Can I Switch From Drawing On My First Husband's Record To My Second Husband's Record?

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Nov 6 2017 - 12:50pm

I am going to be 70 yrs. old in mid-Dec. of 2017 & have been collecting divorced widow’s benefits on my 1st husband since Jan. of 2008. (I filed in Nov. 2007 & turned 60 in Dec.) After this divorce, I married a 2nd husband who died at 44 yrs. old in 1988 while we were married. Soc. Sec. stated I could collect benefits from either one but collecting from my 1st husband would provide a small VA benefit also. The way it was verbally stated & written led me to believe this was included in the widow’s benefit check. [Written - This may also be considered an application for survivors benefits under the railroad retirement act & for veterans administration payments under title 38 USC, veterans benefits, chapter 13 (which is, as such, an application for other types of death benefits under title 38)]. The VA later stated I wasn’t entitled to benefits & misinformed. VA benefits aren’t included in Soc. Sec. checks also.
My question is, can I change the benefits I now receive from the 1st spouse to the 2nd spouse & receive a higher survivors benefit amount based on his record now?

Hi,

Yes, if you could receive a higher benefit rate on your 2nd husband's record you should file as soon possible. There would be no advantage to waiting to file since delayed retirement credits aren't applied to widow's benefits if you wait past full retirement age to start drawing. And, if your could get a higher rate based on your own work record than on the higher of your husband's records, there would be no advantage to waiting past age 70 to file for your retirement benefits.

You are correct about VA benefits not being included in Social Security benefit payments, so I'm not sure what the representative that you spoke with was referring to. My only guess would be that the representative may have been referring to deemed military wages that can be included when calculating the benefit rate payable to widow's or surviving divorced spouses drawing on the account of a veteran.

Best, Jerry