As you decide to apply for disability benefits, you may be wondering how your current or future spouse’s income will impact your benefit amount.
Marriage itself is a major life transition, but when you have a disability and can’t work the transition may feel even more overwhelming. We hope that the information in this article can help you and your future spouse to make the best decision for your future.
Even if you are already married, you may want to know how your spouse’s income will impact your SSI benefits if you decide to apply for disability income.
In this article, we’ll give you the facts about how marriage impacts SSI beneficiaries and what to expect. We’ll be discussing:
- How marriage impacts SSI
- Who Social Security considers a spouse
- How Social Security deems spousal income
We’re going to start with how your marital status impacts SSI benefits.
How Marriage Impacts SSI Benefits
While marriage does not affect your eligibility for SSI in and of itself, at least some of your new husband or wife’s income will most likely be attributed to you. This is called “deeming spousal income,” which we will discuss in a later section.
You must report the following changes to the Social Security Administration no later than 10 days after the end of the month during which the change occurred:
- You get married and will be living with your spouse
- Your spouse’s income changes
- You no longer live with your spouse
If you fail to report these changes, you are at risk of losing your SSI benefits.
Since SSI is meant for lower-income beneficiaries who do not qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) due to lack of work history, it is based on financial need. This means that the income and resource limits for SSI are very strict.
Because Social Security’s SSI income limits are so stringent, you may become ineligible for benefits due to your spouse’s income. At the very least, your benefits may be reduced. Check out our article if want to understand more about applying for SSI.
If both you and your spouse receive SSI, you may receive less in benefits. You’ll be eligible only for the lower couple’s SSI benefit amount. The combined income between you and your spouse will need to be less than the lower couple’s income limit.
In 2022, the SSI amount (as well as the countable income limit) for an individual is $841 while the couple’s amount is only $1,261.
Additionally, Social Security applies the resource limit ($3,000) to married couples even if only one is eligible for SSI. So if you and your future spouse’s resources combined will be greater than $3,000, you will most likely lose your benefits.
This is something to bear in mind if you are not yet married but are interested in finding a spouse.
We’re briefly going to outline who Social Security considers a spouse for the purposes of disability benefits.
Who is a Spouse According to Social Security?
This seems like an obvious question, but it’s worth outlining how the government defines the term “spouse.” Any two persons who are legally married and are living together are considered spouses for the purpose of deeming income.
What about “common law” marriages?
If you live with a boyfriend or girlfriend and considered yourselves married and are recognized as such within your community, Social Security may deem your significant other’s income to you. It depends on which state you live in.
In general, the basic requirements for common-law marriages are…
- The two individuals consent to enter into marriage from that time on without solemnizing the bond by a ceremony;
- The two individuals must have the intent to marry;
- The two individuals must consider one another spouses;
- The two individuals must be legally capable of entering into a valid marriage;
- The marriage is contracted in a state that recognizes common-law marriages; and
- In certain states, the spouses must cohabit (live together) and hold themselves out to the public as spouses.
Other requirements include agreement to marry and cohabitation. There are special considerations for “sojourn” (common-law marriages that arise during a temporary stay within a state’s borders) and common-law marriages outside the U.S.
Finally, Social Security deems income between individuals in certain other legally recognized partnerships, such as civil unions.
It’s important to note that deemed income only applies to spouses living together. There is no benefit impact from a spouse’s income if you are separated.
How Social Security Deems Income
Whether a spouse’s income is deemed to you depends on how much he or she makes.
The rule for 2022 is that if you and your spouse have no children and your spouse makes more than $420 per month, his or her income is subject to be deemed to you.
If you have one child, the income limit for your spouse is $840 per month. For two children, the limit is $1,260 per month. For each subsequent child, add $420 per month.
Social Security’s formula for deeming income is a bit complex.
Here’s a quick way to estimate:
- Deduct $420 for each child from your spouse’s income.
- Add your spouse’s income to your unearned income, not including income from your spouse’s IRA or pension.
- Then subtract the deductions allowed by Social Security. If you work part-time (that is, work that is not Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA), you may subtract $85 and then divide the remainder of your income by 2. The result is your countable income, which you would then add to the unearned income between you and your spouse.
- Whatever is left after all the deductions you’ve made is the spousal income that is deemed to you. Subtract that amount from the SSI income limit for couples (as if you were both disabled). In 2022, the income limit (and monthly SSI benefit rate) for a couple is $1,261.
- The remainder after subtracting the deemed spousal income from the SSI income limit for couples will be your monthly benefit. If your remainder is zero or less, you are not eligible for SSI. If the remainder is more than $841 (the maximum federal SSI rate for individuals), you will receive the $841 maximum and no more. You may receive a state supplement, depending on which state you live in.
We’ll give three examples to help illustrate this calculation.
Your spouse’s salary is $16,200 annually. You have no children.
You have no income, and your spouse makes $1,350 per month and has no other income. You also have no children. Because your spouse makes more than $420 per month, his or her income will be deemed to you.
The calculation, as mentioned above, would then be ($1,350 – $85)/2 = $632.50.
Subtract $632.50 from the couple’s SSI rate of $1,261. The end result would be $628.50 per month, which is less than the federal maximum benefit ($841).
Your spouse’s salary is $24,000 annually. You have two children.
Let’s say your spouse makes $2,000 per month (with no other income), and you have two minor children. You do not have any income yourself. Your spouse’s income would be deemed to you because their earnings exceed $420 per month.
So with the initial deduction of $85 and deductions for each child subtracted from your spouse’s monthly income (($2,000 – $420 -$420 – $85)/2), you will have $1,075 of your spouse’s income deemed to you.
After subtracting the deemed income amount from the couple’s SSI rate ($1,261 – $1,075), you get only $186 in SSI benefits per month.
Your spouse’s salary is $32,400 annually. You have no children.
Your spouse makes $2,700 per month without other income. You have no income, and you have no children. Your spouse’s income, because it is greater than $420 per month, would be deemed to you.
After the calculation ($2,700 – $85/2), deemed income would be $1,307.50, which is greater than the maximum couple’s SSI benefit rate of $1,261. Therefore, you would not be eligible for SSI benefits.
Please note that these are very rough calculations that are simply meant as examples.
The calculation will become more complex if you also have earned income with impairment-related work expenses (IRWE) or your spouse has unearned income. The calculation also changes in states that supplement SSI with additional payments.
If you would like to get the most precise estimate of your disability benefits, use the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “Detailed Calculator.” There are additional calculators provided by the SSA you can use as well.
Do You Need Disability Benefits Assistance?
If you’re getting married or are already married and want to begin a disability claim application, you may want to start with an online disability case evaluation.
The truth about disability benefits is that it can be difficult to qualify, especially the first time you apply. Over 60% of first-time applicants receive a denial.
With a disability case evaluation, you will have a better idea of whether you qualify so that you have a better chance of your application receiving an approval.
Upon completion, you can leave your contact information, and someone will be in touch with you about getting disability benefits assistance for your application. If you have other questions, you can always contact us at email@example.com.