Social Security Disability Benefits Evaluation for Disabled Widows and Widowers and Surviving Divorced Spouses
Social security disability is open to disabled widows and widowers as well as surviving divorced spouses of wage earners who died fully insured under the terms of the Social Security Act. Determining the eligibility of these individuals is a complex matter and requires the consideration of a multitude of factors.
The entitlement of a widowed spouse or surviving divorced spouse to benefits is contingent upon meeting the criteria set out in the Social Security Act. First and foremost, the individual must be, in fact, the insured’s widow, widower, or divorced spouse. Additionally, the individual must meet one of the following:
1) the widowed spouse and the insured were married for at least nine months prior to the insured’s death — a divorced spouse must have been married to the insured for at least ten years;
2) if the parties’ marriage lasted for less than nine months, the insured must have been expected to live for at least nine more months and either the insured’s death was accidental, the insured’s death occurred in the line of duty as a member of the uniformed services, or the parties had previously been married for at least nine months;
3) the parties were the natural or adoptive parents of a child;
4) one month prior to marrying the insured, the widowed spouse was entitled to, or could have been entitled to, widow’s, widower’s, father’s, mother’s, wife’s, husband’s, parent’s, or disabled child’s benefits.
Once these requirements are met, the individual must still comply with the age requirements, have a disability that has lasted a specified period, and remain unmarried (with other qualifying circumstances). The evaluation of the widowed spouse’s disability is currently based on the individual’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.