Is There Any Way Now For My Mother To Draw Survivor Benefits Without Drawing Her Own Benefits?

Apr 26 2019 - 10:35am

I've recently been helping my mom plan her retirement and collect Social Security. She just stopped working last month, and turns 65 in one week. She automatically received her Medicaid card in the mail, which made me raise an eyebrow, as you have to apply for that.
It turns out, when she was 62, she wanted to apply for Surviving Spouse benefit from my deceased father. She called Social Security, and was told by a representative that she should apply as soon as possible, despite her high income at the time.
She was instructed that she would have to apply for her own benefits in order to be eligible for her entitled Surviving Spouse benefits. She followed those instructions, and submitted an application online, despite no intention of retiring and collecting benefits at the time.
It turns out, that she was misdirected into applying for her own benefits. To this day, she has not received a dime of benefits due to her income.
My question(s) is, now that she has technically applied for her own benefits almost 3 years ago (even though it was due to misguidance), can she withdraw her application and correctly apply for Survivor's Benefits? My dad's benefit is slightly higher than her own, and her plan was to collect his benefit and postpone her own until she turned 70, to increase her delayed retirement credits.
If she can't withdraw her application, can she suspend her benefits, and then apply for Survivors Benefits? Is there any way for her to collect the Surviving spouse benefits instead of her own now? Can she try sending in the form SSA-521, even though it's been well over the 12 month time frame? Does she have a chance of appealing that? Or is my father's lifetime of work gone for good simply because of misinformation from one representative three years ago? Please help! Thank you!

Hi,

It wouldn't do any good for your mother to suspend her own retirement benefits because she couldn't be paid survivor benefits while her own benefits are suspended (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202409100).

It certainly sounds like your mother was misinformed if she was advised to apply for both her own retirement benefits and her survivor benefits simultaneously. Proving that fact to Social Security's satisfaction may be difficult, however. For more information on proving misinformation, refer to the following section of Social Security's operations manual: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204008.

Your mother certainly could submit a request for withdrawal of one or both of her applications using a form SSA-521, but a request for withdrawal of a retirement benefit application must normally be filed within 12 months in order to be approved (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html). It doesn't sound like there's any other option, though, other than to accept the status quo. If your mother does submit a withdrawal request and it's disallowed by Social Security, she would have appeal rights.

Best, Jerry