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If both people in a married couple meet Social Security’s definition of disability — each has an illness or injury that largely prevents them from working for at least a year or will likely result in death — both can collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
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If only one spouse is getting SSDI, the other may be entitled to spousal benefits. These work the same with a disabled partner as with a retired one: The non-disabled spouse can receive up to 50 percent of the SSDI recipient’s benefit amount, depending on the spouse's age and other qualifying criteria.
In the case of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the other Social Security-administered benefit available to people with disabilities, having a spouse who also qualifies for the program does not affect your eligibility. But it will likely change your benefit amount.
SSI is intended for older, disabled and blind people with little or no income and limited financial resources. Benefits under the program are not based on a person’s lifetime earnings, as with SSDI. Instead, Social Security sets a monthly cap on SSI payments and can reduce them based on a recipient's income at the time.
The maximum SSI benefit for individuals in 2023 is $914. However, if two spouses are both receiving SSI, Social Security applies a couple’s rate of $1,371. While two people who are married to each other can qualify for SSI, collectively they could get less than they might as individuals, depending on their joint income, whether they have children and other factors.
Keep in mind
- If two people who are already receiving SSI get married, their individual benefits are converted to the couple’s rate.
- Your SSI eligibility can be affected if you are married to someone who does not qualify for the program. In this case, your spouse’s income and assets could be counted against your benefit eligibility, a process Social Security calls “deeming.”