Ask Larry

Can You Shed Some Light On Why My Benefit Rate Was Reduced?

Hello, I started receiving my Divorced Spouse Survivors Benefit in November 2020 at age 61. My monthly benefit increased 1.3% in January 2021 and 5.9% in January 2022. Last month, June 2022, I received a letter stating "my prior amount" was incorrect and my monthly benefit has been reduced back to my 2021 monthly benefit amount and my "overpayment of $810" waived because it wasn't my fault. This change rescinds my 2022 COLA. I hand delivered a Reconsideration form and letter and support documentation to my local SSA office and after specifically requesting the reason for the adverse decision no one so far has provided me that information and my reduced benefit amount is scheduled as my next payment. I have not worked in over 8 years and not claiming any other SSA/SSI benefit. Can you shed some light on the reason for this seemingly arbitrary reduction in my benefit? Thank you!

Hi. No, I'm afraid I can't. I can tell you, though, that since you were clearly eligible for divorced survivor benefits prior to the January 2022 cost of living (COLA) increase, you're entitled to that increase. Therefore, if the reduction in your benefit rate did in fact result from rescinding your 2022 COLA then you'd definitely want to appeal that decision.

What seems more likely is that some other type of calculation error is involved, but without access to your Social Security records I have no way of diagnosing the reason. If the reduction is actually due to some other type of calculation error, though, the fact that it matched your COLA increase would seem extremely coincidental.

Another oddity is that Social Security apparently gave you a blanket waiver of your overpayment, which I can't recall happening in my experience. Normally, when a person receives an overpayment of benefits, they are asked to repay the overpayment even if the overpayment was clearly Social Security's fault. The overpaid individual must then submit the proper paperwork before the overpayment can be waived.

So, what happened in your case sounds very mysterious. Hopefully, Social Security's determination on your request for appeal will shed more light on the matter, and be resolved in your favor.

By the way, if you are potentially eligible for benefits based on your own Social Security earnings history, then you should strongly consider using our software ( to fully analyze all of your options so that you can determine your best strategy for maximizing your benefits.

Best, Jerry

Jul 5 2022 - 12:52pm
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