14407409_sMany people in Illinois are familiar with spousal Social Security Disability benefits, which are available to the spouses of people who qualify for SSD benefits. However, many people don’t realize spousal benefits may be available even after divorce. An individual may collect half the amount of the SSD benefits his or her ex-spouse receives, provided certain criteria are met.

Dependent benefit eligibility

 The Social Security Administration requires people to meet the following criteria to collect benefits based on the record of an ex-spouse:

  • The marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
  • The spouse seeking dependents benefits must be at least 62 years old.
  • The spouse seeking the benefits cannot be remarried.
  • The spouse must not be eligible for a higher benefit amount based off of a personal earning record or another person’s earning record.

These are the only criteria the SSA considers. The age, health, employability and financial status of the dependent spouse are not taken into account.

An ex-spouse can collect benefits even if the spouse who receives SSD payments remarries. The benefits awarded to the ex-spouse have no impact on the benefits the disabled spouse’s current wife, children or other dependents receive. Similarly, the ex-spouse’s benefit does not affect the disabled spouse’s benefit amount.

If an ex-spouse who collected SSD benefits passes away, the surviving spouse may be entitled to a survivors’ benefit. A spouse may qualify if he or she is older than 60, older than 50 and disabled, caring for a minor child of the deceased spouse or caring for a disabled child of the deceased spouse.

A surviving ex-spouse may collect anywhere from 75 to 100 percent of the deceased spouse’s benefit amount. An ex-spouse claiming benefits based on a living spouse’s record, meanwhile, may receive 50 percent of the benefit amount. However, if the spouse seeking benefits receives a pension from work Social Security does not cover, such as government work, the benefit amount may be reduced.

 Application process

If one spouse is eligible for SSD benefits or currently collects benefits, the other spouse can apply for benefits by calling the SSA at 800-772-1213. The spouse seeking benefits will need to provide a birth certificate and Social Security number. Sometimes, the SSA will require the spouse to provide a marriage certificate and information about any other marriages. This helps the SSA determine whether a higher benefit amount is available based on someone else’s record.

If neither spouse currently is currently considered eligible for benefits, the spouse with the disabling condition must complete an SSD application. If the application is approved, the ex-spouse can then contact the SSA to apply for dependents benefits.