Were We Given Incorrect Information?

Jul 8 2016 - 11:00am

I read your article on "Will Social Security Fix Its Mistake That May Be Costing You Tens of Thousands?". I am requesting your help for our situation. My husband's birth date is 8/9/1947. When he turned 65 in August 2012, we filed and suspended the social security benefits for him. My birth date is 6/4/1951. When I turned 62 in June 2013, I applied for early retirement age. I asked the SSA office, if I could also file for early retirement benefits but suspend, so that my husband could collect spousal benefits, we were told that I have to be taking the benefits and only then my husband could collect spousal benefits. So we are stuck with my lower benefits. Were we advised correctly? If not, is there any recourse to correct? I am willing to give back the benefits collected so far, so that I could collect higher amounts for delayed benefits.

We very much appreciate your response and advice. Thank you in advance.
Best Regards

Hi Amy,

Your husband could not have collected spousal benefits on your account unless and until you started drawing benefits, so it sounds like the information Social Security gave you was correct. However, since he had already filed for benefits on his own account when you applied, at best he could only get an excess spousal benefit on your record. And, unless your full retirement age benefit (PIA) is more than twice his PIA, he couldn't receive any spousal benefits on your account after he filed on his own account.

What your husband probably should have done was not to file on his own account until age 70. He could then have filed for a full spousal benefit when you applied, and drawn that for 4 years before switching to his own account. Whether or not that was the best thing for you to do depends on a number of variables, though, and it's too late to do that now anyway.

It doesn't sound like you were given misinformation, and it's too late for you to withdraw your application and pay back the benefits you've received. What you can still do to increase your benefit is to voluntarily suspend it when you reach age 66. You can then resume drawing benefits at age 70, at which time they will be 32% higher. The downside to that strategy is that if your husband is in fact receiving an excess spousal benefit on your account, those benefits will also be suspended while your benefits are in suspense.

Best, Jerry