Q: I have been on Social Security disability for 6 years. My ex-husband of 13 years will be retiring next year at age 66. Will I be able to collect on his retirement? If so, do I get my disability amount plus 50% of his benefit or do I receive the same amount he is entitled to?
A: No one ever gets their own Social Security benefit -- whether it's a disability benefit or a retirement benefit -- plus a spousal benefit. The most you can get is an amount equal to the larger of the two; in your case, that's probably your current disability benefit.
The amount you receive as a Social Security disability benefit is always equal to the retirement benefit you'd get at your full retirement age. (In fact, when you reach full retirement age, the Social Security Administration recategorizes your disability benefit as a retirement benefit.)
The biggest spousal benefit you can collect while your ex-husband is alive is 50% of the amount he receives. As an eligible divorced person, you can apply for that benefit as soon as you and your ex are both at least 62 years old - even if he hasn't yet applied for Social Security. (If you were still married, you couldn't apply for a spousal benefit until your husband had actually filed for his own benefit.)
Whether or not you qualify for the maximum spousal benefit depends on your age when you file for it, not on his age.
But you can't collect your disability benefit and your spousal benefit. You'll only receive the larger of the two. If your current benefit is $1,200 a month and your spousal benefit is $1,000 a month, for example, you'll continue receiving $1,200.
When your ex-husband dies, your maximum survivor's benefit would be 100% of the amount he was getting (or eligible to get) at the time of his death -- which may indeed be more than your disability benefit. But again, you'll receive the larger of the two, not both.
Please send your questions to Lynn@LynnBrennersFamilyFinance.com. I'm sorry I can't respond personally to every email. Questions are only addressed online.
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