Should This Husband Apply For Disability Or Retirement Benefits?

Jan 10 2019 - 8:25am

Husband has late stage cancer @ 68. Spouse is only 50. Should husband apply for disability or retirement from Social Security? Will spouse has medicare after husband pass away? Regardless of whether husband apply for retirement, spouse should have widows benefit, right?


The husband couldn't file for Social Security disability benefits, since those benefit end at full retirement age (FRA). The husband could file for Social Security retirement benefits, but that wouldn't benefit his spouse assuming that they don't have children who could draw benefits on the husband's record. In fact, filing for retirement benefits could lower the survivor rate that the spouse may eventually qualify for on the husband's record.

Unreduced widow's benefits are calculated at 100% of the deceased worker's benefit rate at the time of death, augmented by any subsequent cost of living increases (COLA). If the deceased worker never filed for their benefits, the unreduced widow's rate is equal to the amount that the deceased worker would have received if they'd started drawing effective with the earlier of their month of death or age 70, plus any subsequent COLAs. If the husband in your question files for his benefits now he'll stop accruing delayed retirement credits (DRC), which would in turn limit the widow's rate for which the surviving spouse may eventually qualify.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the husband shouldn't file for his retirement benefits now, though. That's a decision that he must make based on the circumstances involved. Our software could help this couple with their Social Security planning.

Eligibility for widow's benefits can't begin before age 60 unless the widow is disabled, in which case disabled widow's benefits can start as early as age 50. However, a widow would have to wait until their full retirement age (FRA) to start drawing in order to receive an unreduced widow's rate. Medicare eligibility doesn't begin until the earlier of age 65 or 2 years after a person becomes entitled to disability benefits, so the only way the surviving spouse could get Medicare prior to age 65 is if she's disabled.

Best, Jerry