I know a woman approaching retirement age who was married to her second husband for a couple of years before they separated. However, they have never divorced. He is just too busy/lazy, and she is keeping her fingers crossed that she will make it to their ten-year anniversary so she can collect his benefits when he dies. She has told this to several people. Also, she has made comments about hoping to collect from her first husband (also still living), whom she divorced over 20 years ago.
First of all, I think this is wrong. Younger people like myself are sick to death over our retirements, thinking SSI will be gone when we need it, and we are responsible for funding our own retirements with private savings while paying for others' retirements with the SSI from our own paychecks. I don't think it helps when people like this are doing whatever they can to collect benefits they really have no right to. It's draining the system.
Second of all, I am wondering how benefits would be divided among multiple widows. The first husband in this scenario is remarried. Am I correct in assuming that if he dies, his new wife gets nothing (because of the 10-year rule) while his ex-wife from decades ago gets the benefits? His new wife depends on his current income since they both pay their mortgage and living expenses together. Could the first wife, who hasn't been dependent on him in so long get the money? Is that possible? If so, this system is horribly defective. Yes, I think a widow should have the rights to her husband's benefits in a legitimate, long-term marriage. But in this woman's case, it just seems very wrong. How can you live together for two years, apart for eight, and cash in on the SSI? It makes no sense.