Did The Social Security Administration Err In My Case?

Jul 17 2016 - 11:45am

Hi Larry
Thanks for your column and advice.
I MAY also be a "victim" of the misunderstanding of the grandfathering clause for the delayed spousal benefits. We went through the process of applying for delayed spousal benefits in February of 2015 at our local SSA office in Tucson.
On 6/20/16 I received a notice from the SSA stating that I needed to repay the almost $6000 for March 2015 through May 2016 which was overpaid to me. The letter states that "Under the law, you cannot receive monthly benefits on another person's social security earnings record if you are entitled to equal or larger benefits on your own earnings record."

I immediately called SSA and was told to send in a Request for Reconsideration. I enclosed the documents that we received in March 2015 after filing for benefits on my wife's earnings (at age 63) and delaying my own benefits (I was 66 at that time). Everything seemed to be in order and the SSA representative understood what we wanted to do and how to do it. I began receiving benefits from my wife's earnings (less Medicare) in March 2015.

Could it be that the misunderstanding at SSA caused them to think that since both of us were not full retirement age at the time, then what we did was illegal and therefore I would not be grandfathered in? I have not heard anything from the SSA since submitting the Request for Reconsideration to our local office almost a month ago. How can I follow up on this?

Thanks again,

Hi Don,

It's hard to fathom how something like this could have happened. Someone clearly made a mistake, because if you were at least age 66 when you became entitled to spousal benefits, you were under no obligation to also file for benefits on your own account. The new deeming rules passed by Congress last year only affect people born after 1953, so you are exempt from those.

You've done the right thing by filing a formal request for reconsideration of the determination. Unless there is something more involved, I would expect you to receive a favorable ruling, and SSA will correct their mistake. Reconsideration requests are processed in order, and sometimes backlogs occur. The normal processing time is around 60-90 days, but that can vary significantly at times. If you still haven't heard from them after 90 days, you should probably follow up by visiting or calling your local office.

If you would happen to receive an unfavorable ruling on your reconsideration request, the next step of appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge. You have 60 days from the date of the reconsideration notice to request a hearing. Please keep us informed of how this turns out!

Best, Jerry