Normally, a widow or widower who expects to be entitled to benefits on a deceased spouse's Social Security has to wait until he or she is aged 60 or older to collect.
That changes, however, if the widow(er) is disabled. In that case, benefits can begin as soon as the widow(er) reaches the age of 50. There are some important additional fact, however, that you should know if you are thinking about filing -- especially if you happen to be discouraged by all the horror stories you've heard about how hard it is to get approved for benefits these days.
In This Case, Age Is an Advantage
There are some privileges that come with age -- one of which is that Social Security actually evaluates your claim a little differently than they do those who are younger than you.
Here's how it works:
- Social Security has to examine every disability applicant's work history in detail to see if he or she is capable of returning to any prior jobs. In other words, if you worked in construction, a serious back injury would prevent you from returning to that job. However, if you had also held a job as a bill collector who tracked people down over the phone to try to bring their accounts current, SSA would likely say that your back injury didn't prevent you from returning to that much more sedentary position. It would then deny your claim.
- Assuming, however, that your only job for the last ten years had been in construction work, SSA couldn't deny your claim based on the idea that you could return to a previously held position. At that point, SSA has to ask if you have job skills that are transferable to another line or work or if you can be retrained. The younger you are, the more likely that you can be retrained.
- Under SSA's rules, anyone under the age of 50 is essentially considered retrainable. It's expected that you can adjust to another line of work -- although the agency will sometimes make allowances for those between the ages of 45 and 49.
- SSA uses what is known as "grid rules" to evaluate applicants aged 50 to 54 to see if they could easily transition to another job. Your education, medical condition, any mental disorders that you have, and prior training are considered -- but the process for approval is much simpler and easier. For example, a construction worker with no formal education beyond high school who is a widower and 50-years-old wouldn't be expected to easily adjust to sedentary work in an office that required computer skills and a lot of paperwork.
- At the age of 55, approval for disability is simplified even further. Health conditions tend to be more complicated, adjusting to a new type of work is considered less likely, and there are real-world limitations that prevent many older individuals from getting hired due to age bias.
What This Means for You
The short explanation of what all this means for you is that if you are a widow(er) who doesn't have the ability to collect disability benefits on your own earnings record, you don't have to wait until age 60 to file your widow(er)'s claim for Social Security benefits if you happen to be disabled. You have a very strong likelihood of being approved at the age of 50, which is when you are first eligible to file for disabled widow(er)'s benefits (DWB).
If you have already tried for Social Security disability benefits as a widow(er) and been denied, consider getting help from an attorney who handles SSA disability claims. He or she can often look at your denial letter and application and point out what specifically may be keeping you from being approved -- and suggest how to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that even if you allowed the appeal time to lapse, you have a right to file a new claim at any point. While that does mean losing out on past-due benefits, it beats waiting until you turn 60-years-old to finally collect what you should have been receiving all along! For more information, contact companies like Van Gilder & Trzynka PC.