Can I Withdraw My Claim For Social Security Widow's Benefits?

Jan 24 2019 - 11:29am

Hi Larry,
I have bought your Maximize my Social Security license and decided to file for widow's benefit at age 60 on December 1, 2018. I have been receiving annuity from United States Office of Personnel Management and they are now recomputing my annuity down to less than 50% of what I was receiving because I started to receive widow's benefit from Social Security. They are recomputing annuity amount from OPM to exclude credit for post 1956 military service.
My questions is can I withdraw widow's benefit from Social Security so my annuity from OPM will not be decreased? And when I file for Social Security benefit on my own record at age 62 or 65, it should not effect my annuity amount from OPM since I only worked for Private sector for over 35 years.

Thank you in advance for your quick response since I have to respond to OPM within 2 weeks.

P.S. If you don't have an answer do you have an attorney you can recommend? I have called few attorneys and they don't seem to get back to me.

Thank you.

Hi,

I'll preface my answer by explaining that I answer general Social Security questions submitted to this forum, but I don't have access to our software users' data or results. Please resubmit your question using an online contact form in the software's help menu in order to receive a personalized response from one of our software experts with access to your information.

Based on the information provided in your question I can tell you that you could withdraw your application for widow's benefits, but you would have to repay any benefits that you've already been paid (if any). And, if you later change your mind and reapply for widow's benefits you couldn't claim benefits for any months prior to the month that you reapply, unless you reapply after reaching your full retirement age (FRA) in which case you could potentially claim benefits retroactively for a maximum of 6 months. However, I can't tell you whether or not withdrawing your application would be in your best interest. Even if your widow's benefit rate would be offset by 2/3rds of the amount of your government pension you may still be able to receive more total income if you file for widow's benefits, assuming that your original widow's rate is more than 2/3rds of the amount of your government pension.

For example, say Lila is eligible for a monthly Social Security widow's benefit of $1000. Lila also receives $1200 from her work for the federal government, so due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf), Social Security offsets her widow's benefit by $800 (I.e. 2/3rds of $1200). Thus, Lila ends up receiving $200 from Social Security in addition to her $1200 federal pension. If Lila's federal pension was reduced to $600 for some reason, the offset against her widow's benefit would be reduced to $400, leaving her with $600 from Social Security in addition to her $600 federal pension.

If and when you file for Social Security retirement benefits based on your own work record, the GPO provision wouldn't affect your retirement benefits because GPO can only cause an offset of auxiliary or survivor benefits (e.g. spouse, widow). The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) could affect your Social Security retirement benefit rate, but you would be exempt from any WEP reduction if you have at least 30 years of substantial earnings on which you paid Social Security taxes. For a list of what Social Security classifies as 'substantial earnings', refer to page 2 of the following Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.

However, even if your Social Security retirement benefits will be exempt from any WEP reduction, that wouldn't necessarily mean that OPM wouldn't reduce your OPM pension when you start drawing your Social Security retirement benefits. My expertise is limited to Social Security and not OPM pensions, so I don't know whether or not OPM would recompute your benefit rate to remove military credits when you start drawing Social Security retirement benefits. If they would, then by withdrawing your application for widow's benefits you may simply be deferring the reduction in your OPM pension while in the meantime losing out on some widow's benefits. You'll probably want to check with OPM unless you know for sure whether or not that will happen.

I don't know of any attorneys that I could recommend to you should you decide that's necessary. An attorney wouldn't be required to simply withdraw your application for widow's benefits, though. That can be done by contacting Social Security and submitting a form SSA-521 (https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-521.pdf).

Best, Jerry