How To Apply For Spousal Social Security Benefits
This article was written by Jennifer Mueller, JD. Jennifer Mueller is an in-house legal expert at wikiHow. Jennifer reviews, fact-checks, and evaluates wikiHow’s legal content to ensure thoroughness and accuracy. She received her JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2006.There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 22,442 times.
If you are married or divorced and nearing retirement age, you may be eligible for spousal Social Security benefits. Spousal benefits allow you to get up to 50 percent of the total benefits your spouse is eligible for without taking away from their benefits. If you’re eligible for your own retirement benefits, you’ll get those first. However, if your spouse was in the workforce longer than you or made more money, spousal benefits could add to the overall benefits you receive. You apply for spousal Social Security benefits the same way you claim your own retirement benefits.XResearch source
Direct Deposit: Its The Law
Effective March 2013, a new law went into effect requiring that all Social Security benefits be paid electronically. This means benefits due to you are directly deposited into a bank account of your choosing. The change means a quicker delivery of benefits as well as being safer and more convenient for customers.
The U.S. Treasury administers the Direct Deposit program and can answer questions for customers who call their helpline at 1-800-333-1795. For information and to sign up for the electronic delivery of funds, go to the Go Direct website at
The Treasury will also grant waivers in rare instances. To request a waiver or for more information, call 1-855-290-1545.
How to contact the Social Security Administration
TTY number: 1-800-325-0778
E-mail: Fill out a contact form located at
Workers Who Retire In Certain Foreign Countries
U.S. citizens who travel toor live inmost foreign countries after they retire usually can receive Social Security benefits. However, if that country is Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, then the government will not send them Social Security payments. Exceptions may be available in all of these countries except Cuba and North Korea. Use the governments Payments Abroad Screening Tool to see if you will be able to continue receiving Social Security benefits while living abroad.
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Timing And Your Health Coverage
Your health insurance coverage can also play a role in deciding when to claim Social Security benefits. Do you have a health savings account to which you would like to keep contributing? If so, note that if youre age 65 or older, then receiving Social Security benefits requires you to sign up for Medicare Part A, and once you sign up for Medicare Part A, youll no longer be allowed to add funds to your HSA.
The SSA also cautions that even if you delay receiving Social Security benefits until after age 65, you might still need to apply for Medicare benefits within three months of turning 65 to avoid paying higher premiums for life for Medicare Part B and Part D. If you are still receiving health insurance from your or your spouses employer, however, then you might not yet have to enroll in Medicare.
On March 17, 2020, all Social Security offices were closed completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Aug. 5, 2021, they are only open by appointment, and to get an appointment, you need to be in a limited, critical situation. Most people will have to transact their business online, by phone, or through the mail.
Adults Disabled Before Age 22
An adult who has a disability that began before age 22 may be eligible for benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. We consider this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.
The disabled “adult child” including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild, grandchild, or step grandchild must be unmarried, age 18 or older, have a disability that started before age 22, and meet the definition of disability for adults.
It is not necessary that the disabled “adult child” ever worked. Benefits are paid based on the parent’s earnings record.
- A disabled “adult child” must not have substantial earnings. The amount of earnings we consider “substantial” increases each year. In 2021, this means working and earning more than $1,310 a month.
Can You Do Any Other Type Of Work
If you cant do the work you did in the past, we look to see if there is other work you could do despite your medical impairment.
We consider your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have. If you cant do other work, well decide you are disabled. If you can do other work, well decide that you dont have a qualifying disability and your claim will be denied.
Social Security Spousal Benefits Requirements
Based on actuarial studies, after a married couple reaches 65 years old, a majority of the time, one spouse will outlive the other by as much as 10 years. So the decision on who should file for benefits and when that should take place can have a major long-term impact on the income of a surviving spouse.
Spouses who never worked or have had low earnings throughout the course of their life are entitled to receive up to half of their spouses full retirement benefit. Depending on your personal situation, you may receive your own benefit or a blended amount of both you and your spouses benefit. Either way, you will receive a combination of benefits that gives you the highest possible amount.
One strategy often employed is for a spouse to take their spouses retirement benefit and delay taking their own benefit. By doing so, you can continue to accrue delayed retirement benefits which will result in a larger benefit amount when you file for your own retirement benefit.
