Can You Get Multiple Social Security Benefits?
Social Security is an incredibly complex, confusing system—with a bureaucracy that seems designed to trip you up.
That’s why it’s so important to be informed and know your rights—so you don’t miss out on benefits to which you’re entitled. After all, for many people Social Security is a large part of their income—or even their only source of income.
Today, we’re talking about multiple Social Security benefits. You might be entitled to disability benefits, retirement benefits, spousal benefits, and/or survivor’s benefits. How do these benefits work? Can you receive all of them at once? Keep reading to find out.
Types of Social Security Benefits
- Retirement benefits: This type of benefit is designed to replace some of your working income after you retire. You can start taking this benefit as early as age 62 and as late as 70; however, if you take benefits before your full retirement age (between 65 and 67, depending on when you were born), your monthly benefits are reduced.
- Supplemental Security Income: This benefit is designed to help the elderly, blind, and disabled who have very little income. It is needs-based, so not all will qualify. (Learn more about SSI here.)
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI pays benefits to people who have a qualifying disability that prevents them from working. This benefit isn’t needs-based, so it’s available to those with more income; however, it is based on work history. (Learn more about SSDI here.)
- Spousal benefits: Married spouses and divorced spouses who were married more than 10 years can receive spousal benefits. If you are married, you can claim this benefit starting at age 62, as long as your spouse has claimed their own retirement benefits. However, if you have been divorced more than two years, you can claim spousal benefits whether or not your ex-spouse has claimed their own benefits.
- Survivor’s benefits: This benefit is offered to the surviving spouse and/or children of a deceased worker. Like SSDI, it is based on work history. The spouse can claim survivor’s benefits at age 60, or at age 50 if disabled.
Can You Get Multiple Benefits?
You might qualify for multiple Social Security benefits. For example, if you are at or near full retirement age, you might qualify for your own retirement benefits as well as spousal or survivor’s benefits. if you have a disability, you might qualify for both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSDI).
When you are eligible for the benefits of more than one program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) calls this “concurrent benefits.”
Unfortunately, however, just because you are eligible for multiple programs’ benefits does not mean that you will receive the full amount from each program.
How One Program’s Benefits Affect the Other’s
The Social Security Administration gives a good example through “Arnando,” who applies for SSI and SSDI. In this example, Arnando meets the needs-based requirements for SSI and the work-based requirements of SSDI. He applies to both programs and is approved.
Arnando begins by receiving only SSI payments, because SSI benefits begin the first full month after approval. His SSI payments continue in full for five months.
Then, five months after his approval, Arnando’s SSDI benefits begin. (This is because SSDI requires a five-month waiting period.) However, now that Arnando is receiving both SSI and SSDI, he will not receive the full amount of both program’s benefits.
As we said above, SSI is needs-based. It provides a Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) of $735 at maximum. In this example, when Arnando begins receiving $280 per month through SSDI, the SSA sees this as “countable income” and subtracts it from the SSI benefits. Now, Arnando receives $280 from SSDI plus $455 ($735 minus $280) from SSI. In total, the amount of money he receives each money winds up the same.
Now, let’s change this hypothetical example to say Arnando’s SSDI benefits were larger, so he received the average amount: $1,171. If that were the case, Arnando would no longer receive SSI benefits. That would be because his SSDI benefits would increase his income past SSI’s needs-based threshold. He would be making too much money to continue to qualify for SSI.
The example of Arnando applies in other situations as well. For example, if you are eligible for both SSI and retirement benefits, you can receive both. However, the amount you receive through retirement benefits would reduce the amount you receive through SSI.
Can You Choose Your Benefits?
Though there are exceptions, in general, the answer is no. The Social Security Administration has a rule called “deemed filing.” This rule is called “deemed filing” because, when you apply for one program’s benefits, such as spousal benefits, you are “deemed” to have applied for other programs for which you are eligible. The SSA then gives you the higher of the two benefits.
Get Your Questions Answered
There’s no doubt that applying for Social Security can be complex. If you’re unsure if you qualify or how to apply, we’re here for you..
Call Casper & Casper to talk to a knowledgeable SSDI attorney about your claim. We would be happy to answer your questions and let you know how we can help.