My husband filed for Social Security Benefits in early 2021. He reached FRA in 2020. He received 6 payments (Mar – Aug). We found that we did not need the money and were told by SSA that he could suspend payments since he was within the first year of applying. We were advised that this was allowed one time and that when he decided to reinstate payments, he would also be taking advantage of delayed retirement credits. In Oct 2022, he called SSA and told them he was ready to start payments again. The lady he spoke with said it would take a month or more to process. However, one week later, a large deposit (over $34,000) showed up in our bank account. He was informed that this was a lump sum of retroactive payments for him, going back to the last date he received a payment in 2021. He was told that he had no choice and was required to accept the lump sum payment and would not be taking advantage of delayed retirement credits. From everything I read, this seems totally incorrect, but 2 different people at our local office insist this is true. Are they correct and if not, how can we fight this?
Hi. What apparently happened to your husband certainly doesn't sound correct. When your husband decided that he didn't want to continue receiving benefits he had 2 choices. One was to withdraw his application and repay the benefits that he had already been paid. That's the option that's limited to the first year after applying (https://www.ssa.gov/manage-benefits/cancel-your-benefits-application).
Your husband's other option was to voluntarily suspend his benefits. Voluntary suspension requests can be made any time between full retirement age (FRA) and age 70, and there's no set limit to the number of times you can voluntarily suspend benefits. However, the earliest that you can suspend benefits is effective with the month after the month you make your request, and the earliest that you can reinstate your benefit payments is effective with the month after the month you ask Social Security to reinstate your benefits. As far as delayed retirement credits (DRC) are concerned, you only earn DRCs for months that you aren't paid benefits between FRA and age 70.
Therefore, if your husband chose to voluntarily suspend his benefits instead of withdrawing his application, his benefits should not have been paid retroactively. And, he should be credited with DRCs for the months that his benefits were suspended. If your husband had withdrawn his application instead of suspending his benefits he would have needed to re-apply for his benefits. In that case he could have opted to claim benefits retroactively for up to 6 months prior to the month he re-applied, but it would not have been mandatory.
The bottom line is that if your husband voluntarily suspended his benefits and if he called Social Security in October 2022 to request reinstatement of his benefits, the earliest month for which his benefits should have been reinstated is November 2022. Retroactive reinstatement of voluntarily suspended benefits ceased to be a valid option after April 29, 2016 (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202409130).
It sounds like your husband should be able to file an appeal request, and he can find the instructions for doing so in the following Social Security publication: (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10058.pdf).