Veteran asks about disability and ex-spouse benefits
Question: I am a military veteran with a total and permanent disability. I was married for more than 10 years to a military man who has since honorably separated from military service. I was originally on Social Security disability, which automatically converted to regular Social Security retirement benefits when I turned 65 — with the amount remaining at the “disabled” level instead of the “regular” rate based on my Social Security employment contribution record. Why wasn’t my “regular” Social Security rate used when I turned 65? Also, I contacted Social Security regarding my ex-husband’s Social Security since I was married to him for more than 10 years, but was told I am not entitled to a portion of his Social Security benefit. Why not? I was told the amount I would receive wouldn’t subtract from his SS entitlement. Signed: Disabled Veteran
Dear Disabled Veteran: First, I want to thank you for your service to our country. Your sacrifice is sincerely appreciated, and I’ll be honored to answer your Social Security questions.
Regarding your current Social Security amount versus your previous disability amount, the Social Security Disability Insurance benefit you were receiving was, in fact, the amount you were entitled to at your full retirement age, even though you claimed disability benefits earlier. Your SSDI benefit, when awarded, was computed using your entire lifetime earnings history up to the point that you became disabled, resulting in you getting your earned full amount as your disability benefit before you reached your full retirement age. And that is why the amount stayed the same when it automatically converted to your normal SS retirement benefit (at your full retirement age which, by the way, was 66 if you were born before 1955). Said simply, SSDI is the full Social Security amount you have earned up to the point you stopped earning, so it stays the same when you reach your full retirement age.
As for additional benefits from your ex-husband, although you meet the length of marriage rule for ex-spouse benefits, there are additional criteria as well — you must not have remarried and remained so, and your ex-husband must be already receiving his own Social Security benefit (unless you’ve been divorced at least two years, in which case your ex need only be eligible to collect). But you can only get an additional benefit, known as a “spousal boost,” if you meet all the other criteria and half (50 percent) of the benefit your ex-husband is/was entitled to at his full retirement age is more than your current Social Security benefit. Since Social Security said you aren’t entitled to an ex-spouse benefit, you apparently do not meet all of the eligibility criteria mentioned above. And to address your last point, if you had met all criteria and been entitled to an ex-spouse benefit it, indeed, would not have affected your ex-husband’s benefit in any way.
Again, please accept my sincere gratitude for your military service. You may wish to visit the “For Veterans” section at our www.amacfoundation.org website.