Would I Get My Ex's Social Security Benefit And My Own If He Dies?

Dec 5 2017 - 7:40am

Larry, I am hoping you can answer my question. I was divorced after 32 years of marriage. My ex husband was 36 years retired military. Also retired from civilian contractor after military retirement. I always worked part time during our marriage to raise family while husband was away. During the divorce, I received a portion of his military retirement but also became disabled in my late 50's. I am now 60 years old living on $1018 per month disability (assume they came up with that figure using my years of worked income) and $1800 per month military retirement pay. Ex is now 66 years old and is collecting Social Security Benefits, military pension, VA Disability, and pension from civilian job. If my ex husband would pass away, my military retirement award will cease immediately. My only income will then be $1018 disability per month. Since I am only 60 years old, am I eligible to continue to collect my monthly disability and also his Social Security Benefits? He told me he is receiving $1700 per month Social Security (don't know if that's accurate since he made well into 6 figures at time of retirement) I am absolutely petrified about my uncertain future since he has made no provisions for me.


If your ex-husband dies, you couldn't get both your own disability benefit and his full retirement benefit amount. The most that you could get is basically the higher of those 2 benefit rates, and if you started drawing the survivor benefit before full retirement age the portion of your benefit that you receive from your husband's record would be reduced for age.

For example, Sally receives a disability benefit of $1000. When she turns 60, her ex-spouse Bill dies. Bill's full retirement age rate (PIA) was $1700. If Sally files for reduced survivor benefits at age 60, she'll continue to receive her disability payment plus 71.5% of the difference between that amount and her ex's PIA. So, in this example Sally's reduced survivor rate would be roughly $500 (i.e. ($1700 - $1000) x .715), which would then be paid in addition to her disability benefit, giving her a combined benefit rate of $1500.

The actual rate that you might receive in the event of your husband's death would depend in part on when he started receiving his Social Security benefits. And, if he started taking his benefits at or near age 62, you may even qualify for a small additional divorced spousal benefit on his record while he's living. However, you would need to be at least age 62 to qualify for a divorced spousal benefit while your ex is living, and 50% of his full retirement age rate (PIA) would have to be more than twice as much as your full disability rate.

Best, Jerry