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Long Island

What is the formula for disabled spouse benefits?

My wife was receiving Social Security disability until she turned 66, when it automatically changed into her full retirement benefit. Can she switch now to her spousal benefit based on my earnings? The difference would be an additional $200 a month. I am 72 and have been receiving Social Security since age 66.

Based on what you say, your wife is indeed eligible for that extra $200 a month. She should make an appointment at a local Social Security office to apply for it.

A person’s Social Security disability benefit is always equal to his or her full retirement benefit, regardless of age. As a result, your wife’s monthly check didn’t change when she turned 66 and was automatically switched from receiving a disability benefit to receiving her full retirement benefit. The only thing that changed was that her benefit payment started coming out of the Retirement and Survivor Trust Fund instead of the Disability Trust Fund, says Linda Lauria, a Social Security Administration spokeswoman.

But at age 66, she qualified for two retirement benefits — her own full retirement benefit or her maximum spousal benefit based on your work record, an amount equal to half your full benefit. She can’t collect both at the same time, but she’s entitled to the larger of the two amounts. If her spousal benefit is $200 more than her own benefit, Lauria says, that $200 will be added to the benefit she currently receives.

(Other readers, take note: This column is only about switching from Social Security disability benefits to Social Security retirement benefits. Different rules apply to people who only qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.)


When you’re eligible for two Social Security benefits, you receive the larger of the two amounts.



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