Widows or Widowers’ Benefits: Basic Requirements
I. Benefits For Disabled Widows Or Widowers Disability:
If something happens to you, benefits may be payable to your widow or widower with a disability if the following conditions are met:
1. You and your wife or husband were “legally” married in the State where the insured decedent had his or her permanent home. See, 20 C.F.R. section 404.345 (2008).
2. Generally 9 months of marriage is required under See 20 C.F.R. section 404.335 (2008) but there are many exceptions and you must refer to regulation aforesaid. See also, SSR 67-8: SECTION 202(e) and 216(c). — WIDOW’S INSURANCE BENEFITS — DEFINITION OF WIDOW — ENTITLEMENT TO WIDOW’S INSURANCE ANNUITY UNDER RAILROAD RETIREMENT ACT IN MONTH BEFORE REMARRIAGE.
Key note: do not confuse the one year rule for wife’s or husband’s benefits: The marriage lasted at least one (1)year. See, 20 C.F.R. section 404.330 (2008).
3. The widow or widower is between ages 50 and 60.
4. Seven year rule: The disability started before your, the decedent’s, death or within seven (7) years after your death.
4A. Disability start date is generally the last day worked and is also called the “alleged onset date (AOD)”.
5. The widow or widower meets the definition of disability for adults, e.g., “totally and permanently disabled and unable to engage in gainful or substantial employment for 12 consecutive months or more”.
5A. Medical evidence is critical at step 3.
Key Note: If your widow or widower caring for your children receives Social Security benefits, he or she is eligible if disability starts before those payments end or within seven years after they end. See 20 C.F.R. section 404.345(c)(1)(2008).
SSA uses the same definition of disability for widows and widowers as for workers.
II. Benefits for surviving divorced spouses:
If you have been divorced, your former wife or husband who is age 60 or older (50-59 if disabled) can get benefits if your marriage lasted at least 10 years. Your former spouse, however, does not have to meet the age or length-of-marriage rule if he or she is caring for his/her child who is under age 16 or who is disabled and also entitled based on your work. The child must be your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.
Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a widow or widower won’t affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record. However, if you are the surviving divorced mother or father who has the worker’s child under age 16 or disabled in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the worker’s record.
III. What if I remarry?
Generally, you cannot get widow’s or widower’s benefits if you remarry before age 60. But remarriage after age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled) will not prevent you from getting benefit payments based on your former spouse’s work. And at age 62 or older, you may get benefits based on your new spouse’s work, if those benefits would be higher.
See, SSR 87-7c: SECTIONS 202(e)(4) AND 202(f)(5) OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT (42 U.S.C. 402(e)(4) AND 402(f)(5)) WIDOW(ER)’S INSURANCE BENEFITS — NONENTITLEMENT OF SURVIVING DIVORCED SPOUSES WHO REMARRIED AFTER AGE 60 — CONSITUTIONALITY OF FORMER PROVISIONS
20 CFR 404.336(e); Bowen v. Owens et al., _____ U.S. _____, 106 S. Ct. 1881 (1986).