Son putting his arm around father's shoulder outside a nursing home © iStock

Dear Senior Living Adviser,

My father worked full time until he was 81 years old. He never filed for Social Security benefits until he retired at age 81. Can he recoup any of the 11 years of lost Social Security benefits that he should have filed for at age 70?

— Eric Error

Dear Eric,

Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration allows only for up to 6 months of retroactive retirement insurance benefits when the worker applies for benefits more than 6 months after his or her full retirement age.

If your father at some point on or after his full retirement age contacted the Social Security Administration about filing for benefits, there may be a written record showing his intent to file.

If certain criteria are met, a protective filing is established on the date that the Social Security Administration receives a written statement of intent to file. He would need to work with the Social Security Administration if he believes this is the case.

If he falls into this scenario, he may be eligible for more than just the 6 months of retroactive benefits.

From what you’ve written, it doesn’t appear there was an earlier attempt to file for benefits before age 81.

Your father’s is a cautionary tale for workers who keep working past their full retirement age to make sure to file for Social Security benefits at age 70. Seniors don’t earn delayed retirement credits past age 70, so there’s no reason not to file at 70.

Thanks to Edward Lafferty, spokesman for the Social Security Administration, for helping me with this reply.

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