Did The Increase In My Benefit Rate Cause My Sons' Benefit Rates To Be Reduced?

Jun 5 2019 - 1:59pm

I am a divorced spouse, with 2 disabled children. The children's father took early retirement in May 2018 at age 62. I am also 62.My SS started out at $1034. My boys started at $1236 and my ex started at $2101...The first payment was June 2018. The checks increased in January for cost-of-living.

My oldest disabled son is 26 and was already on SSI as an adult, so was a "pass thru." He is considered still on SSI. Does that mean the original SSI payment stays the same and comes from another source, rather than the "Family Max. Amount" with the additional amount coming from FMA?

The other boy just turned 18 in April and is entering 12th grade. I did the paperwork showing he is still in school and turned it into SS in March, yet his checks are stopped and that issue is still pending. He was on SSI when younger, but once I started receiving alimony, that stopped,.I think, because alimony is considered unearned income, even though taxes are paid on it. I will be reapplying for him sometime this year. Now he is on SS from his father's retirement.

I knew I was supposed to qualify for having a "Child in Care " and wasn't. The local office also told me multiple times, that my entire payment came from the "FMA." I knew that was wrong. I went thru my local state senator's office, because I didn't get positive results from our local SS office. My payment has now been raised to $1464.40.

However both boys' payments suddenly were reduced to $1098 in April, with no explanation. Is that because my payment increased? I thought as a divorced spouse, my payment came from another source, not the "FMA." I also wondered if SS readjusted because they were paying my boys 50% of what my ex is receiving because he retired early, rather than 50% of the PIA.

Then last month I received a letter concerning the 26 year old's payment, stating he had been over-paid and would not receive a check May"$1098" and for June, his check would be reduced by $449. I am expecting the same whenever the younger son's SS is restarted. I was given no explanation, just the check stopped.

I am assuming my ex's full SS would have been double what I am receiving, had he retired at full retirement age..So that amount would have been $2924.80? I am now receiving $1464.40.

My ex also married in January. The woman is 63. I have heard her income was $50,000 per year and she worked many years. She also retired early, at age 63. How will that effect my boys'payments, when she begins to draw SS approximately? Wouldn't some of her payment come from her own work history. I am so sorry for so many questions. We are struggling and need to know how to prepare for the other shoe to drop. I also need to know why the boys' payments have been reduced and why such large over-payments. Sure not from anything we have done wrong. Thanks for your help!


I don't have enough information to be able to give you a complete answer. One thing I can tell you for sure is that the fact your ex took his benefits early has no effect on your or your children's current benefit rates. Unreduced disabled adult child's (DAC) benefits and child in care spousal benefits are calculated at 50% of the worker's primary insurance amount (PIA), not 50% of their reduced benefit rate. I can also confirm that your divorced spousal benefit amount is not affected by the family maximum benefit (FMB), so the fact that your benefit rate was increased would not adversely effect your children's benefit rates.

However, your children's DAC benefits can be and apparently are subject to reduction based on the FMB. And, if your husband's new wife qualifies and files for spousal benefits, as opposed to benefits based on her own record, that could further reduce your children's DAC benefits since all of those benefits count toward the FMB.

One of the key bits of information that you don't specify is whether or not you filed for both retirement benefits on your own record and divorced spousal benefits, or just divorced spousal benefits only. I'm assuming it's the latter, since it sounds like you're now apparently receiving 50% of your ex's PIA. If you had also filed for benefits on your own record, then your Social Security retirement benefit rate would be reduced for age and your combined rate would be less than 50% of your ex's PIA. But, the FMB on your record could then be combined with the FMB on your ex's record to potentially free up more benefits to be payable to your children. If you're insured for benefits on your own record and haven't yet filed for those benefits, you may want to use our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com) to determine how filing for your benefits would affect your children's benefits.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a needs based benefit. As such, SSI eligibility and benefit rates can be affected by a person's other income. Your son's federal SSI benefits should have been reduced roughly dollar for dollar by the amount of his DAC benefits, so if that wasn't done timely then that could account for the overpayment that you mentioned.

Best, Jerry