Disability Benefits for Stay-at-Home Moms and Homemakers

Stay-at-home parents and homemakers often can’t get disability benefits—except for those with very low household incomes or whose spouses have become disabled or died.

By , J.D. · University of Baltimore School of Law
Updated 9/20/2023

Homemakers, including "housewives" and "househusbands," often aren't eligible for any kind of disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). When stay-at-home moms and dads don't qualify for disability, it's usually because they:

  • haven't worked enough to qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI)
  • have too many financial resources to qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), and
  • don't have an employer who pays for a long-term disability policy.

When a homemaker becomes disabled, it can create economic hardship for the family—especially if the working spouse dies and there's no other source of income.

Here's what you need to know about the Social Security benefits available to disabled homemakers and stay-at-home parents.

Social Security Disability (SSDI) for Homemakers

In addition to having a medical disability, the SSDI program requires that you have a substantial work history. To be insured, you must have worked long enough and recently and either:

  • paid taxes to Social Security (FICA taxes) through your employer, or
  • paid self-employment taxes.

You might have difficulty meeting the work history requirement if you're a full-time homemaker or stay-at-home parent. But you could still qualify for SSDI if both of the following are true:

  • you stayed home for only a short period before becoming disabled, and
  • you had a consistent work history before becoming a homemaker.

SSDI is disability insurance, and the FICA taxes (or self-employment taxes) you pay are the premiums. Like most insurance policies, SSDI premiums protect you against future disability. So you'll likely have Social Security disability insurance coverage for several years after you quit working. (Learn more about how long Social Security disability coverage lasts.)

Spousal Benefits for Stay-at-Home Moms

You might qualify for a "husband's or wife's" benefits using your spouse's work history if both of the following are true:

  • you're at least 62 years old
  • you've been married for at least a year to your spouse, and
  • your spouse receives Social Security benefits.

(But your eligibility for spousal benefits will end if you become eligible to receive significantly higher Social Security benefits on your own work record.)

You might also qualify for SSDI disability benefits using your spouse's work history if you have children younger than 16 (more below).

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Homemakers

Some people who don't qualify for SSDI can qualify for SSI benefits. Because SSI is a needs-based program, you must meet certain strict income and asset limits to receive benefits. (20 CFR § 416.1100.)

If your spouse works and you have any assets, like checking and retirement accounts, you likely have too much money to qualify for SSI benefits. Learn more about the financial eligibility requirements for SSI.

Mother's and Father's Social Security Benefits

If your spouse has become disabled and is eligible for SSDI benefits (or has died), you might qualify for mother's or father's benefits based on your spouse's earnings record. (20 C.F.R. § 404.330.) But to be eligible, all of the following must also be true:

  • you care for your spouse's child who's younger than 16 or disabled and qualifies for dependents benefits
  • the child must be considered a "child in care," and
  • your spouse must be receiving Social Security benefits (or was entitled to benefits at the time of their death).

The mother's or father's benefit is 75% of the disabled (or diseased) parent's SSDI or retirement benefit amount. If you were divorced from your deceased ex-spouse and meet all the above criteria, you're also eligible for mother's or father's benefits. (20 C.F.R. § 404.331.)

Learn more about the eligibility requirements for mother's or father's benefits.

Social Security Benefits for Surviving Spouses

If you're a widow (or widower) and your late spouse had a qualifying work history, you might be eligible for either Social Security survivor benefits or disabled widow(er) benefits.

In addition to mother's and father's benefits, Social Security offers two other types of benefits for surviving spouses:

  • disabled widow(er) benefits (DWB), and
  • survivor benefits for widows and widowers without disabilities.

The type of benefit you're eligible for depends on your age and health and whether you're caring for your deceased spouse's children.

Social Security Disabled Widow's Benefits (DWB)

You might be eligible for disabled widow(er) benefits based on your deceased spouse's work record. (20 C.F.R. § 404.335.) To qualify for DWB, at least one of the following must be true:

  • you're between 50 and 60 years old
  • Social Security has determined that you're disabled
  • you became disabled between the ages of 50 and 60, and
  • your disability started before your spouse died, or less than seven years after your spouse's death.

Also, you must have been married at least nine months before your spouse died—with some exceptions. (20 C.F.R. § 404.335(a)(2).) For instance, if you're the parent of your spouse's child (by birth or adoption), the nine-month marriage rule doesn't apply to you. Applying for disability can also give you access to Medicare.

Divorced spouses who meet these criteria might also be eligible for benefits. (For more information, see our article on survivor benefits for divorced spouses.)

Note that if you're over age 54, Social Security has special rules that can make it easier to qualify as disabled—even if you haven't worked in years. Learn more about qualifying for Social Security disability benefits when you're 55 or older.

Social Security Survivor Benefits

If you're not disabled and not raising your spouse's child, you can receive survivor benefits based on your spouse's employment history starting at age 60. Social Security will use your age when you begin receiving benefits to determine your monthly payment amount.

If you're at least 60 years old but haven't reached full retirement age (66 or 67, depending on when you were born), you can choose to:

  • receive reduced retirement benefits starting at age 60 (71½ to 99% of your spouse's benefit amount), or
  • wait until full retirement age to collect and receive the full retirement amount (100% of your spouse's benefit amount).

If you remarry after you turn 60, your benefits won't be affected. But if you remarry sooner, you could lose benefits (unless you're disabled).

Learn more about Social Security survivor benefits and disabled widow's benefits.

Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses

If your ex-spouse dies, you might be eligible for the same survivor benefits as if you had remained married. (20 C.F.R. § 404.336.) To qualify as a divorced spouse, all of the following must be true:

  • you were married to your ex-spouse for at least ten years
  • you haven't remarried (before age 60, or 50 if disabled), and
  • you can't get an equal or higher benefit amount on your own or someone else's work record.

But you don't have to meet the 10-year marriage length requirement if you're caring for your ex-spouse's child and the child is younger than 16 or disabled and receiving SSDI benefits based on your ex's work record. This exception only applies when the child is your ex-spouse's biological or legally adopted child. For more information, see our article on survivor benefits for divorced spouses.

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