You’ve heard the old saying about getting the correct answer from the horse’s mouth. Well, I am about to introduce you to the Social Security horse.
Because Social Security touches so many lives, it gets written about often. Sometimes in trying to simplify ideas or to keep the length of an article manageable, important points get left out that entirely change the question being asked and the answer being given.
So, where can you find the facts? And where is the horse?
Social Security employees use a guide called POMS (Program Operations Manual System). It is available online on our website: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/Home?readform .
The Table of Contents shows the rules (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/partlist!OpenView)
for all the various Social Security benefits. You could either browse through a section to learn the rules generally or maybe your mission is to find the specific answer to a specific answer. If you are looking for a specific topic, find it in the index. Let’s say you have a question about divorced spouses benefits.
Let’s say that you are trying to find out if you can either continue to draw or draw a future divorced spouse benefit if you remarry.
If you visit the divorced spouse section of the website (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300202005) you’ll find the following information:
To be entitled to benefits as a divorced spouse, a claimant must:
- be the divorced spouse (see RS 00202.005A) of an NH entitled to a RIB or DIB (unless the NH is only transitionally insured – see RS 00202.015A.2.);
- file an application for benefits (see SM 03020.040 for when the system converts a spouse who is full retirement age and who was married to the NH for at least 10 years to benefits as a divorced spouse, and see GN 00201.005 for when an application is required for Title II re-entitlement to benefits);
- attain age 62;
- not be married; and
- not be entitled to an RIB or DIB based on a PIA which equals or exceeds one-half the PIA of the worker.
- So, for a divorced spouse to receive a benefit from the divorced worker, they must be “unmarried”.What about a question about what happens if the divorced worker is not yet retired and receiving Social Security benefits? Can the divorced spouse get a benefit from their record anyway?
An independently entitled divorced spouse must:
- be the divorced spouse (see RS 00202.005A) of a fully insured worker age 62 (the NH must be 62 throughout the first month of entitlement but need not have filed a claim for benefits);
- meet other requirements above; and
- be finally divorced from the NH for at least 2 continuous years. The term “year” signifies a continuous 12-month period. A “year” means a period ending with the day of the succeeding year numerically corresponding to the day of its beginning, less one day. The day of the divorce is counted as the beginning point in determining the 2-year duration-of-divorce time period. For more information, see RS 00202.100.See the first bullet above where it says in parenthesis (“…but need not have filed a claim for benefits”.
Yes, if the divorced spouse meets all the other eligibility factors and the worker has not yet filed a claim, they can get a benefit if they have been divorced from the worker for at least 2 continuous years.
Benefits for a divorced spouse generally end benefits, but here is
one of those little known facts:
RS 00202.045 Remarriage of a Divorced Spouse – Policy
The marriage of a divorced spouse will terminate entitlement to such benefits unless the marriage is to an individual entitled to widow(er)’s, mother’s, father’s, CDB, divorced spouse’s, or parents benefits. See RS 00202.010C.2. if the divorced spouse remarries the number holder. See RS 00202.040 for the termination events of Spouse’s Benefits.
People that want to understand the rules about Social Security benefits should do some research on our website by reading the topical webpages or by reading up about the subject on our Program Rules section. Using our online Program Rules is another way to get it from the horse’s mouth.