Is What I Was Told By Social Security Correct?

Apr 25 2019 - 10:04am

Hi Larry, I'm 67 divorced more than 10 years. My ex is 65; he works and is not collecting SS.
I want to wait till 70 to maximize my benefits and want to collect on his.
According to the SS website "if your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years". I went to SS to apply and they told me that because he's not "collecting" benefits I can't tap into his benefits. Is that correct? Thank you.

Hi,

No, that's not correct. It sounds like you must have spoken with a poorly trained Social Security employee. Since your ex-spouse is age 62 or older and since you've been divorced for more than 2 years and provided that you're currently unmarried, you can apply for what's referred to as an 'independently entitled divorced spouses' benefit on your ex's account even if he's not yet receiving his benefits (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300202005#b). And, since you were born prior to January 2 1954 you can claim just divorced spousal benefits while letting your own benefit rate grow until age 70.

It sounds like you could have been drawing divorced spousal benefits since your full retirement age (FRA) of 66, but you can now only claim those benefits for a maximum of 6 months prior to the month you apply for them. Waiting past FRA to apply doesn't increase the rate of divorced spousal benefits, so you wouldn't want to further delay filing for them. It sounds like you should re-contact Social Security as soon as possible to insist on filing for divorced spousal benefits as an independently entitled divorced spouse.

Best, Jerry