Could A Widow Receive More Than 82.5% Of Their Deceased Spouse's PIA If The Deceased Was Receiving 93% Of Their PIA?

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May 16 2019 - 6:14pm

Hi Larry! I have a detailed question regarding widow benefits in scenarios where the deceased spouse filed for social security benefits before their Full Retirement Age. I am familiar with RIB-LIM. I understand that the surviving spouse could receive up to 82.5% of deceased PIA or the amount that the deceased was receiving when they passed away, whichever is higher. So here is my question. What if the deceased spouse filed about 12 months before their FRA, before passing away. In other words, the deceased spouse was receiving MORE than 82.5% of their PIA, they were receiving roughly 93% of their PIA. Does the surviving spouse need to wait until their FRA to receive that higher amount? OR could the surviving receive that higher amount (93% of PIA) roughly 1 year before their FRA. Thanks!

Hi,

Yes, the surviving spouse could receive the same 93% of the primary insurance amount (PIA) that deceased worker was receiving in the scenario you present, and no the surviving spouse would not have to wait until full retirement age (FRA) to qualify for that rate. There is less of a percentage reduction applied for taking widow's benefits early than there is for retirement benefits, so a widow would reach the 93% rate at a slightly younger age than when the worker started drawing their benefits.

When a deceased worker drew reduced Social Security retirement benefits prior to their death, widow's benefit on their record are limited to a maximum of no more than the higher of a) the worker's reduced rate, or b) 82.5% of the deceased worker's PIA. But, if the widow files before FRA, their benefit rate could be lower depending on their age at the time they start drawing widow's benefits. Widow's filing at age 60, for example, only receive 71.5% of the worker's PIA. The closer the widow is to FRA when they start drawing benefits, the higher the percentage of the worker's PIA they receive, unless they're limited to a lower percentage due to RIB-LIM.

Our software is programmed to handle RIB-LIM calculations so that a widow using our software can identify the precise month and year that their widow's benefit amount would reach it's maximum possible rate.

Best, Jerry