Can I get survivor benefits and disability at the same time?


Q. I was on disability in 2004, but when my husband passed away in 2012, I was taken off of SSI and put on my husband’s retirement benefits. Why does it seem like everyone else I talk to is still getting their SSI and their Social Security both?
— Confused

A. There are a few items to consider here.

From your question, it seems you were receiving disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) and then, when your husband passed away, you applied for and received Social Security survivor benefits based on his work record.

Federal disability benefits come in two forms, said Robert Epstein, a chartered financial consultant with Access Wealth in East Hanover.

SSDI is an insurance program that pays disability benefits to qualified persons based on what they have paid into the system, that is, based on their work record.

SSI provides income to disabled persons who do not have a sufficient work history to receive SSDI and who have income and resources below specific financial limits, Epstein said. It is paid from general federal revenue rather than from Social Security taxes, he said.

“When a person receiving SSDI files for retirement benefits, including, in this case, survivor benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will award you the higher of the two amounts – not the combined value of the two benefits,” he said. “If the retirement benefits are higher, they will replace your former disability income benefits.”

In the case of SSI, it may be possible in some cases to receive both benefits, but it appears that this is not your case.

There is an income threshold for SSI, and Social Security retirement benefits are counted as unearned income for this purpose, Epstein said. Once you are receiving over $861 per month in retirement benefits, you will no longer qualify for SSI, he said.

“Therefore, we believe that the SSA decision to replace your disability benefit with her survivor’s benefit was accurate,” he said.

But if you think it’s a mistake, and there are additional facts that the SSA should consider, you can initiate an appeals process with SSA.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on Oct. 6, 2022. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.