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Spouse's income does it matter to qualify for disability?

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “I have been diagnosed with lung cancer, and I can no longer work. My spouse, however, makes more than $100,000. I am wondering if the Social Security Administration will consider my spouse’s income when determining whether or not I should be awarded disability benefits?” disability-legal-help The Social Security Administration administers two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Whether or not your income will be considered in the decision making process will depend on which disability program you qualify to receive. Let’s take a look at each program and whether or not you can receive disability benefits.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is a wage replacement program which is provided to workers who are disabled with a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and does not allow the worker to perform what the SSA terms substantial gainful activity (SGA). To qualify for SSDI benefits, however, the worker must also have worked and paid sufficient taxes to earn work credits to be considered insured. Workers who have not worked and who have not paid taxes will not qualify for benefits regardless of the severity of their health condition.

Your's spouse's income and disability benefits

Now, let’s take a closer look at your question. If you have been consistently working for several years and you have earned work credits when you become disabled if you are insured and you meet the physical qualifications, you will be awarded SSDI. SSDI benefits are only contingent on your insured status and the money you have contributed. The SSA will not consider your spouse’s income. In fact, it’s similar to Social Security retirement in that you are “withdrawing” money that you have deposited into a special fund- in this case the Social Security Trust Fund- for the duration of your work career. What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Now, you did not mention whether or not you worked enough or had enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. Let’s assume for this example that you do not. If you do not have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits your only other option for disability from the Federal Government is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Supplemental Security Income is paid to the disabled, aged, or blind who are unable to work or perform substantial gainful activity. Claimants must also not be working and making too much money and they must have very limited income and resources to qualify. If you apply for SSI benefits the Social Security Administration WILL consider your spouse’s income. In fact, the SSA will evaluate not only your spouse’s income, but also whether or not you and your spouse have resources and income which is above the allowable level. In this case, if you and your spouse own too much nonexempt property and other assets and you make too much money, you will not qualify for SSI benefits. Bottom Line: If you qualify for SSDI benefits the SSA will not care how much your spouse makes. If you have to apply for SSI benefits, however, if your spouse makes too much money then you will be denied. Recent blogs: