I need some help to figure out if I am eligible for Widow's Benefits. We were married Aug.5, 1989 and divorced May 14, 1998 but got back together almost immediately. When he became ill, we remarried on June 19, 1999 believing he was getting better but then he passed away Jan 5, 2000. I am now 64 and have never remarried but Social Security has refused benefits based on the rule that we were not married for 9 months before his death. I know there is a 10 consecutive year rule that applies for divorced spousal benefits, but does that not also apply for people who remarried and remained married until one passes away.
I would like to appeal their decision but hate to pay an attorney if there's no possibility.
I believe that you should be eligible for widow's benefits based on Social Security's regulations. As is explained in section 2.c. of this reference from Social Security's operations manual (POMS): https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200305100, the 9-month duration of marriage requirement for widow's benefits can be met based on a previous marriage to the same husband.
Hiring an attorney is optional, but not required to pursue an appeal of your claim (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf). Particularly at the first step of appeal (i.e. Reconsideration), the determination is made by an administrative review without the opportunity for a face to face meeting. I would think that your case could be resolved in your favor if you simply present proof of the length your previous marriage to your deceased husband and cite the above POMS reference in your appeal.
Depending on your circumstances, you may have other potentially better filing options available to you. You may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website before deciding what to do about your claim for widow's benefits.