Ask Larry

What Can I Do About My Benefit Rate Being $1 Less Than It Should Be?

My husband died in 2016 when I was age 61 and I waited until my FRA (at age 66) to take the survivor benefit at 100%. I work part time but the survivor benefit will always be higher than my own benefit. I took my own reduced benefit at age 62 until age 66 and then switched to the survivor benefit starting in March 2021. All was fine through last year until SS took into account that my own benefit would increase slightly due to my part time job income from 2020. The total should be the same as the survivor benefit but they broke it into two deposits starting in November 2021 (my benefit and the difference to equal the survivor benefit). However, it is $1 less than it should be because of rounding down both checks. I don’t know why I’m getting two checks now – is that normal? Couldn’t I just suspend my own benefit to keep this simple – keep one check in just the amount of the survivor benefit like it was before (even if technically it is two parts – my benefit plus the difference). I'm not getting an answer about this from the SS office.

Hi. It sounds like your benefit rate is likely correct. If a person is entitled to two different benefits (e.g. Social Security retirement and widow's benefits) at the same time, then both benefits are rounded down to an even dollar amount when calculating the amount payable.

For example, say Beth files for her own benefits at age 64. Beth's reduced retirement rate before rounding is $800.90. A few years later when Beth reaches full retirement age (FRA) she applies for widow's benefits. Beth's widow's rate would then be calculated by subtracting her benefit rate from 100% of her deceased husband's benefit rate, which was $2000.10. In Beth's case, that would make her widow's rate $1199.20 (i.e. $2000.10 - $800.90). After dollar down rounding, Beth would then be paid a total of $1999 (i.e. $800 + $1199).

The dollar down rounding rules have been in effect since Congress amended the Social Security law in 1982, and double rounding for people who are entitled to more than one type of benefit is a by-product of that legislation. There's nothing you could do to avoid double rounding in your case. If you suspended own your own benefit, then you wouldn't be paid either your own benefit nor your widow's benefits (

Best, Jerry

Mar 18 2022 - 4:14pm
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