What Happens Later If My Wife Gets Disability Benefits Now?

Apr 1 2017 - 7:00am

I am 63, my wife 57. I am still working full time and plan to do so for the time being. My wife, who is blind since birth, has worked some all her life (very part time, but consistently), and has achieved enough credits to qualify for Social Security, though the benefits, at any age, will be quite low. Due to minor arthritis kicking in even the little she works has become difficult, and of course the usual things that make it hard for the blind to be employed are ever present: employer prejudice, transportation to and from work, etc. As I understand it, SSDI has a special set of rules for blindness, it seems it may be easier to qualify than most other issues, but I have not researched deeply to be sure just HOW much easier it might be.

My questions are:

1) If she gets on SSDI, how will this affect our eventual standard Social Security payouts (like when I decide I have had enough of the corporate world)? Will she be forced to convert to standard SS when I start taking benefits ? And if so is it just a case of switching from SSDI to standard SS based on my income or will it have an effect on my/our payouts later on ? Obviously the goal here is to maximize lifetime payouts. I have run our numbers through the software, but it doesn't take SSDI into account (or does it ?)

Perhaps even more important:

2) Let's say she gets on SSDI now, then as I understand it after 2 years she is Medicare eligible. So now she goes along for a year or two on Medicare... if I leave full time employment (thus losing employer provided health coverage), start taking my Social Security, and if she is forced to convert to standard SS also does she lose her Medicare coverage if she is not yet 65 ?

The Medicare coverage is actually more important to us than her SSDI payout, if that helps. I think somewhere along the way, once I start collecting, she can collect spousal and get 50% of my benefit since her amount one her own record would be less than half of mine; but until she turns 65 we really don't want her to lose that coverage, assuming I am not getting coverage from my employer.


If your wife gets Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), the benefits will convert to regular retirement benefits at the same rate when she reaches full retirement age. She would not be forced to file for spousal benefits on your record at any time, although she would want to do so no later than at full retirement age if she qualifies.

Your wife would be eligible for Medicare after 2 years of SSDI entitlement. Part A of Medicare would be mandatory, but would not require a premium. Your wife could also enroll in optional Part B of Medicare for a monthly premium, but the Medicare coverage would be secondary to her coverage under your employer group plan for as long as you continue working. If that's the case, she could wait until you retire to enroll in Part B of Medicare without any penalty.

If your wife is earning an average of less than $1950 per month, excluding any special work related expenses that she may have as a result of being blind, it would likely be advantageous for her to apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as possible. For more information on special rules for blind individuals, refer to Social Security's website: https://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/blindrules.htm.

Best, Jerry