Ask Larry

How Can I Check To See If I Am Being Underpaid By SS?

I am having a terrible time with Social Security . My birthday is 5/3/51

I have a complicated profile- I took SS early when I was out of work in 2013- then went back to work, started making too much money and had to pay back benefits pretty regularly until I hit my full retirement age of 66. I then was able to suspend ( although it was not easy to find someone at SS who knew I was entitled to suspend).
I also was never able to take advantage of any spousal benefits from my ex- husband ( married for 23 years) according to SS.

In May 2021, i turned 70, contacted SS who said I would be receiving a monthly benefit of around $3700 ( I was told this by two different SS reps) , and would be getting a letter confirming that amount and lifting the suspension.

Nothing came, no letter, no payments until finally after many calls I started receiving my benefit, in a much lower amount of $2997. The Manage of my local SS office ( NYC West 126th Street) finally sent a Manager to Manager email which worked to lift the suspension. He had no explanation for the lower benefit amount and told me to appeal. He had calculated my benefit at approx. $3700 a month.

I put in an appeal in September and have heard nothing.

When I look at My Social Security, there is NO INformation with respect to my earlier history, and payments and repayments. Only what they started paying me this August.

How do I check to see if I am being unfairly treated and underpaid by SS?
OR how do I confirm I am being paid correctly and the explanation for the earlier $3700 monthly benefit they quoted to me.
I am willing to pay someone to help with this.
I am also still working full time and paying in to SS as a full time employee.

I am getting old for this sort of abusive incompetence from Social Security.

What do you recommend???

Hi. Given your description of events, it sounds like it would be difficult at best to correctly calculate your benefit rate without having access to your Social Security records. First of all you'd need a record of your yearly Social Security covered earnings history in order to be able to independently calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA). Secondly, you'd need to know how many months you collected benefits prior to your full retirement age (FRA) that you didn't have to pay back due to your earnings. Then you'd need to know how many months that your benefits were suspended between FRA and the month you reached age 70.

Here's an example to explain how a benefit rate should be computed in a situation like yours. We'll say Amy has a FRA of 66 and a PIA of $2000. Amy started collecting reduced Social Security retirement benefits at age 63 at a reduced rate of $1600. Amy collected all 3 years of her benefits prior to FRA, but voluntarily suspended her benefits from FRA until age 70. In that case Amy's benefit rate at age 70 would be credited with 48 months of delayed retirement credits (DRC), which increases her benefit rate by 2/3rds of 1% per DRC. That amounts to a total increase of 32% (i.e. 2/3rds of 1% x 48 months), and that increase is then applied to Amy's reduced benefit rate. Will say for example purposes that COLAs have raised Amy's $1600 reduced rate to $1800 by the time she's age 70. In that case the DRCs would increase Amy's age 70 rate to $2376 (i.e. $1800 x 1.32).

There are various online benefit calculators, including the one in our software (, that can calculate your PIA, but to get accurate results you need a record of your yearly Social Security covered earnings history. In theory you could even calculate your PIA manually using the information is Social Security's online operations manual (, but not without an accurate record of your earnings history. Our software can also accurately calculate actual monthly benefit rates, but you'd need to furnish the number of months that you collected benefits prior to FRA and how many months that you didn't collect (i.e. voluntarily suspended) benefits from FRA until age 70.

Social Security should have all of the above information in their computer records, but getting someone at SSA to give you the information will likely be difficult. You won't be able to even get your earnings history online because you are collecting benefits, and Social Security takes away a person's online access to their earnings history once they've started drawing benefits.

If you continue to be frustrated by your dealings with Social Security, you may want to contact the offices of your U.S. Congressperson or one of your U.S. Senators. Oftentimes an inquiry made by a member of Congress to Social Security on behalf of a constituent can help to resolve the person's problems.

Best, Jerry

Oct 14 2021 - 2:43pm
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