Social Security Rules You May Not Know About
by Linda Ershow-Levenberg, Certified Elder Law Attorney (C.E.L.A.)
Updated August, 2020
Practice Area: Elder Law
There are many protections built into the Social Security system for insured individuals and their family members. In some cases, an individual didn’t pay into the system long enough to be insured, but can claim benefits based on a relationship to an insured individual. The application can be filed on-line at www.ssa.gov. You may be surprised to learn of all the benefits available.
Here are a few rules that can be useful for individuals who are retired or have become disabled. See generally the Social Security laws at 42 United States Code (U.S.C.) secn. 402 and 416. The statutes provide further precise definitions and requirements.
Widow/Widower Benefits At full retirement age, this individual can claim the higher benefit that was received by his/her deceased spouse, provided s/he doesn’t remarry before age 60.
Disabled Widow/Widower An uninsured individual can claim disability benefits on the earnings record of the deceased spouse provided that the individual files an application and became totally disabled within 7 years of the death.
Divorced Person This individual can claim retirement benefits at full retirement age, based on the ex-spouse’s earnings record, provided they were married for ten years and the applicant had not gotten married to someone else. If the ex-spouse is still alive, the benefit will be 50% of their benefit. If the ex-spouse has died, the benefit is 100% of their benefit. There can be multiple widowed recipients of benefits under one person’s earnings record.
Disabled Adult Child This individual can claim benefits based on the earnings record of their parent or step-parent, provided that there is sufficient proof that the disability began before age 22. Retroactive benefits will only be paid to one year prior to the date the application is filed. Benefits will be terminated if the individual remarries.
Spouse Caring for Dependent Child of Insured Spouse If the child is entitled to child’s benefits, this spouse can apply for benefits once their spouse starts receiving benefits.
Spouse Over 62 This individual can apply for benefits based on his or her spouse’s receipt of old-age or disability benefits as long as the benefit this individual receives is less than 50% of his or her spouse’s benefit.
Child of a Person Entitled to Old Age or Disability Benefits This individual can apply for benefits if s/he is unmarried, under 18 or a full-time student under 19, or is under a disability that began before age 22.
Surviving Divorced Parent of a Deceased Insured Person, Caring for that Person’s Child This individual can apply for benefits if s/he is not married, is not entitled to any surviving spouse benefit, is not entitled to any old age benefit on his or her own record or if his or her own benefit is less than three-fourths of the deceased child’s benefit, and is caring for a child of the deceased individual, provided that the deceased child was eligible for (or is receiving) benefits based on his or her own earnings record.
Surviving Parent Over Age 62 Who was Being Supported by the Deceased Insured Person If the deceased child provided at least 50% of the surviving parent’s support, or the parent was disabled within 2 years of filing the application, the surviving parent can apply for benefits if s/he hasn’t remarried since the death and his/her own benefit is less than 82.5% of the deceased child’s benefit.
For more detailed information, look at the www.ssa.gov website.
Fink Rosner Ershow-Levenberg Marinaro Law Firm is a full service law firm for people who are elderly or disabled. To make an appointment or speak to one of our Elder Law attorneys, call 732-382-6070 or contact us online.