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Divorce and SSI Disability Benefits

Will my divorce increase my SSI payment?


Many disability recipients are surprised to find that certain life decisions may increase or decrease their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Recently on our disability forum we had a SSI recipient ask, “If I get divorced will my SSI payment increase?”



Supplemental Security Income is a “needs” based monthly cash benefit. Although there is a maximum federal benefit allowable, your payment may vary based on your available income and resources. If you are married and your spouse has an income the SSA will assume that some of that money will be used to support you and this can lower your SSI payments.

What do I do if I get divorced?


If you are receiving SSI payments and you get divorced you must report the change of income to the SSA. If you are not currently getting the maximum your payment is likely to increase. Keep in mind, however, that if you get alimony or spousal support following the divorce this income can be considered when calculating your SSI payment.

SSI vs. SSDI


If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and not SSI than your payments will not change if you get divorced. Your SSDI payment is calculated based on your earnings and the amount you paid in taxes. It is not needs based. When the SSA is calculating your payment they will not consider your spouse’s income.

Who Is Considered a Spouse?


You will be considered married if you are married to a person of the opposite sex and you residing in the same house together. The SSA may also consider you married if you are not legally married but have represented yourself to the community as married. Although marriage laws are under consideration by the Supreme Court at this point the SSA will not consider same sex couples married (contact the SSA for updated statutes).

When will the SSA consider my spouse’s income?


If the ineligible spouse’s total countable income is less than the difference between the couple’s federal benefit rate and the individual federal benefit rate, no income is deemed. In 2013, the difference between the couple’s rate and individual rate is the difference between $1066 and $710 or $356.

If your spouse makes more than this amount the SSA has a complicated formula for determining you SSI payment and how your spouse’s income will affect your payout. Payments can also vary if your spouse has earned income and unearned income, or they have any impairment-related work expenses. Additionally, there will be variations for states which add a supplementary payment to SSI.

Got married why did my SSI decrease?


If you are getting married your SSI can also decrease or be eliminated if your spouse makes too much money. If you get married a portion of your spouse’s income can be considered as financial support for you and it can decrease your SSI payment. When you get married it is imperative that you report the marriage to the SSA as soon as possible or you could end up owing the SSA money for the overpayment.
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