Can A Wife File Only For Her Own Benefits And Refuse Spousal Benefits?

Dec 4 2018 - 7:06am

The below is a example where the total family benefit is reduced if the wife is forced to take the spouse benefit with the husbands account. In this case child benefit is also part of the family. Even though the spouse benefit exceeds the wife's benefit it reduces the total family house hold benefit. In this case can the wife refuse the spouse benefit and take the smaller wife benefit?

Husband PIA = $3000
5 in house hold, Husband, Wife and three children under 18 years of age
Maximum combined house hold limit exceeded so using SS provided limit = $5500

If Wife PIA = $626 Then:
$5500 - $3000 = $2500 / 3 = $833 each ($2500 / 4 = $625 < $626 so wife benefit exceeds spouse benefit)
$3000 (Husband) + 3 * $833 (children benefit) = $5,499 + $626 (wife benefit) = $6,125 total house hold benefit

If Wife PIA = $624 then:
$5500 - $3000 = $2500 / 4 = $625 > $624 (Spouse benefit exceeds wife's SS benefit so spouse benefit automatically used)
$3000 (husband) + 4 * $625 (children and spouse benefit) = $5500 total house hold benefit

So a family reduction of $625 due to wife PIA being 2 dollars less in this extreme example.
Question can Wife request benefit from her account and NOT the spouse benefit even if the spouse benefit exceeds the benefit from the Wife's SS account?


First of all, the total household benefit calculated in your second example where the wife's PIA (primary insurance amount) is $624 is incorrect. The $624 payable to the spouse from her own record could be redistributed to the children in this example, increasing their effective benefit rates to $833 (i.e. $625 + $208) each ( In other words, the wife's entitlement to spousal benefits would not reduce the total family benefits payable.

To answer your question, though, the only way that the wife in your example could file just for her own benefits and not for spousal benefits would be if she was born prior to January 2 1954 and she filed at full retirement age (FRA) or later. She could, however, file just for child in care spousal benefits if at least one of her children is disabled or under age 16, while letting her own benefit rate grow until age 70. But, in that case, the wife's family maximum benefit (FMB) from her account couldn't be combined with the husband's FMB when determining the rates payable to family members.

Bottom line, cases like your example are complicated and the best strategy for claiming benefits depends on a number of different factors. Our software is designed to sort out all of the available options in such a case in order to determine the best overall filing strategy.

Best, Jerry