Ask Larry

Can I Take Just My Own Benefits And Not Spousal Benefits If I File At Age 63?

My husband who is 66 started collecting disability at age 64. He has now been converted to Social security. I was given advice at the same time( age 63) to collect SS on my own benefit and change over to my husbands when I turn 66. Since I am now 65, I called SS to discuss this and I was told I should have been collecting part of my husbands as well as mine and they sent me a large check that went back 2 years. I was told I couldn't collect the 50% of my husbands because I have been collecting since age 63. I am willing to give back the check if I can collect half of my husbands at age 66 as it is substantially more. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.


It sounds like you were given bad advice when you initially applied for benefits. Under Social Security's rules, if you apply for either retirement or spousal benefits prior to full retirement age (FRA) and you are eligible for both, you are deemed to have applied for both benefits. It's a mystery as to why Social Security didn't recognize your entitlement to spousal benefits when you initially applied on your own record, unless your husband's disability claim was still pending at that time.

Your original options were actually as follows: 1) take both retirement and spousal benefits starting at age 63, in which case both benefits would be reduced for age, or 2) wait until FRA (age 66 in your case) and get an unreduced combined benefit equal to 50% of your husband's full retirement age rate. Taking reduced benefits on your own record and then switching to spousal benefits at FRA is not a valid option.

So, it sounds like you inadvertently chose option 1 above, and once Social Security belatedly recognized your eligibility for spousal benefits, they paid you the retroactive benefits you were due. If the reason that you chose this option was due to misinformation received from a Social Security representative, it's possible that they might allow you to withdraw your applications and reapply for unreduced benefits at age 66. However, that would require you to refund all of the benefits that you've received to date, not just the back pay you recently received.

Best, Jerry

Jan 7 2017 - 7:30am
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