Social Security: You Could Lose Your Benefits If You Didn’t Report Your Marriage to the SSA

wedding couple in love with confetti
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Wedding month is upon us. For brides and grooms, that often means a long list of last-minute things to do, from a final fitting for your dress or tux to putting together wedding favors. But if you’re collecting Social Security retirement, disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits, it’s important to add one more thing to your post-nuptial to-do list. You’ll need to report your marriage — and change of address and/or name change, if either of those occurred — to the Social Security Administration.

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Married couples of all genders may be entitled to Social Security spousal or survivors’ benefits as of November 2021, thanks to a new ruling. But couples have an obligation to report marriage, divorce or any other changes in status to the Social Security Administration.

Social security beneficiaries have 10 days after the end of the month in which the change took place to report that change or else risk losing benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

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Penalties and Ramifications for Failing to Report Changes to Social Security

If you fail to report a change in marital status and collect SS benefits, you could face a penalty and have to pay back any overpayments. Or, you could miss out on additional payments you were due.

Further, if you fail to report a change within the time frame allotted, SSI, disability or retirement benefits could be halted, or the SSA could impose a sanction against payments. Sanctions stop benefits for six months for a first offense and 12 and 24 months for subsequent offenses.

The SSA will verify your marriage through a marriage certificate, certified public record of marriage, a certified statement of a religious record of marriage, or a foreign record of your marriage if married overseas.

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How Will Your Social Security Benefits Change After Marriage?

In many cases, there won’t be any change to your Social Security benefits after a marriage or divorce. If you are collecting your own disability benefits, you will continue to do so in the same amount. If you are receiving spousal benefits and get divorced, you will continue to receive those benefits if you are over the age of 62, unless you were married for fewer than 10 years.

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If you are collecting disabled widow or widower’s benefits and remarry at age 50 or older, your benefits will continue.

Other benefits may stop if you get married, but they will start up again in the event of a divorce, according to the SSA publication “What You Need to Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits.”

Why Is Reporting a Name Change or Change of Address Important?

If you fail to report a change in your name to the SSA but change the name on your bank account tied to direct deposit, you may not receive your benefits until both names match. If you are receiving paper checks and fail to report your change of address, the check will be mailed to your old address. If you do receive a check but the names don’t match, your bank or financial institution may not let you cash it.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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