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Ask the Expert: Social Security disability and family members

Your April 14 column correctly stated that when someone receives Social Security disability, that disability benefit doesn't continue for his spouse after his death. But isn't it true that the spouse may be entitled to a benefit during the disabled person's lifetime?

Yes. The spouse, the children — and even the former spouse — of a person who qualifies for Social Security disability may also be eligible for benefits based on his/her record.

When you collect Social Security disability, each eligible member of your family can receive a benefit equal to 50 percent of your monthly disability benefit, subject to a family limit that is typically between 150 percent and 180 percent of your monthly benefit. (Benefits payable to a former spouse don't count toward that limit.) If the total amount payable to your family exceeds the limit, the benefits paid to your spouse and children are reduced proportionally.

To be eligible, your spouse must either be at least 62 years old or be caring for your child who is under 16 or disabled. (Spouses who also qualify for Social Security based on their own work record receive an amount equal to the larger of the two benefits — not both.)

Potential minor beneficiaries include your biological and adopted children, stepchildren and dependent grandchildren. To qualify, a child must be unmarried and under 18; or up to 19 and a full-time high-school student; or 18 or older and have a disability that began before age 22.

Your ex-spouse is eligible if your marriage lasted at least 10 years and he/she is at least 62, unmarried and not eligible for a higher benefit based on his/her own record.

The bottom line

If you collect Social Security Disability, members of your family may also qualify for a benefit.

More information

ssa.gov/planners/disability/family.html

ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10153.pdf

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