Can I Collect Six Months Of Back Payment From Both My Own Account And My Ex-Spouse's Account?

May 26 2018 - 8:39pm

Hi Larry:
I collected six months back payments as an ex spouse. Six months later, I changed to my SS account and also collected six months back payments.
I've received a bill for the six months back payments paid from MY account.
1. Can I collect six months back payments from both the ex spouse account ( his SS#) and my account ( my SS#)?
2. If not, can I request SS to reclaim the back payments from the ex spouse account? This is a lesser amount than that of my own.
Many thanks to you and your team for your invaluable knowledge and website.
Nina

Hi Nina,

You can't collect full benefits on 2 different records for the same month(s). The most that you could be paid for those months is the higher of the 2 benefit rates. Therefore, if Social Security paid you the full amounts of both retirement benefits on your own account and divorced spousal benefits for the same months then you were apparently overpaid.

To recover an overpayment, Social Security proposes withholding of all of your benefits for as long as it takes to recover the overpayment. However, you have appeal rights if you disagree with the facts or amount of the overpayment (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf), or you could request a waiver of the overpayment if you were without fault in causing the overpayment and couldn't afford to meet your necessary living expenses if you're required to repay the overpayment (https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-632.html).

If you're willing to repay the overpayment by benefit withholding but can't afford to have your full check withheld, you can request a partial withholding. Social Security will generally accept a lower rate of recovery provided that the full overpayment would be recovered within 36 months.

By the way, depending on your age and the comparative benefit amounts of your retirement and divorced spousal benefits, it may have been disadvantageous for you to have filed for your own benefits when you did. I don't have enough information to be able to tell you whether or not that's true in your case, though. You may want to consider using our maximization software to determine if you would have been better off to delay filing for your own benefits until age 70. In that event you may still be able to withdraw your application, although that would almost certainly require you to repay even more of the benefits that you've received to date (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html). That may still be advantageous for you in the long run, though.

Best, Jerry