Ask the Expert: A disability benefit query

You must be at least 62 to claim You must be at least 62 to claim a Social Security retirement benefit based on your ex-spouse's record. (There is no spousal disability benefit.) Photo Credit: iStock

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I'm 58 years old, divorced and disabled. My ex-husband starts receiving Social Security this year. Can I, as a disabled ex-spouse, start collecting a benefit based on his record when that happens, or must I wait until I'm 62? When I'm 70, can I switch to my benefit on my own record if it's a bigger amount?

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There is no minimum age to collect a Social Security disability benefit based on your own record. But you must be at least 62 to claim a Social Security retirement benefit based on your ex-spouse's record. (There is no spousal disability benefit.) Unfortunately, if you take a spousal benefit at 62, you can't switch to your own benefit when you turn 70. For that option, you must delay taking a spousal benefit until you're 66.

You can collect Social Security on a former spouse's work record only if: a) you're at least 62; b) your marriage lasted at least 10 years; c) your ex is eligible to collect Social Security even if he isn't yet doing so; d) you're not entitled to a higher benefit based on your own record; and e) you're currently unmarried. (If you meet the first four requirements, you can qualify even if you remarried, provided you remarried when you were older than 60, or older than 50 and disabled.)

If your ex is dead, you can claim a widow's benefit at 60, or at 50 if you're disabled, provided your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you're not entitled to a higher benefit on your own record. If your widow's benefit is $2,000 a month, for example, but your own benefit is $2,200, you'll get your own because it's larger.

The bottom line Even if you're disabled, you must be at least 62 to collect a spousal Social Security benefit.

Websites with more information bit.ly/YmGcTv and 1.usa.gov/103JwnU

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert / Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.

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