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married 17 years, disabled, won't get social security spouse benefit

I'm really angry at the Social Security Administration.


because I've discovered that the SSA still treats dependent spouses like chattel, and unmarried caregiver parents have no economic rights whatsoever. although they recently released a bulletin on earnings sharing, Google hasn't picked up a scrap of buzz. it makes me wonder if anyone cares.

and we should care.

I was married for 17 years and moved around the country with my ex, primarily working part-time and seasonal jobs before taking time off to have 2 kids. I finally started a career in 2003, and divorced in 2005. as you can imagine, my own social security benefits are very low in comparison to my ex-husband's.

in 2007, I married a younger man, and also became disabled. I went from making $40k a year to receiving less than $10k a year in disability. I don't know when/if I'll be able to go back to work.

yesterday a SSA rep confirmed that I lost my rights to spouse benefits at retirement. in the rep's words "the money belongs to the person who earned it" and by remarrying, I made myself dependent on another man and lost any rights I had to a retirement benefit based on my previous long-term marriage. since my current husband won't retire for years after I hit retirement age, if I can't get back into the workforce, my only benefits will be the small amount I'm currently entitled to based on my own earnings.

I know I'm not the only one in this position. I can't be the only person who will find herself living on a fraction of what she could have earned if she hadn't taken the caregiver role, or if she hadn't found herself disabled, or if she hadn't remarried a younger man after being out of the workforce for too long. and what about unmarried couples with kids? what about gay couples?

so I started the forum, and I hope other caregivers will come and talk about how the SSA's marital status policies have effected your cases.