January 24, 2020

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits on Earnings Record of a Deceased Spouse or Ex-Spouse

Were you aware that as a divorced wife or husband, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on your deceased spouse or ex-spouse’s earnings record?

Under Social Security’s rules, you can claim disability benefits based on your deceased husband/wife or ex-husband/wife earnings record if:

  • you are at least age 50
  • you were married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years
  • your ex-spouse was fully insured for SSDI benefits at the time he/she died

You cannot at this point claim disability benefits on the earnings record of a living ex-spouse.

Several years ago, I was represented a disabled ex-wife of a man who got “remarried” after separating (but not legally divorcing) my client.  When we filed for disabled widow’s benefits, Social Security advised us that another “widow” had already been paid.

After proving that my client was disabled medically, I was able to document that my client was also the legal surviving widow and that the other “widow” was in fact not a legal wife.  Social Security ended up paying both my client and “the other woman.”

Disabled widow claims can be tricky and usually it makes sense to hire a lawyer to assist you.  If you are not fully insured for SSDI benefits yourself or if your SSDI benefit amount is less than that of your deceased spouse/ex-spouse, you will want to make sure that your benefit amounts are properly calculated.