Getting married can affect your disability benefits, depending on whether you're collecting Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, or both.
SSDI benefits are earned by paying into the Social Security system via payroll deductions. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must have accrued enough "work credits" to be covered; if you do, the marriage rules won't affect your eligibility.
But if you receive benefits based on your spouse's or your parent's work record, you may lose your benefits by getting married, depending on your relationship to the person on whose record you collect Social Security benefits. Here's more information on the benefits you could lose if you get married.
Benefits on your own work record. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits under your own work record (meaning you are the disabled worker), then getting married will not affect your benefit payments. This is the case no matter whether your future spouse works, receives disability benefits, or has no income.
Deceased spouse's work record. If you're receiving benefits as the widow or widower of a Social Security disability recipient, you will lose your benefit by getting married if you get married before age 60 (or age 50 if you're disabled). If you get married after that age, you can continue to receive benefits after your marriage.
Ex-spouse's work record. If you're receiving Social Security benefits under your ex-spouse's work record, getting married will cause you to lose eligibility for benefits.
Deceased ex-spouse's work record. If you're receiving "surviving divorced spouse" benefits, you'll lose these benefits if you get remarried before age 60. If you're a divorced spouse with a disability who's receiving survivor benefits based on your deceased ex-spouse's work record, you'll lose these benefits if you get remarried before age 50.
Parent's work record. If you're 18 or younger (or a 19-year-old high school student), you can receive dependents benefits if your parent is receiving SSDI or died while receiving SSDI. These benefits end when you get married or turn 18 (or 19 if still in school).
If you're an adult disabled child (you're an adult but you became disabled before age 22), you can continue to receive benefits under your parent's work record for as long as you're disabled. But getting married will cause your SSDI benefits to stop. In certain circumstances, a disabled adult child may be able to marry another disabled adult child without either person losing benefits.
Marriage by itself doesn't terminate SSI benefits. But to understand why you can lose SSI disability if you get married, you need to know a little about the program. SSI is designed to support the disabled individuals who have the most critical need. Past earnings don't factor into eligibility for SSI benefits as they do for SSDI. Instead, the SSI program has income limits and resource limits for how much an SSI recipient can have.
If you receive SSI and your fiancé doesn't. When you get married, a portion of your spouse's income and assets will be "deemed" to you (in other words, counted as yours). The Social Security Administration (SSA) will count, as yours, part of your spouse's earnings from:
If your fiancé makes less than about $5,500 per year. The SSA will ignore a small amount of spousal income, knowing that your spouse will need it for their own living expenses. If you and your spouse have no children and your spouse makes more than $457 per month, in 2023, the SSA will ignore all of your spouse's income. That number is twice as high ($914) if you have one child and three times as high ($1,371) if you have three children, and so on.
If your fiancé makes a good amount of income. It's quite possible that you'll be over the SSI eligibility limit when your future spouse's income is added to yours. Getting married will likely reduce the amount of your SSI benefit—or cause the payments to stop altogether if you go over the income limit. Social Security has a very complicated formula for how much spousal income it will count—see our article on the deeming of spousal income, which includes some helpful examples.
When both fiancés receive SSI. If the person you're marrying is also receiving SSI, it's likely that one or both of you will see your benefit amount reduced because of the SSI marriage penalty. The full SSI payment for an individual is $914 (in 2023), while the rate for a couple with both spouses receiving SSI is $1,371. So getting married definitely hurts when both spouses receive SSI: Two unmarried SSI recipients would receive a maximum of double the individual payment, or $1,828 per month (compared to $1,371 a month if they get married).
Read more about the SSI marriage penalty. And if you'd like help calculating your potential loss of benefits, contact a representative at your local Social Security field office.
Social Security calls people who receive SSDI and SSI "dual eligibles." And getting SSDI and SSI at the same time is called receiving concurrent benefits.
If you receive concurrent benefits from the SSDI and the SSI programs, getting married could cause you to lose SSI benefits, but your SSDI benefits wouldn't be affected. Why? Even when you receive both benefits, you're subject to the SSI income limits, and part of your spouse's income will count toward your income limit. But as discussed above, getting married doesn't affect your own SSDI benefits.
You can contact a representative at your local Social Security field office to figure out how much you will lose in benefits. If talking to Social Security about any of these issues doesn't clear up your concerns, and you still don't know how marriage will affect your Social Security benefits, you may want to contact a qualified Social Security disability attorney.
If you receive concurrent benefits, what will also likely change if you get married is your dual eligibility status for Medicare and Medicaid.
Medicare and Medicaid have a complicated system called "Medicaid crossover," which helps people who are eligible for Medicare due to SSDI but can't afford its premiums and copays. People with dual eligibility usually qualify for help paying Medicare premiums and deductibles through "Medicare Savings Programs," which are administered by state Medicaid agencies. This is sometimes called getting "Medi-Medi" (short for Medicare and Medicaid).
There are three Medicare Savings Programs that can help dual eligibles:
If your income increases, you may no longer qualify as a Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), which means you might be subject to more out-of-pocket costs, but you could still qualify under the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) or Qualifying Individual (QI) program, which would still cover your Medicare premiums. You could also continue to receive "Extra Help" paying for Medicare Part D. Contact Social Security or your state's department of health care services about how marriage would affect dual eligibility for you and your new spouse.
Updated May 31, 2023