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Every now and then I encounter a case that potentially involves a claim for benefits by a disabled surviving spouse. This is a claim for disability benefits based upon the work record of the deceased spouse.

A claimant without enough quarters of coverage for Social Security disability insurance on his/her own work record could qualify for disability benefits via the spouse's work history. Or, perhaps the deceased spouse was a better earner, and the PIA is higher for that spouse's work record. 

The requirements for a disabled widow or widower claim are very specific, and are set forth in 20 C.F.R. 404.335. The claimant must be: 

  • between ages 50 – 59; and
  • disabled under Social Security's rules; and
  • disabled within 7 years of the death of the spouse; and
  • unmarried; or married again after attaining age 50, and met the disability requirements at the time of the remarriage.
  • If the marriage lasted 10 years or longer, a divorced spouse still qualifies. See 20 C.F.R. 404.336.

When you have a client who is the right age, and there is a problem with quarters of coverage or a low PIA, remember to inquire about a deceased spouse (or former spouse).

{Update: Be sure to read the comment below, regarding the 7 year requirement, and then look at 20 C.F.R. §404.335(c)(1)}