Which Social Security Representative Is Right?

Feb 24 2018 - 5:17pm

Dear Larry,

I called Social Security this past week and two representatives told me that I cannot collect ex spousal benefits (married 21 years and he earned a lot more than I did and still does)unless my ex is also collecting benefits. They explained that "entitled/eligible" means that he is collecting. This is the exact opposite of what I as told two years ago in 2016. I am still working a a public school teacher and will turn 66 in May. He will turn 62 in April. In 2016, I was told that at full retirement age (66-born in 1952 and he in 1955) I would be eligible for 50 percent of his benefit minus the windfall elimination. I will be working until at least 73. I have checked everywhere and cannot find any ss reference to that the fact that he must be actually collecting for in order for me to do so. The rep told me to call back in February of 2019 and file under my own benefit (I worked in private schools for years and have also worked and continue to work ss second jobs) and I would get $990 a month. She said that if I waited until he were actively collecting, I would get 50 percent of his benefit. He will receive about 2700 a month. The difference is about $400- that is, between my benefit and his. Were they correct about his needing be collecting; was the previous rep wrong? Thank you for clarification on this matter; I am sure that I am not the only one who was told several different things about ex spouse benefits.

Hi,

Assuming that you've been divorced for at least 2 years, your ex-spouse does not need to be drawing benefits in order for you to receive divorced spousal benefits. He just needs to be at least age 62. If you need to prove this to Social Security you can print out and show them the following reference from their operations manual, specifically section B.2: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300202005.

Your divorced spousal benefits won't be affected by the windfall elimination provision (WEP). WEP only affects benefits payable on a person's own record (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf). However, WEP may affect your benefit rate if and when you file on your own record, and your divorced spousal benefits may eventually be offset in part or in full based on the government pension offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). Neither the WEP nor GPO provisions would apply, though, until you file for your pension based on your non-Social Security covered work.

Our maximization software is programmed to handle both WEP and GPO, so you may want to use it to compare your filing options and determine your best course of action.

Best, Jerry