal benefits, you should seek an initial consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer who can help you determine your eligibility and get your application process off to the best start.

In many cases, the SSA denies initial applications due to avoidable errors or omissions. A lawyer can help you prepare a thorough, error-free application and compile helpful documentation to support your claim. If your claim is denied, your attorney can represent you at hearings and appeals to ensure your voice is heard in court.

Contact Our Experienced Florida Social Security Attorney Today

To learn more about your rights to Social Security benefits as the spouse of a qualifying worker, contact the experienced Florida Social Security attorneys at the Disability Law Firm for a free initial consultation.