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Special Rules For People Who Are Blind Or Have Low Vision
We consider you to be legally blind under Social Security rules if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with a corrective lens. Many people who meet the legal definition of blindness still have some sight and may be able to read large print and get around without a cane or a guide dog.
If you do not meet the legal definition of blindness, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your vision problems alone or combined with other health problems prevent you from working.
There are a number of special rules for people who are blind that recognize the severe impact of blindness on a person’s ability to work. For example, the monthly earnings limit for people who are blind is generally higher than the limit that applies to non-blind disabled workers.
In 2021, the monthly earnings limit is $2,190.
When Can I Start Collecting Social Security Retirement Benefits
The Social Security Administration used to consider 65 to be full retirement age for the retirement benefit. Benefits amounts were calculated on the assumption that most workers will stop working full time and will claim retirement benefits when they reach age 65.
Now that people are generally living longer, Social Security’s rules about what is considered full retirement age have changed. Age 65 is still considered full retirement age for anyone born before 1938. But full retirement age gradually increases from age 65 to 67 for people born in 1938 or later. For anyone born after 1960, the full retirement age is 67.
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Social Security: Who’s Eligible
Social Security pays benefits not only to people retired from the work force, but also their surviving dependents following the person’s death and persons who become disabled and cannot work. Knowing the eligibility requirements can help you plan for retirement or in case accident, illness, or death occurs.
You must have worked at least 10 years to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. A wife who has never held a job or worked for only a few years is eligible for benefits from her husband’s or possibly ex-husband’s earnings record.
You may begin receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, but waiting until “full” retirement age can mean increased benefits. That age is 65 for people born before 1938. Full retirement age for persons born in 1938 or later gradually increases until persons born in 1960 or later must reach age 67.
Persons who work beyond retirement age and delay receiving Social Security receive a special credit as well as increased benefits because of more years worked. Conversely, salary limitations exist for persons under age 70 who continue to work plus receive retirement benefits. Exceeding the limitations can decrease your benefits. Income from pensions, annuities, investments, interest, and veterans or other government benefits is not included in the limitation.
If You’re Not Sure Why You Received A Payment
Contact the authorizing agency directly to find out why they sent the payment. You may be able to find the authorizing agency in the memo line of the check. View this diagram of a sample Treasury check to help you locate the authorizing agency contact information on your own check. Scroll about half way down the page to see the diagram.
If you’re unable to find which agency authorized the payment, . They can help you determine which government agency you need to contact. To find which RFC you need to call, look for its city and state at the top center of the check.
Use the Treasury Check Verification System to verify that the check is legitmate and issued by the government.
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Not Receiving Medical Treatment
Applying for disability benefits indicates that you have a severe medical condition that prevents you from being able to work. In order to prove this to the Social Security Administration you will need to have strong medical evidence of diagnosis and treatment from qualified physicians.
After applying, the Disability Determination Service will ask for your recent medical records. Activity from the past 3 years will be considered for your case. If a determination cannot be made from the records you provide you will need to have a Consultative Examination from a doctor hired by the Social Security Administration.
This will be a short exam with a doctor who is not familiar with your case. Your own physician will be much more knowledgeable about your ailments and better able to make a recommendation towards your working abilities. This means it is vitally important that you provide your own records if you are able.
If you have hired a Disability Attorney or Advocate, they may also be able to collect statements from employers and relatives that speak to your physical limitations.
There may be acceptable reasons that you are not be able to provide your own records. They include
- Lack of medical insurance
- Lack of financial resources
When determining your eligibility, the SSA will take into consideration the fact that you may not have received medical treatment because you dont have insurance.
How To Appeal A Social Security Claim That Has Been Denied
Almost half of all Social Security benefit applications are denied. While the vast majority of these deal with disability benefits, sometimes retirement benefits are denied as well.
Some of the reasons why a retirement benefit application might be denied include:
- You have not accumulated enough work credits in your work life
- Your application has missing or incorrect information
- You submitted your application too early. You cant apply until about four months before you turn 62.
- You are already receiving Social Security disability benefits. Retirement and disability payments serve the same purpose to provide financial security when a person is not able to work any longer.
- If you are a surviving spouse, you do not meet the minimum age requirement or you got remarried before you turned 60.
