Your Social Security Advisor

Spousal Benefits Lost – Ask Rusty

spouse money benefitsDear Rusty:  I took my Social Security at 62 since I had to stop working to care for my mom when I was 57.  I was widowed at the time but remarried when I was 58 1/2 years old.  I collected on my own work record which was low.  Why didn’t I get half of my present husband’s benefit when he started benefits at his full retirement age?   I am 70 now.  Will I get his full Social Security if he dies before me?  Signed:  Missing Benefits

Dear Missing:  Yours is an issue which we unfortunately see occasionally with folks who have been collecting their own benefits for a long time and later become entitled to more than they have been receiving.  This situation arises with couples where the lower-earning spouse filed for Social Security before their higher-earning spouse applied. The lower-earning spouse (spouse#1) got benefits based upon their own work record only and received no spousal benefit because the higher-earning spouse (spouse#2) had not yet filed.  Later on, when spouse#2 finally filed for benefits, spouse#1 became eligible for a “spousal boost” (if their spousal benefit was more than their own), but it did not happen automatically; that “spousal boost” had to be applied for when spouse#2 started benefits.  Unfortunately many people didn’t realize this, assuming that the benefit they received when they first filed is what they get for the rest of their life.  They might also have assumed that Social Security automatically made the spousal adjustment for them, which wasn’t the case.  As a result, we find that some spouses have lost thousands of dollars in benefits, simply because they did not know they had to actually apply for spousal benefits when they became eligible for them.  A similar situation might exist where someone who was single and already receiving benefits marries a higher-earning person already collecting Social Security benefits.  Again in this case, spousal benefits must have been applied for to be received.  Note that since the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was enacted, everyone applying for Social Security is “deemed filing” for both their own and spousal benefits, but that doesn’t mitigate this particular issue because both spouses applied for benefits prior to the new rules becoming effective.

In your specific case, you became eligible for your additional spousal benefit as soon as your present husband’s benefits began.  Assuming your husband is about the same age as you, if ½ of your husband’s benefit at his full retirement age of 66 was more than your own benefit, this means that you have gone for about 4 years without receiving the added spousal benefits you are entitled to.   So, the first thing you should do is to contact Social Security as soon as possible and apply for your spousal benefits (or do it online at ssa.gov).  When you do this, be sure to make the effective date of those benefits 6 months prior to the date you file, because Social Security will pay you up to 6 months of retroactive benefits.  Unfortunately, the remaining 3 ½ years of the benefits you were entitled to but didn’t claim may be lost.  There is at least some chance, if your husband listed you as a spouse when he applied, that Social Security might give you more than six months retroactive, so you should make an appointment and explain what happened to see if anything more can be recovered.

As to your second question, yes, upon your husband’s death you will receive 100% of the benefit he was receiving, instead of the benefit you are already receiving.

Article By – Russell Gloor, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this article are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at [email protected].

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BruceM
4 years ago

When she began benefits on her record at 62, she would have been ‘deemed’ to have taken the greater of her own benefit (75% of her PIA for beginning early) or 1/2 of spouses PIA reduced for beginning early. But since the spouse had not yet begun his benefit, the second option would not yet be available to her. So when he did start, wouldn’t SS compare her current benefit to 37.5% of his PIA (75% of the max 50%) and pick the greater of the two?

Also, because she had already begun her benefit, couldn’t he have filed a restricted application and collected 50% of her PIA when he reached his Full Retirement Age?

Thanks

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  BruceM

Yes, BruceM, “deeming” wouldn’t have affected her benefits when she applied because her husband wasn’t yet collecting. And yes, her husband could have filed the restricted application at his FRA, but he didn’t. Since both are now in the early 70’s and already collecting, she needs to apply and start getting her spousal benefit ASAP.

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