How Are My Benefits Calculated?

Feb 14 2019 - 9:47am

I receive SS disability. I started receiving before age 50. I also receive widows benefits. How is this calculated at my full retirement age ? My husband died at age 60. I had been receiving SSDI for several years prior to his death. I do get two checks per month. Do they just add the two together? I know I had a reduction regarding his benefit. I’m so confused as to how it is calculated and I will be 66 in a year and few months. I would greatly appreciate if you could explain it to me. I have searched the internet and cannot find the answer to my question. I have heard from people I know that I will lose my benefit and just receive his check. I thought my benefit amount was deducted from his with an additional 28.5% reduction. I hope my question makes sense.
Your help is greatly appreciated.
Thank you

Hi Debra,

You won't lose your own benefit when you reach full retirement age (FRA). Instead, your disability (SSDI) benefits will convert to regular retirement benefits at the same rate, and it sounds like your widow's benefits will be adjusted at that time to remove the reduction for age that's currently being assessed. The reason that you currently receive 2 checks instead of having them combined into one payment is because your SSDI benefits are paid from Social Security's disability trust fund, whereas your widow's benefits are paid from the retirement & survivor trust fund. Your benefits will be combined into one payment once you reach FRA and both benefits are paid from the same trust fund.

I'll use an example to explain the calculations involved in a case such as yours. Say Beth is drawing an SSDI benefit of $1000 per month when her husband dies. Beth's husband's primary insurance amount (PIA) was $2000, and Beth is age 50 at the time her husband dies. Beth could then qualify for an additional disabled widow's benefit (DWB) calculated by subtracting her SSDI rate from her husband's PIA, and then reducing the difference by 28.5%. 28.5% is the standard reduction amount applied to widow's benefits if the widow starts drawing at age 60 or earlier. So, in this example Beth's DWB benefit would be $715 (i.e. ($2000-$1000) x .715). That amount would then be paid in addition to Beth's own SSDI to give her total monthly benefits of $1715.

When Beth reaches FRA, her SSDI will convert to regular Social Security retirement benefits and the 28.5% reduction in her widow's benefits will be removed. By the way, the only times that the widow's reduction for age is removed at FRA is if the widow was already drawing SSDI when they started drawing widow's benefits or disabled widow's benefits. So, in our example Beth's combined retirement and widow's benefits would increase to $2000 (i.e. her deceased husband's PIA) when she reaches FRA.

Best, Jerry