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Understanding SSDI benefits and excess survivor benefits

When life changes occur for Georgia residents, it can require the person to take different actions in response. There are few areas where this is more apparent than after an individual needs assistance through Social Security disability insurance benefits. Regardless of the circumstances that caused the need, the need exists, and therefore it is essential that individuals take the necessary steps in order to receive benefits.

This can sound easier than it is, however, as each person's circumstances are different. Accordingly, what works best for one person may not be advisable for another individual.

For instance, there can be questions with how SSDI benefits relate to survivor benefits. If a person is entitled to a survivor benefit from a spouse, that benefit can be collected immediately for disabled individuals over the age of 50. The survivor benefit is determined by what the spouse was receiving in Social Security retirement benefits at the time of death, or what the spouse would have received in benefits.

The survivor benefit itself can vary depending on when the spouse began collecting. For instance, if a person does not begin collecting until age 70, the survivor benefit received by the spouse will be raised.

It is important to note that the person receiving SSDI benefits will not only get that check, but also the difference between the survivor benefit and the disability insurance benefit. This is known as the excess survivor benefit. The person's disability insurance benefit and excess survivor benefit can receive different treatment when the person reaches full retirement age. Once again, the benefits available will depend on when the person begins collecting.

While the different benefits and ways in which they are treated can become confusing quickly, the important thing is for individuals to have a complete understanding of the benefits they are entitled to and how those benefits can be maximized. By understanding how and when to file for different benefits, individuals will obtain the most benefits they can for their personal circumstances.

Source: Forbes, "Social Security Q & A: What happens to my disability if I collect widow's benefits?," Laurence Kotlikoff, Feb. 5, 2015

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