Social Security: No marriage penalty for federal benefits

Social Security: No marriage penalty for federal benefits

September 15th, 2011 by By Martin Coffey in Business Diary

Q: "If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?"

A: No. We independently calculate each spouse's Social Security benefit amount. Each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Couples are not penalized simply because they are married. If one member of the couple earned low wages or did not earn enough Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse.

Q: "If I receive supplemental security income disability benefits, what is the effect on my benefits if I work?"

A: In most cases, your return to work would reduce your SSI benefit amount, and in some cases, discontinue your payments. Unlike Social Security disability, there is no "trial work period" for people who get SSI disability benefits.

In most cases, if your only income besides SSI is from your work, you can earn up to $1,433 in a month (in 2011) before we stop your payments.

We have several publications about SSI, including Reporting Your Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income, available at

There are other work incentives that can help you return to work when you receive SSI. You can read about them in What You Need To Know When You Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at

Q: "Is it true that if you have low income you can get help paying your Medicare premiums?"

A: Yes. If your income and resources are limited, your state may be able to help with your Medicare Part B premium, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. State rules vary on the income and resources that apply. Contact your State or local medical assistance, social services, or welfare office, or call the Medicare hotline, 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227), and ask about the Medicare savings programs.

If you have limited income and resources, you also may be able to get help paying for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D.

Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from the Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@