Why Doesn't My Mother Receive Her Deceased Husband's Full Benefit Rate?

Sep 20 2019 - 7:42am

My mom, age 59, is disabled and has been collecting SS disability since 2008. She was married in 2013. Her husband passed away 10 months later. She now receives her SS disability and appox. 10% of his benefit. Why doesn't she receive his full benefit?


Part of the reason is that you can't be paid 2 full Social Security benefits at the same time. If a person simultaneously qualifies for more than one type of Social Security benefit they can only be paid the higher benefit rate. Also, unlike Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits, disabled widow's benefits (DWB) are paid at a reduced rate. Specifically, DWB benefits are calculated at 71.5% of the deceased worker's primary insurance amount (PIA).

Since your mother is eligible for both SSDI and DWB benefits, what she should be receiving is her own full SSDI rate plus 71.5% of the difference between her husband's PIA and her full SSDI rate. However, if her husband received reduced retirement benefits prior to his death then your mother's benefit rate could be limited to a lower amount. The good news is that because your mother was already receiving SSDI when she became eligible for DWB, once she reaches full retirement age (FRA) the 28.5% reduction applied to her widow's benefits will be removed. That should give her a combined benefit amount equal to her husband's full PIA assuming that her husband did not receive reduced Social Security benefits prior to his death. If he did draw reduced retirement benefits, your mother's benefit rate at FRA would be limited to the higher of a) her own full benefit rate, or b) her husband's reduced benefit rate, or c) 82.5% of her husband's PIA.

Best, Jerry