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Benefits for your spouse

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Even if he or she has never worked under Social Security, your spouse
  • can begin collecting the benefits as early as age 62. However, if the benefit begins early, the amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months up to his or her full retirement age.

  • can qualify on your record for Medicare at age 65.

  • can receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount if they start receiving benefits at their full retirement age.

    Note: The benefits for your spouse do not include any delayed retirement credits you may receive.

  • who is caring for your child who is also receiving benefits can receive the full one-half benefit amount no matter what his or her age is.

    Your spouse would receive these benefits until your child reaches age 16. At that time, the child's benefits continue, but your spouse's benefits stop unless he or she is old enough to receive retirement benefits (age 62 or older) or survivors benefits as a widow or widower (age 60).

Note: If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security such as government or foreign employment, the amount of his or her Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced.

If your spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on his or her own record we will pay that amount first. But

  • if the benefit on your record is a higher amount, he or she will get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount (reduced for age).

    It doesn't matter if your spouse starts getting benefits before, after, or at the same time you do--we will check both records to make sure your spouse gets the higher amount.

  • if your spouse has reached full retirement age and is eligible for a spouse's benefit and his or her own retirement benefit, he or she has a choice.

    Your spouse can choose to receive only the spouse's benefits now and delay receiving retirement benefits until a later date. If retirement benefits are delayed, a higher benefit may be received at a later date based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.

If your spouse is not already receiving benefits, he or she can apply online for benefits based on age.

If you and your spouse apply online for retirement benefits at the same time, or if your spouse applies online after you start receiving benefits, we will check his or her eligibility for benefits as a spouse. If qualified, the online application will automatically include a request for spousal benefits on your record.

If your spouse continues to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to him or her as apply to you. If your spouse is eligible for benefits this year and is also working, you can use our earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect your spouse's benefit payments. (Your spouse's earnings affect only his or her own benefits; they do not affect your benefits or those of any other beneficiaries on your record.)

If your spouse applies for benefits, he or she needs to be ready to supply the information we need to approve their application for these benefits:

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Last reviewed or modified Thursday Sep 18, 2008
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