Ask Larry

If Some Of My Survivor Benefits Are Withheld Due To My Earnings Will They Be Repaid In Any Way If I Later Switch To My Own Benefits?

If I am collecting survivor benefits and some are withheld due to my working, when I switch to my own benefits at or after my FRA, will the withheld benefits be repaid in any way?
I know they are if I stay on survivor benefits.
Thanks much

Hi. Benefits withheld due to the Social Security earnings test are never returned to the beneficiary in any type of a lump sum form. What happens instead is that when a person who collected reduced benefits reaches full retirement age (FRA), the reduction for age applied to their benefit rate is adjusted to remove the percentage reduction for any months that their benefits were withheld due to the earnings test. That results in an increase in the person's monthly benefit rate starting with the month they reach FRA. The reduction factor adjustment applies to Social Security retirement, spousal, and survivor benefits.

Therefore, the only 'repayment' made to a beneficiary for benefits lost due to the earnings test is in the form of a higher monthly benefit rate starting at FRA. So, if you switch at FRA from survivor benefits to a higher retirement benefit, then the reduction factor adjustment applied to your survivor rate won't be of any benefit to you. Any increase resulting from the reduction factor adjustment would only apply to your survivor rate, not your own retirement benefit rate. However, if you wait past FRA before switching to your retirement benefits, then you would receive the higher adjusted survivor rate for the months from your FRA until the month that you switch to your own benefits.

It sounds like you may want to strongly consider using our software ( to fully compare and analyze all of your options so that you can determine your best strategy for maximizing your benefits.

Best, Jerry

Mar 27 2023 - 5:22pm
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