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How Does the “Marriage Penalty” Affect Social Security Disability?

How Does the “Marriage Penalty” Affect Social Security Disability?

When you are thinking about getting married, you’re probably not questioning if doing so will affect your Social Security disability benefits. But it might be worth a few moments’ consideration. The impact that marriage could have on your monthly payments depends on whether the benefits you receive are from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you are collecting SSDI benefits on your own work record, getting married or remarried will have no effect. But if you are receiving SSDI benefits on someone else’s record, your benefits could be affected, depending on your relationship to the person on whose record you are collecting monthly payments.

In the event that you are a widow or widower collecting benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record, you will lose these benefits if you remarry before age 60 (or before age 50 if you are disabled). You will also lose benefits if you are collecting them under an ex-spouse’s work record and decide to remarry.

If you receive SSI benefits, on the other hand, marriage will likely have a greater impact on your continued ability to receive monthly payments. SSI has strict income and resource thresholds. When you marry, Social Security Administration (SSA) “deems” a certain amount of your spouse’s income as your own.

Therefore, if your spouse earns high income, part of that income will be counted as yours, and it may push you over the income limit to qualify for SSI benefits. You may lose your eligibility for SSI benefits entirely, or the amount that you receive each month could be reduced. If you both collect SSI benefits prior to getting married, it is likely that one or both of you will see your monthly benefit payments reduced.

Similarly, resources are limited under the SSI program. In order to remain eligible for benefits, you cannot own more than $2,000 in resources as a single person or more than $3,000 as a couple. SSA’s theory behind these restrictions is that you can live on less income and fewer resources together than you could on your own individually.

When SSA calculates your financial resources to see if you continue to qualify for SSI benefits, it will consider the totality of your living arrangements. If someone else pays for your food, housing, utilities, or other living expenses, for example, your monthly payments could be reduced.

There are some instances in which you qualified for and collect both SSDI and SSI benefits. If you marry with dual eligibility, you will likely lose your SSI benefits but retain your monthly SSDI payments.

Regardless of your situation, you should be aware of the impact that marriage could have on your disability benefits. When in doubt, contact your local SSA office, and someone there can help you calculate the potential loss in benefits.