Do I Have To Accept Reduced Widow's Benefits?

May 12 2017 - 5:00pm

My husband passed away 4/2017 at 73 he was collecting SS $1684 with Medicare taken out I'm 62 just started to collect my ck $884 SS sent me form SSA-4111 to fill out I'm hesitant. It's for permanent reduced benefit of $1251. Thats half of what we got together. Do I hv to accept this they said if I don't sent form back I will get nothing. Can I wait till I'm 65 to get survivors full benefits or do I have to sign and accept this now. Please let me know as I have appt 5/16 with SS. Thank You, Eileen

Hi Eileen,

I'm sorry for your loss.

You aren't required to accept a reduced widow's rate, but if you don't, you will only receive the amount payable based on your own earnings history until you decide to file for widow's benefits. The $884 that you currently receive apparently is a combined retirement and spousal benefit, since Social Security should not have sent you form SSA-4111 if you weren't already receiving some spousal benefits. So, if you choose to delay taking widow's benefits, you will only receive the portion of your $884 payment that is based on your own work record. Any spousal benefits would stop.

You will have to decide how to proceed based on your financial situation. If may be best in the long run for you to wait until your full retirement age (FRA) to file for widow's benefits so that you can receive the full unreduced rate. But, that may not be possible unless you are able to get by without the extra money for roughly 4 years. Also, if your husband drew any reduced retirement benefits prior to full retirement age, it may not be advantageous to wait until FRA to file for widow's benefits.

You should probably contact Social Security to have them explain to you exactly what you will receive monthly if you decide to hold off on taking widow's benefits until later. You should also ask them to verify the reduced widow's rate you would receive if you start drawing now, since $1251 sounds too low if your husband was receiving $1684 after withholding Medicare premiums.

Best, Jerry