Who can mom collect on - confused

Situation: Mom will be 76 in December 2022.
1. Mom & dad married (19/21 respectively) and divorced after 10.5 years. (1/1965 - Fall/1975)
2. She remarried at 30 and was married 19 years until his death. (3/1977 - 5/1996)
3. She remarried 2 years later at 52. (1998) They've been married 24 years now. He's been collecting SSI for several years (at least 5) and SSDI for 2 years now.

4. She's been collecting SS on herself - partial for a few years now and full once she turned 72 four years ago.


Can she collect on dad or step-dad #1 now? How does it change when Step-dad #2 is no longer with us? How does this work??? I see different comments/rules about being under 60 and being married 3 times. HELP!!!! It's all so confusing!!! Trying to plan for her financial future and trying to figure out her options and what she needs to do. 

1. Dad is deceased (Dec 2020) - was married at time of his death.. 
2. If step-day #1 had the best income at time of death - how are his (and therefor her survivor's) benefits calculated? He was only 49 so wasn't collecting SSI. Is it based on the # of years he paid in? Is it prorated? How does that work?
2. Since step-dad #2 (her current husband) is collecting - can she currently collect anything from his benefits? Either from the SSI or the SSDI?
3. Step-dad #2  isn't doing well and doctors are concerned he hasn't got much time left. Hence why I'm worried about her. What will her options be once the inevitable happens? 

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Honored Social Butterfly

From the info you have given here, it does not appear that she is eligible for any spousal benefit - divorced, divorced survivors or current spousal (but that one depends on the amount compared to her benefit)

1.  She cannot collect anything from spouse #1 (your Dad) because even though she meets the marriage length requirement - she married again and again and she is currently married - So that one is a no-go.

Here is the rule: 

Go down to the heading:  Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse - I have reprinted this part here -

To qualify on your record, your ex-spouse must:

  • Have been married to you for at least 10 years.
  • Be at least 62 years old.
  • Be unmarried.
  • Not be eligible for an equal or higher benefit on their own Social Security record, or on someone else's Social Security record.

2.  Same thing for spouse # 2 - she meets the marriage length requirement but she married again before age 60 and is still married, which disqualifies a survivors benefit from this deceased spouse.  So again it's a no-go.

Here is the rule:   reprinted here:

Benefits for a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse may be affected by several additional factors:

  • If you remarry before age 60 (age 50 if you have a disability), you cannot receive benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married.

3.  If 50% of the current husband's benefit (SSDI) is greater than the benefit she is currently receiving, she can file for spousal benefits on his record and it will be 50% of his benefit - if not she will have to stick with her own and that is the highest she will get right now.

Here is the rule on Spousal benefits:   reprinted the important parts:

If you’re getting Social Security retirement benefits, some members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. If they qualify, your ex-spouse, spouse, or child may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your retirement benefit amount.

Benefits For Your Spouse

. . . .  your spouse may be eligible for benefits if they are at least 62 years of age and you are receiving retirement or disability benefits. 

How Much Will My Spouse Receive?

If your spouse qualifies for benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

  • At their full retirement age, the spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your full retirement amount. 

NOTE:  the SSDI amount is his full retirement amount - it just changes names at his FRA.


Now if the current spouse dies or they get a divorce and she doesn't marry again - she may be able to go back and reassess all these again - divorced spouse benefits - either regular divorced spouse under spouse #1 OR  divorced survivors benefits under spouse #2.  And also under whatever the manner the #3 closes out - divorce or death.  



It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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