If your benefit application is denied, you must submit an appeal within 60 days after you get a written notice from SSA. To start the appeal process, complete Form SSA-561-U2 Request for Reconsideration. Explain your reasons for seeking reconsideration and submit any additional documentation that will help you make your case to Social Security officials.
The Request for Reconsideration is the first of four possible levels of appeal for Social Security retirement benefits. It is an informal review of your application and in many instances, when new information is submitted or issues are clarified, this level of appeal can lead to a reinstatement or approval of benefits.
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How Do I Qualify For Social Security Retirement Benefits
When you work and pay taxes, you earn credits toward Social Security retirement benefits. These credits are based on your annual earnings you can accrue a maximum of four credits per year. Once youve acquired 40 credits , youre fully insured and eligible to receive retirement benefits.
Your paychecks will withhold Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax until youve earned up to the taxable earnings base for the year.
Can I Collect My Retirementbenefits Early
You can start collecting Social Security as early as age 62 but theres a catch. If you collect before you reach your full retirement age , youll receive a lower monthly payment permanently. For example, if your FRA is 67, but you begin to claim benefits at 62, youre signing up to get 30% less. However, this reduction will decrease for each month you wait after age 62, up until your FRA. Think of your FRA as your break-even point.
Age to receive full Social Security benefits2
65 + 2 months for every year after 1937
66 + 2 months for every year after 1954
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The Ssa Medical Documentation Listing For Ptsd
To establish that you have a mental impairment, the SSA will require medical evidence from an acceptable medical source. To satisfy the requirements for PTSD, an applicant must present medical documentation of all the following:
- Exposure to death or threatened death, serious injury, or violence.
- Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event.
- Avoidance of external reminders of the event.
- Disturbance in mood and behavior.
- Increases in arousal and reactivity.
It is important to provide all available medical evidence of your PTSD condition from your physician, psychologist, clinical mental health counselor, and all other health care providers.
Applicants that provide the SSA with complete and accurate evidence in a timely manner can help accelerate the processing of their claim.
You Or Your Family Members May Be Eligible For Increased Benefits
Our mission is to deliver Social Security services that meet the changing needs of the public.
It’s not unusual for a benefit recipient’s circumstances to change after they apply or became eligible for benefits. If you, or a family member, receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income , certain life changes may affect eligibility for an increase in your federal benefits. For example, if your spouse or ex-spouse dies, you may become eligible for a higher Social Security benefit.
To find out if you, or a family member, might be eligible for a benefit based on another persons work, or a higher benefit based on your own work, see the information about benefits on the Social Security website. You can also use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to find out if you could get benefits that Social Security administers. Based on your answers to questions, this tool will list benefits for which you might be eligible and tell you more information about how to qualify and apply.
The questions and answers below are about a few of the life changes that could possibly increase your benefits.
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Retirement Age For Those Born After 1937
Year Born 1960 or later 67 years
The system does provide for early retirement at age 62, but also offers higher benefits for people who wait to make their claims after reaching full retirement age. For more information, see Nolo’s article Social Security Benefits: Retirement, Disability, Dependents, and Survivors.
Can You Collect Social Security Retirement And Disability At The Same Time
In most cases, you cannot collect Social Security retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance at the same time. You may, however, qualify for Supplemental Security Income if you meet the strict financial criteria while drawing either Social Security retirement or SSDI benefits.
The Social Security Administration created the SSDI program to bridge the gap between when someone must leave the workforce due to a disability and when they can draw retirement benefits. For this reason, there is only one way to collect both retirement and SSDI at the same time.
Tax Considerations For Social Security Benefits
How do these tax considerations affect when you should apply for Social Security benefits? At todays , they may not have much of an impact on most people. Still, tax rates and income thresholds can change, so its worth remembering that you will lose less of your Social Security to taxes if you are in a lower marginal tax bracket when you begin to collect.
You should also note that if you decide to return to work, even part time, and arent yet at your FRA, then your Social Security benefits may be temporarily reduced. The reduction is $1 for every $2 of earned income over $18,960 . During the year when you reach your FRA, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 in income over $50,520 until the month when you become fully eligible. That money isnt lost, however. The SSA will credit it to your record when you reach your FRA, resulting in a higher benefit.