Will I Receive My Late Husband's Full Benefit Rate When I Reach FRA?

Category: 
May 18 2017 - 7:09am

I started receiving soctal security disability in 2011 at the age of 55. In 2013 my husband, who was 18 years older than me and received approximately $2300 a month in SS passed away. I then applied for widow's benefits as well, which I was entitled to since I became disabled after age 50 but before age 60. The social security lady I spoke with at the time told me I would qualify for my late husband's full social security amount when I turned my personal retirement age of 66 years and 2 months. As I am currently collecting $1312 in disability and $665 in widow's benefits I would have received an additional $300 per month at 66. When I verified this info with social security yesterday the rather condescending woman I spoke with said that was not true and I will not receive any more than I am getting now as I took widow's benefits before age 66. Mind you, the first woman I spoke with at SS was in 2013. Today is May 17, 2017. I know some rules changed in 2015. What is the bottom line here please? Can I switch to my late husband's full benefits when I turn 66? Thank you SO much for helping me with this!

Hi,

The first employee you spoke with was correct, and no rule changes affecting you have occurred. When you reach full retirement age, your widow's rate will become unreduced, giving you a combined benefit rate (i.e. your retirement benefit plus an excess widow's benefit) equal to your husband's full rate. In other words, if your husband was receiving $2300 when he died, you would get that amount plus any cost of living increases occurring after that.

This is a somewhat arcane computational rule that all Social Security employees should know, but many apparently do not. The employee you spoke with the other day is obviously one of those who don't know the rule. Here is the section of Social Security's operations manual that explains the rule, specifically in section C.3: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300615350.

Best, Jerry