Is It True That I Can't Take Widow's Benefits Until Full Retirement Age?

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May 8 2017 - 5:37pm

My husband died in Sept, 2014 at age 62. I am 3 yrs younger than he, thus 59 when he died, and will be 62 in July of this year. I am unable to work outside of my home due to a disability not recognized/accepted as such, so currently have no income except a $700.00 widows benefit from the VA. I did work for years, but not hi income jobs. If I take my SS at 62, it will only amt to slightly more than 700.00 and I will loose the VA income. According to what I've been told by SS, I cannot take my husbands benefits until I Reach full retirement age and then will receive benefits based on the age he was at his death, 62. Is this correct? What do you suggest in this scenario? I have been reading your book, "Get What's Yours" but haven't found an answer in my situation.

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

You don't have to wait until full retirement age (FRA) to file for widow's benefits, and if your husband received reduced retirement benefits prior to his death it would likely be disadvantageous to do so. If your husband did start drawing reduced retirement benefits at age 62, your maximum widow's rate would likely be 82.5% of his primary insurance amount (PIA), and you would be eligible for that rate if you file at approximately age 62 & 4 months, or anytime after that. His PIA is essentially his full retirement age rate.

Your best filing strategy depends on the relative amounts of your own retirement benefit rate vs. your widow's rate. If your retirement rate at age 70 would be higher than your maximum potential widow's rate, you would probably be better off to start out drawing reduced widow's benefits, then switch to your own record at age 70. Otherwise, you would probably want to start drawing reduced retirement benefits first and file for your widow's benefit when it reaches it's maximum rate.

The maximization software available on this website should be able to help you determine your best filing strategy.

Best, Jerry