Ask Larry

Can You Explain What's Meant By A Protective Filing Date?

Hello Larry,

My 72nd birthday was in November, 2021. I’ve not yet applied to receive Social Security retirement benefits (a mistake I now know; I mistakenly thought my monthly benefit might increase by waiting beyond my 70th birthday). On June 2, 2022 I called Social Security and said I’m ready to apply for my retirement benefits and the worker set an appointment for me near the end of July to talk with a SSA retirement specialist. The worker referred to June 2, 2022 as a “protective filing date” for me. Can you please explain what that means?
Also, a couple of weeks ago I talked to another SSA worker. I said I’m interested in receiving the 6 months of retroactive benefits that applicants can receive. I told this worker that I’m over 72 years old. She said that, if I take the retroactive benefits, the SSA will take them from the period starting when I was 69 years and 6 months old up to my 70th birthday and this would result in me losing the 6 months of delayed retirement credits I earned just prior to my 70th birthday. Of course, this would result in my permanent monthly benefit amount being lower than it would be if I didn’t lose those last 6 months of delayed retirement credits. My financial advisor said she believes this SSA worker is mistaken: that SSA would not take the retroactive benefits from the last 6 months before my 70th birthday and, instead, SSA would take them from the 6 months ending on the date on which I’m applying for benefits. My financial advisor said, therefore, I should be able to both receive the retroactive benefits and get credit for all delayed retirement credits I earned up to my 70th birthday. Which person do you believe is correct? Thank you for your response and for your very helpful column!

Hi. A protective filing date is a date that can be used as an application date, even if the actual application isn't filed until later. When you make an appointment with Social Security to potentially apply for benefits, the date of the contact is established as the person's protective filing date ( So, in your case, even if you don't actually apply for benefits until your appointment date in late July, your protective filing date of June 2nd can be used as your application date.

What you were apparently told by Social Security is incorrect. Based on your application date of June 2 2022, 6 months of retroactive eligibility will make December 2021 your first month of entitlement to benefits. And, since you were already over age 70 at that time you'll get credit for all of the delayed retirement credits (DRC) you accrued up until the month you turned age 70.

Best, Jerry

Jun 5 2022 - 12:12pm
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