Ask Larry

How Will My Wife's And Disabled Child's Benefits Be Calculated When I Apply For My Benefits?

I plan to take my SS at age 62 for the following reasons: my wife is two years younger than me and is permanently disable and is collecting SSDI. We also have an adult son who was permanently disable before age 22 and is collecting SSI and some of his benefits off my wives SS record. My question is when I retire how will they calculate my wife and sons checks off my record. I assume my wife is eligible because she is disabled, and she is taking care of an adult disabled child who was disabled before he turned 22. So, both those should allow her to claim the higher benefit prior to her turning 62. MY PIA is $3224 so does get half or is she eligible for the higher amount for taking care of a disabled child they quote on my SSA benefit sheet. Does my son get 50% of my PIA or whatever is left of my maximum family benefits? There is no scenario that covers this anywhere and I assume if I bought the Maximum program, it would not cover this as well. If my son's benefits are higher than is SSI does he go fully on my SS and no longer has to follow the SSI restrictive no income rules?



Hi Brian. Both disabled adult child (DAC) and child in care spousal benefits are calculated based on 50% of the worker's primary insurance amount (PIA). A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA), or their full Social Security disability (SSDI) benefit rate. Therefore, if your PIA is $3224 then both your wife and child could potentially be paid up to $1612 per month.

However, no one can be paid more than one full Social Security benefit at a time. If a person qualifies for benefits on more than one person's Social Security account, they can't be paid more than the higher of the two benefit rates. Furthermore, there is a family maximum benefit (FMB) that can be paid from a worker's Social Security account, and that can reduce the monthly benefit rate that can be paid to auxiliary beneficiaries (e.g. wife, child).

In your family's case it sounds like the FMB from your wife's account could be combined with the FMB on your account to free up more benefits to be paid to your family members. That's referred to as a combined family maximum (CFM). The maximum total amount that could be paid to your wife and child will be calculated by subtracting your PIA from the CFM amount.

Note that your benefit rate won't be affected by the FMB or CFM, but if you start drawing at age 62 your monthly rate will be reduced for age by roughly 30%. And, even if you're collecting a benefit that's reduced for age, your full PIA is deducted from the CFM or FMB when calculating the amount that's available to be paid to auxiliary beneficiaries.

Determining the amount that's payable to each auxiliary beneficiary can be quite complex, and many different variables are involved ( I can't give you even approximate auxiliary benefit amounts that may be payable to your wife and child without knowing your wife's PIA. Fortunately, though, our software ( is fully capable of handling all of the computations involved in a case such as yours, so you should strongly consider using the software to analyze all of your various filing options so that you can determine your best strategy for maximizing benefits for your family.

Social Security benefits offset Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments dollar for dollar by all but at least the first $20 of the Social Security benefit rate, so if your son ends up with a higher DAC rate when you start drawing your benefits then that could reduce or terminate his SSI payments. Also, I should mention that if you start drawing your benefits at age 62, that will cause your wife's potential widow's rate to be limited to no more than 82.5% of your PIA.

Best, Jerry

Jan 20 2022 - 7:50am
MaxiFi software running on a laptop
Get What's Yours!
Discover tens of thousands in extra retirement dollars with Maximize My Social Security software!
  • Find your maximized strategy
  • Unlimited what-ifs
  • Step-by-Step filing instructions
  • Our software's lifetime-benefit increase for an illustrative couple earning $65K each and planning to take retirement benefits at 62.

    Results will differ based on your specific case and filing strategy.

Getting Started is Easy
Web-based software. Works on ALL browsers. No download.