Is It True That Social Security Holds Back A Check?

Oct 15 2016 - 10:30am

Dear Mr. Kotlikoff -

Social Security is a government program that every person in this nation is ''forced'' to join as far as this writer understands.

Will turn 70 the end of October, will start SS at this time and have just learned the following: ''So, if a person was born in October, his or her first month of eligiblity is November. Since SSA ''pays individuals a month behind'', the person will receive the November benefit in the month of December''.

Since the SS Administration ''holds back'' a check, this means a person will receive their last social security check after they are dead (i.e. going to the person's estate).

What good is this Mr. Kotlikoff? Can a person 6 feet in the ground spends his / her last check? From all appearances, it appears that the government is stealing money from a living human being and giving it to the person's heirs since in the government's view ''big brother'' always knows best.

To your knowledge, did the law that Congress passed ''specifically state'' that one month's check is to be held back or is this an ''administrative decision'' made by the Social Security Administration? To your knowledge, has any person sued the SS Administration in a class action suit to challenge the SS Administration from holding back (i.e. stealing in this person's mind) a month's worth of income from an individual?

Before hiring an attorney to take this case into federal court, would like to determine if a case like this has been adjudicated in the past.

If it is not too much trouble, would you or your assistants respond to the email on a direct basis and advise your thought on this question? Your help would be very much appreciated.

Hi,

I think you have at least a partial misunderstanding of the rules. If you reach age 70 in October, you are eligible for a check for October. It's true that the payment is issued in November, but the payment is for the month of October. So, even if you are born on October 31st (in fact, even if your birthday is November 1st), you can receive a full Social Security check for October. And since you waited until the month you reach age 70 to start, you will be due the full 32% of delayed retirement credits, assuming that you were insured for benefits when you reached full retirement age.

With regard to benefits for the month of death, a person must live throughout the entire month in order to be due a payment for that month. So, if a person dies on October 31st, for example, they are not due any payment for the month of October. The payment that such a person received in October would be due, however, because it was for the month of September. And, if a person dies on November 1st, they are due the payment for October that arrives in November, although it would go to an eligible survivor or their estate.

I think what you must have read about is the rule that a person can first receive a reduced retirement or spousal benefit for the month that they are age 62 throughout the entire month (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.03/handbook-0301.html). This provision obviously doesn't affect you, since you are already past age 62.

I believe that all of these rules resulted from legislation passed by Congress, and are not administrative decisions. I don't know whether or not any or all of them have been challenged in the courts.

Best, Jerry