Why Is My Benefit Amount Lower Than What I Was Told?

Oct 14 2016 - 10:45am

I am 68 years old and born in July 1948, not married, and receiving a civil service retirement. I also worked for 10 years under social security and have enough credit under social security to get retirement benefits. I applied in person for social security retirement in Sept 2016 to be effective July 2016. At the time I applied, the SS representative provided me with a benefit matrix indicating my benefit amounts for every month from my FRA date and beyond for 48 months. The benefit matrix for July 2016 indicated a benefit of $927 per month. Three weeks after applying, I received “Notice of Award” from SS indicating a first payment of $2781 and subsequent payments of $890 per month (which is the exact amount identified on the benefit matrix effective January 2016). Why am I not getting the monthly amount of $927 as listed on Social Security’s own benefit matrix?


When you apply for benefits between full retirement age and age 70, delayed retirement credits (DRC) are initially credited only through December of the calendar year prior to your month of entitlement. For example, if you reach age 68 in July 2016 and file effective with that month, you initially only receive DRCs for the months July 2014 through December 2015. Then, effective with your check for January 2017, you are due the additional DRCs for the months January through July of 2016. So, January 2017 would be the first month that your benefit amount would reflect all 24 months (16%) of DRCs.

Post-entitlement DRCs are added through an automated process. Due to budget limits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has given this process a relatively low priority, and only runs the updates every other year. The increases due are fully retroactive, but this results in a substantial delay in receiving the proper amount of DRCs. As a result, it may be until sometime in 2018 before your final 6 months of DRCs are added. You will receive the appropriate back pay to January 2017, however.

I'm a bit surprised that your benefit amount is as high as it is, given the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the fact that you are receiving a civil service pension. Perhaps you meet one of the exceptions to WEP (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf), or you had more than 10 years of Social Security covered earnings.

Best, Jerry