How Marriage Affects SSDI Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania

Getting married is a joyful and momentous occasion in anyone’s life, but it can also impact your eligibility for monthly disability benefits like SSI or SSDI.  In this article, our disability lawyers will explain some of the financial factors you should consider if you’re thinking about getting engaged but want to file a disability claim in Pennsylvania.

Marriage and Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration runs two programs which grant financial assistance based on severe, long-term disability: SSI, which stands for Supplemental Security Income, and SSDI, which stands for Social Security Disability Insurance.  But it isn’t just your health that impacts whether you qualify – your financial status also plays a major role in determining your eligibility for SSI or SSDI.  Since getting married often means a major change in your personal finances, it’s possible that your SSI or SSDI eligibility could also be impacted.

SSDI is meant for claimants who have earned sufficient “work credits” through past employment, while SSI is meant for claimants who have limited income and resources.  However, while the employment criteria are very different for each program, in both cases claimants will be disqualified if they earn too much money.

These monthly limits have different names under each program.  The monthly SSDI income limits to Pennsylvania for SSDI claimants is called SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity), while the monthly earnings limit for SSI is called the FBR (Federal Benefit Rate).  The FBR also equals the monthly payment limit.

Generally speaking, marriage should not affect your eligibility for SSDI, because SSDI does not technically impose an income limit. However, if you’re applying for SSDI and your monthly earnings exceed the SGA threshold, you will not qualify.

Remember, SGA is a gauge of your ability to perform work.  Therefore, if your earnings surpass the SGA limit, it means you’re well enough to maintain steady employment.  If you’re well enough to maintain steady employment, you are not “severely disabled” and therefore do not qualify for SSDI.  The SSA wants to ensure that disability benefits are granted only to claimants who are so ill or so seriously injured that they cannot consistently perform work.

The 2015 SGA (monthly limit) for SSDI claimants is $1,090.  This number increases to $1,820 per month for SSDI claimants who are blind.

SSDI benefits can be affected by marriage if you qualify through another person.  Be advised that if you get SSDI through one of your parents, those benefits will stop once you get married.  Your SSDI benefits will also be discontinued upon remarriage if you qualify through a former spouse.

Social Security marriage questions

Increased Monthly Financial Limits for Married Couples Filing for SSI

The financial considerations are a little more complex for SSI, because not all of your income is actually considered “countable income.”  For example, the SSA does not count the first $20 you earn each month.  Therefore, you can earn more than the FBR and still qualify for SSI.  The important part is that your countable income does not exceed the FBR.

Like SGA, the FBR numbers increase every year to account for inflation and economic changes.  The SSI 2015 monthly income limit for individuals is $733.  However, there are increased income limits for couples.  Now that you’re a spouse, the individual limit no longer applies to you.  Instead, you should use the 2015 SSI monthly limit for married couples, which varies depending on the source of your income as described below:

  • Standard income limit for couples – $1,100 per month
  • Limit when couple’s income derives exclusively from wages – $2,285 per month
  • Limit when couple’s income does not derive from wages – $1,120 per month

As you can see, the FBR for married couples can vary dramatically.  The standard limit, for example, is $367 higher than the individual limit.  The monthly limit for couples with wage-sourced income is a full $1,552 higher than the limit for individuals.

In addition to your income and earnings, the SSA will also consider you and your spouse’s resources, such as property, vehicles, stocks, bonds, and life insurance.  If your husband or wife has considerable assets, such as valuable stocks or personal property, then it’s possible you might not qualify because your resources are not limited.

All the same, you should be wary of ditching a resource in an effort to qualify.  As the SSA cautions, “If you, your spouse, or a co-owner give away a resource or sell it for less than it is worth, you may be ineligible for SSI benefits for up to 36 months.  How long you are ineligible for SSI benefits depends on the value of the resource you transferred.”

Pennsylvania Social Security Lawyers Serving Married Couples

If you need help filing for disability benefits in Pennsylvania, or if your claim was denied and you want to appeal the decision, our legal team can help.  The disability attorneys of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates have over 20 years of experience handling thousands of claims, and offer free initial consultations.  To set up your free consultation, call our law offices right away at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.  Your information will be kept confidential.

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