Can Both Spouses Collect Social Security Disability?

Wife is pushing her disabled husband's wheelchair

When married, each spouse may draw disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, provided they meet the necessary qualifications. For those unable to work and those with limited resources, the SSA provides benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. Based on medical necessity and financial needs, these disability benefits programs offer differing assistance with differing eligibility requirements.

Receiving SSDI as a Couple

Both spouses may draw SSDI benefits, provided each meets Social Security’s disability criteria. In order to receive SSDI, people must have qualifying medical impairments that prevent them from working. Further, their medical conditions must meet the SSA’s listing and be expected to last at least one year or result in death, and they must have obtained the necessary work credits. To prove their qualifications for disability benefits through this Social Security program, people may have to provide medical records, personal statements, pay stubs, and other such documentation. Since SSDI benefits do not consider applicants’ financial situations other than if they have met the work requirements, one spouse’s eligibility for benefits or benefits award typically does not affect the other’s eligibility.

Should one spouse receive SSI benefits and the other qualify for SSDI benefits, however, the receipt of those benefits may affect their spouse’s award. In such cases, the spouse may no longer qualify for SSI benefits or may have his or her monthly award reduced.

Qualifying for SSI as a Couple

Each spouse may qualify for SSI benefits, but not without challenges. The SSI program is needs-based, so only those applicants with the greatest need for financial assistance may qualify. For the purposes of determining their need, Social Security deems the assets and earnings of each spouse as belonging to them both. Therefore, one or both spouses may qualify for benefits, but only if they both meet the eligibility requirements.

Couples in which both spouses may receive benefits face a marriage penalty of sorts. While as an individual, applicants for SSI benefits may earn up to $783 each month, married couples seeking these disability benefits may not have monthly earnings in excess of $1,175. Additionally, individual applicants may have assets worth up to $2,000. Married applicants or couples seeking benefits, however, may only have combined assets totally up to $3,000. Earning more than the limit or having an excess of assets, whether the income or property comes from one spouse or both, may affect couples’ eligibility.


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