When Can I Start Collecting Social Security Benefits?

Jul 23 2018 - 6:52am

I am 53 years old and on Social Security disability. (My checks are very low.) I was married to my first husband, currently age 54, for 10 years. I then remarried a man who is soon to be 61. We are separating after 6.5 years of marriage, but not divorcing,, primarily because I need medical coverage. My first husband has a higher income than my second husband's, so I foresee my first husband's Social Security benefit will be higher than my second husband's. Would it be beneficial for me to divorce my second husband, and when? Also, when can I start collecting Social Security benefits, be it mine or that of my former husband's or current husband's? I am so confused, but would like to maximize my benefits.


If you're receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), then you're already drawing your Social Security. Qualifying for SSDI basically just allows you to receive your full Social Security retirement benefits early, and your SSDI will convert to regular Social Security retirement benefits at the same rate when you reach your full retirement age of 67.

The earliest that you could qualify for spousal or divorced spousal benefits on the record of a living spouse or ex-spouse is age 62. However, you would only be eligible for those benefits if 50% of your spouse's or divorced spouse's full retirement age rate (PIA, or primary insurance amount) is more than your full SSDI rate. And if you do qualify for spousal/divorced spousal benefits, those benefits would be reduced for age if you start drawing them prior to your full retirement age.

Disabled widow's or surviving divorced spousal benefits can be paid as early as age 50, so you could potentially become eligible for survivor benefits right away if your spouse or ex-spouse dies. However, you would have to be unmarried in order to potentially qualify for benefits on your ex-spouse's record. And, if you divorce your present husband before you've been married for 10 years you could never qualify for any benefits on his record.

In order to qualify for survivor benefits in addition to your SSDI, your deceased spouse's or ex-spouse's PIA would have to be higher than your full SSDI rate. If it is, you could then potentially qualify for an excess survivor benefit ranging from 71.5% to 100% of the difference between your SSDI rate and your deceased spouse's or ex-spouse's PIA, depending on your age at the time you start drawing the survivor benefits and whether or not your spouse or ex-spouse received reduced retirement benefits prior to their death.

Our software is designed to help people determine their best strategy for claiming benefits when they have options like those you may have in the future.

Best, Jerry