In Special Needs News

Couple who both use wheelchairs play with their chocolate lab in their kitchen.Both spouses can claim Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. However, each spouse must qualify on their own. 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 (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. (This limit is typically 150 percent to 180 percent of the disabled person’s benefit amount.) If one spouse is receiving SSDI benefits, the other spouse may also be eligible for additional benefits. 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. This is the case 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, suppose a person with a disability has a benefit amount of $1,000 monthly. Their family benefit limit will range from $1,500 to $1,800 per month. (The benefit will depend 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. However, the total family benefit amount may not exceed the SSA family limit.

Keep in mind 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

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. The Social Security Disability Insurance program does not limit unearned income. This means that individuals can collect income from investments, rental properties, and other sources while receiving disability benefits.

If both spouses can prove a disability that prevents their ability to work, they may receive benefits. Other factors will not affect the application.

How an Attorney Can Benefit Your Application Process

Retaining the services of an 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 special needs planning lawyer knows the required documents and how to fill out the forms, presenting your case in the most favorable light.
  • A special needs planning attorney understands the SSA'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.
  • An attorney can help you understand family benefits limits if you have dependent children. They also can assist in finding the best ways to maximize overall benefits for your family.
  • Applying for SSDI benefits can be overwhelming. A lawyer can help reduce stress and anxiety throughout the process. Work with one near you to get answers to your questions and stay informed of the status of your claim.

Again, both spouses can claim Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. However, each must qualify based on their independent work history and earnings.

Contact a special needs planning attorney for assistance in applying for SSDI or appealing a disability claim denial. Without extensive knowledge of SSDI requirements, processes, timelines, and appeals, it’s difficult to receive benefits promptly. A local, qualified attorney can help ensure you and your family receive the maximum SSDI benefits you deserve.

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