Ask Larry: Why Did Social Security Deny My Wife’s Restricted Application For Spousal Benefits Only?

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Social Security may be one of your largest assets. What and when you collect will make a huge difference to your lifetime benefits.

Today’s column addresses denial of a restricted application for spousal benefits only, whether benefits for an ex impact a decision to remarry, the possibility of voluntarily ending disability, reinstating retirement benefits at 70 without filing retroactively and spousal benefit eligibility. benefits Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Ask Larry about Social Security here.

Why Did Social Security Deny My Wife’s Restricted Application For Spousal Benefits Only?​​

Hi Larry, My wife was born in 1953 and I was born in 1955. Neither of us is currently receiving Social Security retirement benefits or spousal benefits and I don’t intend to file for my retirement benefit before my FRA in 6/2021 and possibly not until 70. I thought that my wife could file a restricted application now, effective as of her FRA, based on my earnings record. We went into a Social Security office and we were told that she could not file a restricted spousal benefit application because I haven’t filed for my retirement benefit. Is this correct? Thanks, Simon

Hi Simon, Yes, what you were told by the Social Security office is correct. Even though your wife was born prior to 1/2/1954 and could therefore potentially file a restricted application for spousal benefits only at her full retirement age (FRA) or later, she could not do so unless and until you start drawing either Social Security retirement or disability benefits. If you had been born on or before 5/1/1950 and filed for and suspended your retirement benefit before the 4/29/2016 deadline to do so under the old rules, she would have been able to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only at or after her FRA.

In addition to a number of other factors, the best filing strategy for you and your wife depends largely on your relative benefit rates. You may want to use one of my company’s two tools — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to help maximize your lifetime Social Security benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry


Would My Boyfriend’s Ex-Wife Be Able To Get Any Of His Social Security If I Marry Him?​​

Hi Larry, I’ve been with my boyfriend 19 years now, he was married before he meant me for 19 years and has been divorced for 19 years. If I marry him, will his ex be able to get any of his Social Security benefits or would i be able to get them instead of her? Thanks, Connie

Hi Connie, Your boyfriend’s ex could still potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits on your boyfriend’s account regardless of whether or not you and he get married. That would not adversely affect your boyfriend’s benefits, though, nor would it affect your potential spousal benefits if you do marry. Divorced spousal and spousal benefits are paid in addition to the worker’s own benefits, not taken away from them. Best, Larry

Can You Voluntarily Terminate Disability Benefits Just Before FRA In Order To Claim Widow’s Benefits Instead?​​

Hi Larry, If a person receives Social Security disability, I understand that the Social Security disability converts into a regular Social Security retirement at full retirement age rate. If the person is also a widower whose widower benefits are half of his disability benefits, can the person just before reaching his FRA voluntarily get off disability so he can start receiving Social Security widower’s benefits until 70 and then switch to his own Social Security retirement benefit at 70? Is it possible to voluntarily terminate the disability benefit just before FRA? Would a declaration that one is considering himself not to be disabled suffice? Or there are some other means? Is there a form to fill out to get off Social Security disability at specified time? Thanks, Lee

Hi Lee, You can’t voluntarily terminate Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits. SSDI benefits can be terminated only due to medical improvement or a person’s work and earnings. If a person reports to Social Security that they’ve medically improved and are no longer disabled, Social Security could decide to do a medical review which could potentially lead to a termination of benefits. However, whether or not to terminate benefits or to even do an unscheduled review would be solely up to Social Security’s discretion.A person can withdraw their claim for SSDI benefits, but they would then be required to refund any SSDI benefits that they had been paid. Best, Larry


Is It Too Late To Add Remarks To My Application?

HI Larry, I filed and suspended prior to my 66th birthday in 11/2015. But the Remarks section of my application, I did not state that I wanted to begin receiving Benefits on my 70th birthday and that I wanted to decline retroactive benefits. Can I still contact Social Security to add this to my application prior to the start of my benefits in November? Or am I stuck with getting retroactive benefits? Thanks, Kara

Hi Kara, It doesn’t sound like any additional action on your part is necessary. If you filed for and voluntarily suspended your benefits, Social Security should automatically reinstate your benefits effective the month you reach 70 unless you request reinstatement before then. And, Social Security won’t pay you any retroactive benefits when your benefits are reinstated unless you specifically request them. Best, Larry


Can I Collect Spousal Benefits At Age 66 If My Husband Hasn’t Filed For His Benefits?​​

HI Larry, My husband is not collecting his Social Security retirement benefits until 70. I am eligible for restricted spousal benefits as I was born in May 1953. Can I collect benefits at 66 even if as my husband hasn’t filed for his benefits? Thanks, Helen

Hi Helen, Unless your husband was born prior to 5/1/1950 and he filed for and suspended his benefits prior to 4/29/2016, you couldn’t be paid spousal benefits until your husband actually starts drawing his benefits. Best, Larry

To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.

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