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Malti Patel

Q. What are the requirements for receiving disabled widow's benefits?

A. You may be able to get disabled widow(er)'s benefits at age 50 if you are found to meet Social Security's disability requirement. Your disabling impairment must have started before age 60 AND Within seven years of the latest of the following dates:

The month the worker died; OR

The last month you were entitled to mother's or father's benefits on the worker's record; OR

The month your previous entitlement to disabled widow(er)'s benefits ended because your disability ended.

Q. My ex-wife died a month ago. Are our children, ages 11 and 14, eligible for Social Security benefits?

A. Possibly. It depends on whether she had enough work credits to be insured. If she did, your children may be eligible for benefits. Apply for survivors benefits promptly because benefits are generally retroactive only up to 6 months. You can apply by calling Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 1-800-325-0778 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

Q. Am I entitled to widow’s or widower’s benefits if I remarry?

A. Generally, you cannot get widow’s or widower’s benefits if you remarry before age 60. But remarriage after age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled) will not prevent you from getting benefit payments based on your former spouse’s work. And at age 62 or older, you may get benefits based on your new spouse’s work, if those benefits would be higher.

Q. Can I receive reduced retirement benefits at age 62 under my record then at full retirement age receive full spouse's benefits?

A. If you choose to receive a reduced benefit before full retirement age on your own record, you are not entitled to the full spouse's benefit rate upon reaching full retirement age, and a reduced benefit rate is payable for as long as you remain entitled to spouse's benefits.

When you apply for reduced retirement benefits, Social Security Administration (SSA) will check to see if you are eligible for both your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse. If you are eligible for both, SSA always pays your own benefits first. If you are due additional benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse's benefit. If you are not eligible for both because your spouse is not yet entitled, but you are due a higher amount when he or she starts receiving Social Security benefits, then the higher spouse's benefit is payable to you when your spouse applies for retirement benefits. Remember, you cannot receive spouse's benefits until your spouse files for retirement.

Q. How does a divorced spouse qualify for benefits?

A. A person can receive benefits as a divorced spouse on a former spouse’s Social Security record if he or she:

Was married to the former spouse for at least 10 years;

Is at least age 62 years old;

Is unmarried;

Is not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on his or her own record.

In addition, the former spouse must be entitled to receive his or her own retirement or disability benefit.

If the former spouse is eligible for a benefit, but has not yet applied for it, the divorced spouse can still receive a benefit if he or she meets the eligibility requirements above and has been divorced from the former spouse for at least two years.

Generally, benefits cannot continue to be paid if the divorced spouse remarries someone other than the former spouse, unless the latter marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment), or the marriage is to a person entitled to certain types of Social Security auxiliary or survivor's benefits.

The benefits paid to a divorced spouse or a surviving divorced spouse will not affect the benefit amount paid to other family members who receive benefits on the same record.

If you would like to receive an estimate of benefits you may receive as a divorced spouse or a surviving divorced spouse, call 1-800-772-1213. They may be able to provide you with this information over the telephone. If you prefer, you may visit local Social Security offices.

These questions and answers are courtesy of Malti Patel, 1607 Wood Creek Lane, Allen, Texas-75002. She can be reached at (469) 675-0972.

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