How to Apply for Disability if You Are Married to Someone With Income

Art by Robin Mead.

Social Security has some specific rules that make it difficult for married people to apply for disability in certain situations.

Social Security runs two different disability programs. For one you need to be poor. For the other you need a recent work history.

Sometimes married people are neither! Then they get told they cannot apply for anything!

This most often comes up for people who are stay-at-home parents, or people who stopped working a long time ago, or people who became ill at a young age and never worked.

If someone is telling you that you cannot apply for disability because you have not worked enough and your spouse has too much income, here’s a few options you can explore:


🌷 Check Both SSI and SSDI – These are two different programs. If you are not eligible for one, you might be able to still get the other. SSI cares if your spouse has income. SSDI doesn’t care about this at all. SSDI only cares if you worked and how recently you worked.


🌷 How to Apply if You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits – If you have worked in the past, but you have not worked enough, or if you have not worked recently enough, you won’t be eligible for SSDI. But wait… It turns out you may still have some options.


🌷 How to Apply If You Have Too Much Money – It is difficult to qualify for SSI if your spouse has income. However, in some situations it is still possible.


🌷 Disabled adult child benefits are a special kind of benefit for people who first become disabled before age 22. They are often not possible while married. In some situations, they are possible after divorce, annulment or a voided marriage.


There are two Medicaid programs you might be able to qualify no matter how much income your spouse makes. In many states, these programs will not consider your spouse’s income, only your income:

🌷 Medicaid buy ins (provides health insurance)

🌷 Medicaid long term care (provides health insurance, plus home aides)

If you contact Medicaid and they tell you that you are not eligible, do not give up. This has happened to many of our readers and turned out not to be true. The only way to tell is to research the two programs above yourself.  Learn more: How to Get Medicaid if Your Spouse Makes Moolah and How to Apply for a Medicaid Waiver When You Have Too Much Money


If your spouse assists you with personal care (such as bathing, feeding, and dressing) in some states, the state will pay your spouse for the care they are giving you. Most states do not count spousal income for this program. Learn more: How To Apply for a State Home Aide. Here’s a list of States That Allow Spouses as Aides.


If someone else is your caregiver (friend, neighbor, sibling, parents, adult child, etc), in some cases the state will pay this person for the care they are giving you. Learn more: How To Apply for a State Home Aide. Most states do not count spousal income for this program.


Divorce or separation have no impact on SSDI, but they can affect SSI. This is because SSI count’s spouse’s income and savings.  Here’s what happens in various situations:

Divorce (Living Separately) Your spouse’s income will no longer count. You may become eligible, or your SSI check may increase. Exception: If your ex pays part of your rent, food, or utilities, this will impact your SSI.  If you receive alimony, this might impact SSI, unless the alimony is directed into a special needs trust. Learn more about the SSI Financial regulations.

Divorce (Living Together) Your spouse’s income may or may not count. Learn more: holding out as married

Still Married But Living Separately: Your spouse’s income will no longer count for SSI. This is only for separations that are intended to be permanent. If your spouse is temporarily away from home for a job or other reasons, this would not count. You may need to provide proof of separate residence. Exception: If your ex pays part of your rent, food, or utilities, this will impact your SSI.  Learn more about the SSI Financial regulations.

Legally Separated: No change

All of the Above: You will only be eligible for SSI if you meet certain financial restrictions. How Poor Do I Have to Be to Get SSI?

Notes on Alimony: Some divorced people receive alimony (particularly if they are disabled). Alimony may cause you to become ineligible for SSI. There is an exception: If you consult with a special needs trust lawyer, it is sometimes possible for alimony to be directed into a trust and not impact SSI.


Even if you never apply for disability, you can still apply for a disability discharge on your student loans. Your spouse’s income will not be taken into consideration, and you do not need to be on disability: How to Escape the Crushing Weight of Student Loans


🌷 Other Forms of Disability – Most of these options are for people who have worked recently, but it doesn’t hurt to check: Private disability, state disability, veterans, life insurance, government employees, retirement plans, etc.

🌷 If married to another disabled person: Disabled adult child benefit – This is available in some situations to people who first became disabled before the age of 22 (It does not matter how old you are now). Ordinarily you cannot qualify if you are married. However there is a loophole: If the person you are married to is also disabled and collecting SSDI you may qualify.


🌷 How to Tell the Difference Between the Income and Resource Rules

🌷 How to Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI

What Do You Think? 

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2 thoughts on “How to Apply for Disability if You Are Married to Someone With Income”

  1. This question seems a little silly, but I’d love to know.
    So, if I was on SSDI (still pending) Would I be allowed to get married? (assuming I met someone lovely)

    Or, would that put them in danger of needing to be my keeper?


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