Can My Wife Draw Spousal Benefits At FRA And Let Her Own Benefit Rate Grow Until Age 70?

Apr 9 2017 - 5:45am

Dear Larry,

My wife, Leslie, and I have an appointment with Social Security on April 28 to apply for her spousal benefit based on my work record. She will be 66 this month, so she was 62 before 4/2/16. I am 68 and successfully filed and suspended my own SS benefit before 4/28/16. Both Leslie and I intend to defer our own SS benefits until we reach age 70. According to your book, Get What's Yours, she should qualify for spousal benefits under the "grandfather" provisions of the 2015 revisions to the SS law, until she collects her own SS benefits at age 70.

Can you give me the precise reference in the SS POMS rules and regulations, or elsewhere, containing the relevant grandfathering provisions so that I can point them out to SS personnel? I have not been able to find them myself on the SS website.

Should Leslie submit only a restricted application for spousal benefits at this time? Does a restricted application limit her claims for other SS benefits that she may be entitled to, now or in the future? Are there any other liabilities attached to a restricted application?

If SS personnel disapprove our request at our appointment with them, should Leslie file an application for benefits anyway in oder to create an official record as the basis for an appeal? Does submitting an unsuccessful application limit the options that we might take in pursuing our claim further?

I appreciated your book and other writings on this subject.

I have send a similar e-mail to Phil Moeller.



Hi Alex,

Your wife is eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only at full retirement age (FRA) since she was born prior to January 2 1954 ( The reference in Social Security's operations manual (POMS) for this provision is GN 00204.020. And, she can receive her spousal benefits even while your benefits are suspended since you voluntarily suspended your benefits prior to April 30 2016 ( The POMS reference for this is GN 02409.110.

In response to your other questions, filing a restricted application for spousal benefits only at FRA is very likely your wife's best option. By definition, a restricted application limits the filing to only one class of benefits, so your wife will need to file a separate and timely application when she wishes to start drawing her retirement benefits. That would likely be at age 70, assuming that her own rate is higher than the spousal rate at that time.

It shouldn't happen, but if the Social Security tells your wife's that she can't follow this strategy, she should insist on filing an application anyway. That will give her appeal rights. Otherwise, she could potentially lose benefits. Be aware, though, that my answer is based on the facts presented in your question, so my advice is contingent on the accuracy of that information.

Best, Jerry