Was The Advice We Got About Filing Online Correct?

Mar 4 2017 - 7:00am

We sent our questions into "Ask Larry" on PBS, & did not receive any response. Now, we know why.

My wife, Cindy turns 66 on Aug. 11. I am 66. I turn 67 in July. I am already collecting SS on my own earning record. Cindy wants to start receiving restricted spousal SS benefits ASAP after she reaches full retirement age. Then, when she turns 70, she wants to switch to benefits based on her own record. Cindy wants to apply online.

We have called SS multiple times & have received different answers for how Cindy should apply for SS. Some of the people, who we talked to, even erroneously told us that restricted spousal benefits are no longer available for anyone! Today, we talked to Regina at SS via phone. We think she gave us the right answers about how and when to apply, but since her answers do not match any other answers we have received, we thought we would check with you.

Regina told us that the earliest that Cindy can apply online for restricted spousal benefits only is May 1, 2017. She told us that Cindy should use my SS number on the application when she files instead of her own because she is filling for benefits based on my earning record only. She also told us that Cindy would get a new Medicare card (she is already getting Medicare) with my SS # followed by the letter "B". Regina told us that Cindy should answer the question "What date should benefits start" with Aug., 2017. She said that for a comment about why she picked this date she can add the comment "Wait until after full retirement age" if she wants to. Regina said that Cindy should answer the question "If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse's benefit, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefit?" with "Yes". Regina told us that we can leave the Remarks section at the end of the online application blank, or we can explain again what she wants.

Do you think Regina is right? If not, what should we do differently. Do you think that we should include comments in Remarks section at the end of the online application? If yes, could you please tell us what wording you would suggest for the Remarks section.

For your information, CIndy is afraid to fill her application in person or via telephone because only 2 of the 10-15 SS agents we have talked to seem to make any sense at all. The only other agent, who made any sense, gave similar answers except he did not mention using my SS # instead of Cindy's , and he suggested using the date Sept., 2017. How can we be sure if Cindy talks to an agent she will get one who knows what they are doing? If she files online, and they do something wrong, we probably can get them to fix it because we will have the online application as proof.

Thank you,

Don
PS Do you have an example online application that matches Cindy's case that you could email to us?

Hi,

Yes, it sounds like the information given to you by Regina was essentially correct. Social Security online applications can't be accessed unless and until you actually apply for benefits, and I'm not aware of any source where you can view examples. As a result, I can't confirm the exact wording of the questions that your wife will encounter on her application.

Essentially, Cindy will want to choose August 2017 as her month of election to start spouse's benefits, and filing in May should work fine. If there is a question on the application about whether or not she also wants to apply for benefits on her own record, she'll want to be sure to indicate that she does not. I would suggest clarifying her intent further by including a statement in the remarks section, such as: 'I wish to restrict the scope of this application to spousal benefits only.', or 'I wish to exclude retirement benefits on my own record from the scope of this application.'

Best, Jerry