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Did Social Security short you?

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Posted: 1 pm ET

Social Security may owe you or your spouse more money.

The agency was chided this month for its failure to alert some recipients who initially claimed spousal benefits, but who were eligible for an increase in benefits based on their own work records.

Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General, or OIG, a watchdog within the system, sent the agency a letter pointing out that it had first audited Social Security in 2008 and found an estimated 13,580 spouses were eligible for about $123.7 million in higher retirement benefits after attaining age 70. The current audit five years later turned up more.

OIG says that by combining the results of its first and second audits, "We are 90 percent confident the number of spouses eligible for higher retirement benefits ranged from 22,005 to 30,339, and the additional payments ranged from $131.9 million to $258.6 million."

These underpaid recipients fall into two categories, the OIG says:

  • People whose spousal benefits were higher when they claimed at full retirement age, but because of delayed retirement credits -- about 8 percent a year from age 65 or 66 to age 70 -- their worker benefits are now greater than what they are receiving as spouses.
  • Social Security didn't apply what's known as the "deemed filing provision" properly when some recipients initially applied for benefits. The deemed provision requires that a recipient who files before full retirement age must also file for the larger of a worker benefit or a spousal benefit. In some cases, recipients were given spousal benefits even though they were eligible for higher benefits based on their own work records.

Excuses, excuses

When OIG first discovered this underpaid segment in its 2008 audit, it developed a notification letter for Social Security and asked officials to send it out. Social Security agreed with the findings, but said it didn't have enough resources to send the letter. This time around, OIG pointed out that not only did Social Security owe this underpaid segment higher benefits, it also owed them back payments. And it told Social Security that it was already notifying widows and widowers at full retirement age and again at age 70 that they could be due higher benefits, so adding more people to the notification process shouldn't be an overwhelming job.

"If SSA were to notify spousal beneficiaries of their eligibility for higher retirement benefits, it would initially identify about 26,000 beneficiaries. Thereafter, we estimate that SSA would identify about 2,500 spouses, annually, who would be eligible for higher retirement benefits," according to the OIG report.

If you are a Social Security recipient who gets spousal benefits, and especially if you are turning 70 years old and you claimed at full retirement age, you may be eligible for more money. You also might be eligible for an increase if you worked a substantial number of years but your benefit payment doesn't reflect any increase based on your own work record.

If you think you fall into one of these categories, go to the Social Security office and ask them to analyze your situation. You may have to request your work record to make sure it is complete. In an example OIG offered Social Security, the underpaid recipient was getting $415, but was due $426 beginning in March 2002. In all, Social Security underpaid -- and owed -- the recipient $3,105 through 2013, plus the higher ongoing payment. Not a retirement planning fortune, but I wouldn't leave it lying on the floor.

Want more? Here are 5 little-known facts about Social Security you should know before making any decisions about retirement.

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July 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm


July 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm

To Geraldine, if you check back on this blog now and again, if your husband is deceased and his benefit is LARGER than your benefit is then YES you can draw his instead of yours; or that's what I have been told. Either way it does not hurt to find out especially if his benefit is larger than yours then yes, you may collect his rather than yours.

I would suggest that you call the local Social Security Office to make an appointment, ask them what documentation you'll need to bring with you in order to get your mission accomplished cuz you probably will not want to have to go back. Gather all the documents you will need and go to the appointment and you should know pretty much right away.

Good Luck and be well.

G. Dean
July 16, 2014 at 11:05 am

I would like to be chosen for you to calculate my SS earnings.I am single& turned 66 in Apr 2014& was advised to wait 7 mos. past that to apply.I am divorced from 2 husbands I was married to for over 10 yrs.I am retired from old civil svc. not FERS.Both ex's are over 66&draw SS.I have div.decrees, SS#'S,etc.of both.Need extra income because I take care of 96 yr.old father w/Alzeheimers.I only worked approx.2 yrs.before taking Gov.job so do not have enough to apply on my own.If you don't choose me to help, how or where can I get help?
Thank You.

Gloria Finkle
June 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

Anyone who believes that the government gives SS benefits to illegals is just plain stupid or watches too much Fox "news."

O’Daniel, Joseph
June 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm

As a Retired Federal Employee, who paid in to SS formore than the 40 quarters required; I get less that 40 percent for what I paid for. That is because the Government is giving more of SS to illegals who paid very little or nothing at all for their Social Security benefits, that is the Democrats way of paying for illegals to vote.

charles e white
June 13, 2014 at 10:27 am

I would like to know if I quality for more Social Security by using my deceased wife's social security.

Robert A. Mauger
June 13, 2014 at 10:14 am

I took my social security benefit at age 66 which was my full retirement age. I have continued to work full time since and will be 69 this year. I continue to pay into social security and my income has increased substantially over the past two years. Does or would this increase my benefit amount at some point in the future over and above a cost of living increase?

Geraldine J Reinhardt
June 13, 2014 at 9:36 am

I would like to know if I quality for more Social Security by using my deceased husband social security. Please advise!.

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