Is It Possible To Retroactively Change Your Filing Status To A Different Type Of Benefit?

Jan 13 2020 - 3:40pm


Have a husband who wanted to file and suspend his benefit and the wife to file for a spousal benefit. the only problem was they didn't qualify and tried to do it after the cutoff of April 30th, 2016. The wife has been receiving spousal benefits since March of 2018. The SSA originally approved the application and it wasn't until October of 2019 that they realized the error and are now requesting the benefits be paid back. My question is, is it possible to retroactively have the wife refile or change her filing status to her own benefit and then have the husband file a restricted application to collect a spousal benefit based on her record.



Hi Christian,

No. The husband and wife in your question couldn't simply change their applications to a different type of benefit (e.g. spousal to retirement or retirement to spousal) retroactively. Instead, they'd need to withdraw their prior applications and file new applications for the different benefit types. However, it sounds like too much time has passed for them to be able to do so unless Social Security makes an exception due to misinformation.

Normally, you can only withdraw an application for Social Security retirement benefits if you do so within 12 months of the month you originally claimed benefits. And, if you file a new claim, the maximum retroactivity allowed is 6 months from the month of filing, and not before the month you reached full retirement age (FRA). It sounds like the couple in your question are past the timeframe within which they could have withdrawn and reapplied under the normal rules. However, withdrawals filed later than the normal deadline can sometimes be approved if there is good cause for allowing an exception. And, if the couple in your question filed incorrectly because of misinformation furnished by a Social Security representative, they might be allowed to claim benefits more than 6 months retroactively based on a deemed filing date.

I don't know whether or not misinformation could be established in this case, nor do I have enough information to even know if switching gears at this point would be in the couple's best interests. If you'd like to research the rules for establishing misinformation, refer to the following section of Social Security's operations manual:

Best, Jerry