Will marriage affect my disability benefits from Social Security?

Question: I’m collecting disability payments right now for multiple sclerosis and lupus. Will Social Security cut off my benefits if I get remarried?

Answer: Whether getting married will stop or lower your disability benefits depends on whether you’re collecting SSI disability benefits, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, adult child benefits, or survivors benefits based on the record of your deceased spouse (or ex-spouse). Let’s look at each situation.

SSI Benefits

Marriage itself doesn’t affect your eligibility for SSI benefits, but if your new husband or wife has income, Social Security will attribute some of his or her income to you (this is called deeming spousal income). Because of SSI’s strict income limits, your new spouse’s income may make you ineligible for benefits, or reduce your benefits by the amount of your countable income.

If you and your fiancé are both receiving SSI, your combined income will be subject to the lower couple’s income limit, and you will be eligible for the lower couple’s SSI amount. (The SSI amount for one person is $710, while the amount for a couple is only $1,066.)

SSDI Benefits

If you worked long enough to be insured for Social Security disability insurance benefits under your own work record, getting married will not affect your benefit payments. SSDI does not have income or asset limits.

Adult Child Benefits

If you are receiving disability benefits under your parent’s work record as an adult child, getting married will usually cause your SSDI benefits to stop. But if you marry a person with disabilities who is also receiving Social Security benefits, you may not lose your benefits when you get married. Learn more about adult child benefits.

Survivors Benefits

You may be receiving survivors disability benefits if you are over 50 and disabled and your spouse died while eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Your benefits won’t stop if you get married as long as you are over 50. (This is true for those receiving survivors disability benefits on their ex-spouse’s work record.)

Same-Sex Marriage

Note that Social Security doesn’t currently recognize gay marriage, so if you marry a same-sex partner in a state that allows same-sex marriage, your disability benefits won’t be affected as long as they are disability insurance benefits, adult child benefits, or survivors benefits. But if you are receiving SSI and you and your new spouse begin living together, Social Security could lower your monthly SSI payment by one third if your new spouse beings to pay for part of your share of your food or housing costs (Social Security calls this “in-kind“ income).

Still Not Sure?

If you’re still not sure whether your marriage could affect your benefits, call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office to talk to a field representative. Or, if you think your benefits were wrongfully terminated or reduced after you got married, contact a Social Security disability attorney or legal aid office near you.

Update 6/26/2013: Social Security now recognizes same-sex marriages in states that legally allow or recognize same-sex marriage. If you marry a same-sex partner and live in a state that allows or recognizes same-sex marriage, your disability benefits could be affected in any of the ways discussed above.