Why Can't I Draw 100% Of My Husband's PIA?

Category: 
Jan 6 2017 - 4:45am

Hi Larry. Social Security is so confusing. My husband died in 1998 at the age of 48. This year I reach my full social security retirement age of 66 in March. I am still working. I remarried after I became 60 years of age but that marriage only lasted about 1.5 years. I visited the social security office in McKinney, TX the last week of December 2016. I filed for benefits on my deceased husband. They told me that I could file early as long as my income for the first 2 months of the year did not exceed the limit of $41,880 and it certainly will not. My deceased husband never filed for Social Security. They are telling me that I can only draw 82.5% of my deceased husband's PIA. Why can I not draw 100% of his PIA? Thanks for your help.

Hi,

There doesn't appear to be any reason why the widow's benefit rate in your case would only be 82.5% of your husband's primary insurance amount (PIA). That percentage rate would only apply if your husband had received reduced retirement benefits prior to his death, which he obviously did not.

However, you would have to wait until March 2017 to start your widow's benefits in order to receive 100% of your husband's PIA. If you start benefits in January, you will receive a reduced rate of about 99.2% of his PIA as a result of starting to draw benefits 2 months prior to your full retirement age (FRA).

Your best strategy likely depends on whether or not your own potential benefit rate is higher than your widow's benefit rate. If it is, or will be when you reach age 70, you definitely want to start your widow's benefits as soon as possible, which is likely January. You could then switch to the higher benefit rate on your own account at age 70. On the other hand, if your own benefit rate would not be higher than your widow's rate even at age 70, then you may want to think about waiting until March to start your widow's benefits.

You may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website in order to be sure that you choose the best filing strategy.

Best, Jerry