I am Texas teacher and never paid SS. My husband is terminally ill and receiving SS disability. We are both 50. I want to quit and spend the next year or so with him. I will lose my retirement. If I do quit can I draw his SS when he passes? If not I would have no income.
Social Security Lawyers
Unfortunately, probably not. If a surviving spouse is between the ages of 50 and 60 and disabled and became disabled within seven years of the deceased spouse's passing then the surviving spouse may be able to draw Disabled Widow's Benefits on the deceased spouse's earnings history. If a surviving spouse is age 60 and unmarried then she should be able to draw survivor's retirement benefits on the deceased spouse's earnings history - NOTE - this amount will be reduced from the larger amount she could draw if she waited until full retirement age (66-67) to draw it - if you remarry after age 60 (50 if disabled), you can still collect benefits on your former spouse's record. A widow or widower at any age may survivor's benefits on the deceased spouse's earnings history if he or she takes care of the deceased spouse's child who either is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, hope the next few months go well for you all.
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Social Security Lawyers
I am sorry to hear of your situation. My colleague is right, unfortunately. Unless you have a child under 16 or disabled, I see little hope of you getting any benefit from SSA in the near future.
I am not sure this is the right time to just quit as you may have some other choices. You might want to seek some advice from an employment attorney about other options. Could you take an unpaid leave of absence? Are you not covered by FMLA, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act? (see link: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/). Does Texas offer some similar provisions to FMLA? Does the Texas Teacher Retirement Sytem offer some sort of relief (starting link: http://trs.state.tx.us/benefits/documents/benefits_handbook.pdf). Any one or a combination of these programs, or others, could extend the time you were off work so you need not quit, but can instead take time off to figure out some options and alternatives.
Best of luck to you during this difficult time.
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Social Security Lawyers
My colleagues are correct in that, if you are able to work, you cannot get Social Security widow's benefits until age 60. Even at age 60, your widows benefits would be significantly reduced from the amount your husband gets now, because they would be reduced for age (for drawing them 6 years before your Full Retirement Age of 66). [For disabled widows between ages 50 and 60, the checks are reduced even more. And, a person seeking disabled widow(er) Social Security benefits must meet other requirements, such as becoming disabled no later than 7 years after the worker's death.]
The exception to having to be aged, is if you are caring for a child of your husband's who is under age 16 or an adult disabled prior to age 22. These child(ren) would, generally, already be drawing a check as dependents of your husband. When multiple dependents/survivors get checks, there is a family maximum which could apply -- and a mother's check (as it is called) would be subject to the family maximum. What that means, in practical terms, is that the amount now paid to your husband and child(ren) would, upon his death, be split among the child(ren)'s and mother's benefits.
You state that you would lose your state pension, if you quit. If, however, you were to qualify for a state pension later, be aware that any Social Security benefit to you would most likely be reduced due to the Government Pension Offset (because you haven't paid into Social Security during the years you have taught in Texas). For more information about the GPO, go to ssa.gov and search for Government Pension Offset, SSA Publication No. 05-10007.
If you have wages on which you have paid Social Security taxes, then another provision of the law might apply: the Windfall Elimination Provision. This may mean a reduction in your own Social Security retirement check. [The earliest a person can get Social Security retirement is age 62, and that is reduced for age.]
Here is what SSA says about the differences between the GPO and the WEP:
"These two provisions affect people with pensions from noncovered employment. WEP affects the computation of benefits for retired and disabled workers. GPO affects benefits for individuals receiving spouse's or surviving spouse's benefits:
•WEP provides that a modified benefit formula is used to figure the amount of a retired or disabled worker's own benefit and the benefits of the worker's family if the worker also receives a pension based in whole, or in part, on his or her own earnings based on noncovered employment. While benefits are lower using the modified WEP formula, they are never totally eliminated. For more information, see our Online WEP Calculator.
•GPO provides that a person's Social Security benefits as a spouse or surviving spouse is reduced by two-thirds the amount of any government pension the person receives based on his or her own work in Federal, State or local government employment not covered by Social Security. This offset is similar to the dual entitlement offset that applies to the spouse's or surviving spouse's benefits paid to individuals who work in employment covered by Social Security. Under the GPO, it is possible for the spouse's or surviving spouse's benefit to be totally eliminated."
Another consideration is medical insurance for you. Medicare is only available to those entitled to Social Security disability for at least 24 months, or to those age 65 and older. So, you would not be able to qualify for Medicare for yourself until age 65 (unless you became disabled, or had end-stage renal disease, or had ALS).
Social Security was never intended to replace a worker's earnings in entirety, just a portion. Congress has placed a lot of rules on when and how much a person can get from Social Security. It's advisable for folks to consider Social Security as one part of their retirement income, but make sure there are other resources for retirement, as well.
This communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship. This communication offers general information based on the limited facts set out in the question, and does not constitute the giving of legal advice. For specific legal advice, consult an attorney in your state who is knowledgeable in this area of law.