Social Security: Certain Life Changes Can Qualify You for Higher Benefits — What Are They?

Cropped shot of a senior woman looking out the window at home.
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Life, as everyone knows, is full of changes that occur with regularity from infancy through the senior years. When you reach retirement age, it’s important to know how certain life changes can affect your Social Security benefits.

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In many cases, you can qualify for a higher benefit because of life changes. This might happen due to your own earnings record or someone else’s record, the Tribune-Star reported.

Here are some scenarios where you might qualify for higher Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits based on life changes:

  • Death of a spouse or ex-spouse: When this happens, you could get a higher benefit based on your spouse or ex-spouse’s earnings record, according to the Social Security Administration. This is the case even if you already receive a survivor benefit from another spouse.
  • Earnings record: This comes into play if you are currently receiving Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work history. If you also worked and earned credits, you might qualify for a higher retirement benefit based on your own work record.
  • Deceased adult child: You might be eligible for a higher parent’s benefit if your deceased adult child provided at least half of your financial support.
  • A parent’s work history: If you currently receive Social Security benefits based on your parent’s work history and you have also worked, you could receive a higher disability benefit based on your own earnings. However, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify, according to the Phoenix-based Dayes Law Firm.
  • Worsening physical condition: If you currently receive SSI, you might qualify for a higher disability benefit if you have a worsening condition that affects your earnings.
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To learn more, visit the SSA site, which you’ll find here, dedicated to benefits you might be due. No matter how your benefits are impacted by life changes, it’s important to notify the SSA whenever a life change occurs.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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