Many times a spouse chooses to stay at home while his or her spouse goes to work. The working spouse provides the household income while the non-working spouse does things such as care for the children, takes care of the household chores, etc. But what happens when the working spouse passes away, leaving the non-working spouse with no source of income?
As of 2012, there were approximately 5 million widows or widowers who received monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse's earnings record. And, for many of those survivors, particularly aged women, those benefits are keeping them out of poverty. But how can you draw these benefits?
The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving Social Security survivors benefits is age 60. Although receiving the survivor benefits at age 60 would give you a reduced benefit, it is one type of income in which you may be eligible. However, if the widow or widower is disabled, he or she may be able to receive benefits as early as age 50. The widow/widower may use his or her deceased spouses work credits and draw the amount that the deceased spouse would have been entitled to draw.
Also, interesting to note is that if you are a widow or a widower and you become remarried, then the new marriage will not affect your ability to draw from your deceased spouse's credits. The only requirement to be eligible for the non-medical rules for Disabled Widow(er) benefits is that you must have been married for at least 10 years.
The medical requirements are the same. You still must prove you are medically disabled in order to draw your spouse's benefits. If, however, you are also entitled to draw from your deceased spouses private retirement or pension fund, an off-set may be required.