Hi Larry ,
Really like reading your column every day. I will be 60 in September and am a widow with in -care disabled child. Husband died in 2014 at 58 with cancer. Son receives social security of 1400 each month on my deceased husband record. I understand that I could qualify for reduced widows benefits based on my husband's primary insurance account. How do I find out what his primary insurance account amount is? I have worked and am qualified on my own record as well. This gives me some choices which can be costly if it's not done wisely. Any quidance you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
I'm sorry for your loss.
Surviving child's benefits are paid at a rate of 75% of the deceased worker's primary insurance amount (PIA). Therefore, if your son receives about $1400 per month, your husband's PIA is likely around $1866. You should be able to double check that by contacting Social Security, although they may require proof of your relationship in order to release information.
If you aren't earning too much, you may be eligible for what's called mother's benefits right now. Mother's benefits are also paid at a rate of 75% of the worker's PIA, so your benefit rate should match your son's rate. You should meet the requirements for mother's benefits if your disabled son has a mental impairment, or if he requires personal services that you provide (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0301310015). However, if you're earning more than $16,920 per year, at least some of your benefits could be lost to the Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html) until you reach full retirement age (FRA).
Assuming that you are eligible, your best long term strategy is likely to draw mother's benefits until you reach full retirement age. You could then switch to an unreduced widow's rate of 100% of your husband's PIA.
However, since you say that you are insured for retirement benefits on your own record, you may have additional options. If your own retirement benefit rate is higher than your widow's rate, it would likely be best for you to wait until age 70 to apply for your retirement benefits. You can accrue delayed retirement credits on your own record from FRA until age 70 even if you are drawing widow's benefits during that time.
You may want to strongly consider running the maximization software available on this website. The software should be able to help you determine the best possible time to start drawing each type of benefit for which you are eligible.