Ask Larry

Which Of What I Was Told By Social Security Is Correct?

I was told on a previous call with ssi that I would qualify for divorced spousal benefits because my spouse's benefits would be greater than mine. A telephone appointment to sign up was made. A very rude employee told me on that call that I did not qualify and never would because my benefit would not be less than 50% of my spouses. I have read the entire publication on divorced spousal benefits and nowhere did I read that you would only qualify if your benefit was less than half of your spouse’s, only that it needed to be less than the ex-spouses benefit. Which is true?

Hi. Neither one is exactly correct. What is correct is that if your ex-spouse is still living and if you're already drawing your own benefits, then you could only get additional benefits from your divorced spouse's Social Security record if his or her primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than twice as much as your own PIA. A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA).

If your ex-spouse dies before you, though, then you could potentially qualify for survivor benefits if your own benefit rate is lower than the higher of a) your ex's monthly benefit rate, or b) 82.5% of your ex's PIA.

By the way, even if Social Security tells you that you don't qualify for a particular type of benefit, you are still allowed to file an application. That way you'll get a formal written determination of your eligibility, along with appeal rights.

Best, Jerry

Mar 13 2023 - 7:44am
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