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Did Social Security short you?

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
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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148 Comments
JAMES MCGILL
June 13, 2014 at 9:22 am

I WORKED FOR CITY GOVERNMENT AND I GET A PENSION. I ALSO PAID SOCIAL SECURITY. THEY CUT MY SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENTS BECAUSE OF THAT. WE DON'T GET ANY RAISES FROM OUR CITY PENSION YET THEY TAKE THE MONIES I PAID INTO SOCIAL SECURITY. I DON'T UNDER STAND THIS THE GOVERNMENT ROBS US BECAUSE WE WORKED TWO JOBS TO MAKE ENDS MEET. WHATS THE SOLUTION TO GETTING OUR MONEY EARNED PUT BACK IN OUR SOCIAL CHECK.

Marlene Astorino
June 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

I have applied for my SSD and was denied. When I put in for my appeal I was DENIED again.They stated the following We found no reason under our rules to review the Administrative Law Judge's decision. Therefore, we have denied your request for review. I have worked for over 20yrs and paid into my SS. I just was told I have cronic lung diese and may disability which prevent me from working. Now they are making up poor excues every time I applied and preventing me to get my DISABILITY SS INCOME.

mitzi
June 13, 2014 at 7:57 am

why is it that the government gets raise that are more than what is given to those on ss. I feel that ss should get more than those in the government.
I would like to see them live on what some of us are getting which is below poverty.

charles e. hill
April 09, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I would like to know where 200.00 per person went that Arnold dum dum taken away from everyone on ssi I'm hurtin but do not feel sorry for me but feel sorry person next to me that is worse off then some of us. when well we get back some of that was taken from us Arnold was in office. thank you

Robert Ness
April 09, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I am 61 getting ready to claim when I checked my statement it was missing ten years of my work record they had 0 in its spot I am going to fight until doomsday.

Vaughn WILLIAMS
April 09, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I worked under the social security for 40 quarters even while working for U>S Postal service where I worked for 37+years the upon retirement I went to work for Morrisons Cafeteria for more than 10 years and paid social security during the time I worked but was told I was considered a double dipper and only received
$32.00 per month, which was considered 44%. In the last 7 years I have not qualified for an increases. I now get $91.0 per month.
I think since I did work for over 20 years for social security I should be getting more money, since I paid into both retirement programs.

4

barbara johnson
April 09, 2014 at 1:07 pm

I was unable to do the job after 15 years because of diabetes so I file for SS at 62. Because I hadn't gone to the Dr. for the obvious enough I was declined disability and because my husband filed first my earnings went from 890.00 to 667.00 the same as a person is at entry level. But my papers that were sent to me showed my eligibilities to be the higher amount. Just getting by.

Ellen Y Still
April 09, 2014 at 12:30 pm

PS Take note of the advertisements so you got money from them to post this blog????!!!!!!

David C. Holland
April 09, 2014 at 11:50 am

I worked most of my life paying S.S. even while I worked for the U.S. Postal service I worked part time so I could suplement my retirement,but am not able to draw any because I draw civil service. WHY???

jerry guill
April 09, 2014 at 1:19 am

was told i could get more money. because of service. applied for it. got 67 cents a month.for which i'm very very thankful lol

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