Q. My 52-year-old sister-in-law is in bad health. Her doctor told her to apply for disability but she has not worked for about 20 years. She quit work to take care of a disabled daughter. Can a wife with a health problem draw disability on the husband’s work history?
A. Receipt of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, essentially, is limited to wage earners whose disabilities force them to leave the paid work force. To measure pre-disability attachment to the work force, Social Security law looks at recent work credits. To be eligible, a disabled individual needs at least five years of Social Security credits in the ten years ending when disability begins.
Your sister-in-law will be eligible for a spouse benefit at age 62 if her husband has begun his benefit. Should she be widowed before that time, she could be immediately eligible for a widow benefit. Disabled widows can begin widow benefits as early as age 50.