Social Security Benefit Mixup

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  • #1824
    curley
    Participant

    My wife took her social security benefit at age 62. She is now 68 years old. I just took my benefit at age 70 , so I could provide her that higher amount upon my passing.

    Yesterday, our local social security rep told us something that I hope is erroneous. She said that, upon my passing, my wife could only receive my full retirement benefit (from age 66) and not the benefit amount I am now receiving having waited until age 70.

    I said why would anyone wait to take their benefit at age 70, if it was going to revert back to their 66 year old benefit anyway? She said I made a mistake in doing that. I hope she is wrong. Thanks, everyone!

    #1825
    kaneohe
    Participant

    I’m betting on you………..can you find another office or another rep?

    https://www.thebalance.com/social-security-for-widows-and-widowers-2388284
    “If your deceased spouse had already begun benefits…
    ………………………………………
    and had begun benefits at their FRA or later, you as the surviving spouse are entitled to what your deceased spouse was getting, including any delayed retirement credits, subject to a reduction if you claim before reaching your FRA “……………….

    https://www.ssa.gov/planners/survivors/onyourown.html
    “These are examples of monthly benefit payments:

    Widow or widower, full retirement age or older—100 percent of your benefit amount;”

    #1826
    curley
    Participant

    Kaneohe, I am hoping to live for a few more years before my wife has to address this. I will seek a second or third opinion either from the Social Security 800 number or someone in my local office. I was hoping to get a definitive answer on this forum. Thanks for your input.

    #1827
    Alan S.
    Participant

    You indicated that you “just took your benefit”. I wonder if the SS Rep could have been referring to a situation where you passed PRIOR TO the date your benefits were considered to have begun. What is the actual month when you turn 70? No doubt if you passed after benefits have begun, she will receive your benefit amount from then on and her stops, but I could not find anything in POMS that directly states the date your benefits begin.

    #1828
    curley
    Participant

    Alan, my 70th birthday was in August of this year, so the benefit started in September. So you are saying that my wife should receive my age 70 benefits, not my age 66 benefit as the rep indicated?

    #1829
    kaneohe
    Participant

    I wonder if the SS worker was confusing survivor benefits w/ spousal benefits. For spousal benefits (where you are still alive) your wife would not benefit from your taking at 70:

    “Your benefits as a spouse do not include any delayed retirement credits your spouse may receive.”

    https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/applying6.html

    #1830
    curley
    Participant

    Kaneohe, I put in a call to my local SS office to speak to a different rep for a second opinion. Hopefully, someone will call me back.

    #1831
    Alan S.
    Participant

    Yes, since your benefits “began” in August (or worst case Sept), if you pass your wife will receive the benefit you are actually receiving. The changeover with her receiving your benefit should be effective the month you pass, since any benefit you are paid that month is for the prior month. Her lower benefit will stop effective the same month for which she collects your higher benefit. Therefore your waiting to age 70 to file will pay off for as long as either one of you is around. You should not have to talk to too many Reps until you find one that agrees.

    This benefit of waiting until 70 has been publicized for many years as a survivor benefit for a surviving spouse who currently collects a lower benefit.

    #1832
    kaneohe
    Participant

    Alan, what happens if the higher income spouse gets close to 70 or even goes over, but hasn’t filed for SS yet when they pass?

    #1833
    curley
    Participant

    Alan, that’s exactly why I waited until age 70 to take my benefit. I wanted to leave my wife with the highest benefit that I possibly could. I thank you for your response and I am certain that you are correct. I have a call in to my local SS for a second opinion from them. I believe they will concur with what you said. Thanks for your assistance, very much appreciated.

    #2048
    Bruce1950
    Participant

    The survivor benefit can be confusing, and I’ve come across several cases where the SS Rep got it wrong.

    If you have both began your benefits and you are both at your survivor’s Full Retirement Age (note: this can be slightly different for some birth year groups than living benefits Full Retirement Age) or older, when one dies, providing you’ve beenn married at least nine months, the survivor will get the greater of the two benefits.

    If the younger began their benefit and the older has not yet begun their benefit and then dies, the deceased’s benefit will be calculated as of the date of death. If the surviving spouse is at least at their survivor FRA, the survivor will get the greater of their own or the benefit the deceased spouse would have gotten as of the date of death….and this will include Delayed Retirement Credits (8%/yr up to age 70), if any.

    But if the deceased spouse was not at their FRA at death and had not begun their benefit, Social Security will calculate the deceased spouses Primary Insurance Amount as of the date of death. The surviving spouse can continue hers (I’ll assume she is the survivor) and then at her survivor FRA, can switch to the survivor’s PIA if greater than hers. Note that the decedent’s PIA does not accrue Delayed Retirement Credits if the survivor waits beyond their Survivor FRA…and this may be point of confusion. If the surviving spouse elects the Survivor benefit before her survivor FRA, it will be reduced by about.67% per month she begins early.

    Now, I’m going to offer something that is going to probably depress you….

    …you make no mention of it so I’ll assume you didn’t use it….. but since your spouse began her benefit at 62, when you reached your FRA (66 yrs 0 months) you could have filed a restricted application. This would have allowed you to collect 50% of your spouse’s PIA (not her benefit) while your PIA continued to accrue Delayed Retirement Credits, and then switched to yours at age 70…keeping the higher survivor benefit for your spouse.

    The restricted application requires one spouse to have begun their benefit (at any age) and then the other spouse can file the restricted application at their FRA….but they must have been born on or before Jan 1, 1954.

    As you found out, the SS Administration will not notify you of this benefit.

    BruceM

    #2050
    curley
    Participant

    BruceM, thanks for the reply. I am now confident that my wife will receive my current benefit in its entirety when I pass on. That was the reason that I waited until age 70 to start receiving it in the first place.

    By the way, I did take advantage of the spousal benefits when I reached my full retirement age of 66. I received half of my wife’s benefit until I reached age 70 and then I took my full benefit.

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to this post.

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