published Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Social Security: Former spouses can draw benefits

By Martin Coffey

Q: Ms. S asks: "Is an ex-wife, age 71, allowed to draw Social Security from her former spouse, or is this available only after he is deceased?"

A: Thank you for this very important question. A divorced spouse may be eligible for benefits if the following requirements are met:

1) You were married to him or her for at least 10 years;

2) You are at least 62 years old;

3) You are not now married;

4) You are not entitled to a retirement or disability benefit based on a full benefit amount which equals or exceeds one-half the full benefit amount of the former spouse; and

5) the former spouse must be entitled to a retirement or disability benefit.

For a surviving divorced spouse:

1) the former spouse must have been fully insured at the time of death;

2) the surviving divorced spouse must be at least age 60 or age 50 and disabled;

3) be unmarried or have re-married after age 60; and

4) not be entitled to a benefit that equals or exceeds the former deceased spouse's full benefit amount.

Note: If your former spouse is not currently receiving benefits, you have been divorced for at least two years, and the other requirements above are met, then you still can be eligible.

For more information, you can visit our website at and look for SSA Publications Number 05-10035 and 05-10084 or you can call us at 866-964-0029.

Q: "What should I do if an employee gives me a Social Security number but cannot produce the card?"

A: Seeing the card is not as important as putting the correct information on the worker's Form W-2.

You can verify employee Social Security numbers by using the Social Security Number Verification Service. Just go to This online service allows registered employers to verify employee Social Security numbers against Social Security records for wage reporting purposes.

If the employee recently applied for a Social Security number but does not yet have a card when you must file the paper Form W-2, enter the words "Applied for" on the Form W-2. If you are filing electronically, enter all zeros (e.g., 000-00-0000) in the Social Security number field. When the employee receives the card, file Copy A of Form W-2C, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement with Social Security to show the employee's number.

Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at

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