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Outmoded Rules May impact those reliant on Social Security Disability with a marriage penalty

September 9, 2020

By Shelley W. Elovitz, Esquire

The Marriage Penalty Can Zap Disabled SSDI Recipients’ Happiness

For anyone who has applied for Social Security Disability, it is no surprise that the process is long and complex, with multiple rules governing eligibility and benefits. Some of these rules can result in those dependent on Social Security Disability, Medicaid and/or Medicare being penalized, either by severely reducing or even eliminating their benefits, should the person choose to get married – thus they are referred to as a “marriage penalty.”

Many of our Social Security Disability clients also receive Medicaid and/or Medicare. Medicaid and Medicare typically cover far more support and care than private insurance. It may provide long-term home care which allows a person to bathe, dress, eat – simple things able-bodied people take for granted. They also provide flexibility for people whose needs may change over time; for example, those with a degenerative disease that will need an increase or change in care over time.

To qualify for Social Security Disability is extremely difficult. And the myriad of marriage penalties is murky and complex – it’s not as cut and dried as if-you-want-to-get-married-you-lose-your-benefits. There is a lot of “it depends” in every case. Is the person on Supplemental Security Income, (SSI) or Social Security Disability, (SSDI), or both? Are the SSDI benefits based on the individual’s work history or their parent’s work history? Is the person they want to marry also disabled? What if their disability is considered a pre-existing condition and they cannot get coverage from their future spouse and they risk losing their current coverage?

If you are receiving or applying for Social Security Disability and considering marriage, you may want to consult with an attorney to ensure you do not jeopardize your benefits. For a more in depth read, check out Andrew Pulrang’s excellent article A Simple Fix For One Of Disabled People’s Most Persistent, Pointless Injustices.

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