How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Stephanie O Joy, Esq Your Own Question

Stephanie O Joy, Esq
Stephanie O Joy, Esq, Soc. Sec. Attorney
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 11699
Experience:  19+ years legal exp. - 10+ years owning/operating her own SSD Law practice.
Type Your Social Security Question Here...
Stephanie O Joy, Esq is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Im currently receiving Social Security of $348.00 per month.

Resolved Question:

I'm currently receiving Social Security of $348.00 per month. I'm a permanent resident alien since 1983. I was asked at my interview whether I planned to apply for social security in Canada as I'm still a citizen. I had answered yes but I didn't think I would be eligible until I was 65. I didn't know my social insurance number either. I have not applied for any benefits from Canada. It would be very minimal as I only worked about 10 yrs.
Now I'm being pressured to fill out 2 questionnaires, one being for a modified benefit formula. No one could live on $348.00 /mo let alone less. I was planning to apply for spousal benefits as I stayed home to raise a family. Please Help.
Judy
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Social Security
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 10 months ago.
Hi, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I thank you for your inquiry. I have been practicing SS law full time for 10+ years and look forward to assisting you.

Can you clarify what 2 questionnaires you were provided?

Also, can you specify what your legal question is? You have only asked for "Help" but since we are restricted here to answering your SS question, any help here would be in the form of providing information regarding a particular question.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,
Stephanie
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

I have a document they sent asking me whether I'm retired and am I receiving a govt. pension based on earnings not covered by Social Security. When do I expect to retire,month, year. What is the earliest date I could have received a pension had I stopped working and made application. They want permission to contact my pension payer. When was my pension effective.


 

Customer: replied 10 months ago.

They have also sent me a Modified Benefit Formula Questionnaire to fill out. Since I have not applied for anything I would just discount that . My main question is what can they do to my benefits??

Customer: replied 10 months ago.

My legal question is. Can they reduce my benefits? Am I legally supposed to inform them if I collect from Canada. Both of these benefits would not add up to over $15,000 which I believe I'm allowed to collect under Social Security guidelines.


 


Please respond,


Thanks,


Judy Allor

Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 10 months ago.
Hi again Judy, and thank you for the added details.

OK, here is the deal, and I will do my best to explain:

The Windfall Elimination Provision works to prevent beneficiaries who appear to be lower lifetime income earners than they really are, from getting a calculation formula for determining their monthly retirement benefits that is only to be used for those even LOWER then they are. Your $348, which I agree is not high, reflects a rate based on only the SS earnings you reported each year here in the states. However, you have a little bit of pension producing earnings from Canada as well. Because SSA thought you only had XX earnings, it gave you a higher % of your known average lifetime monthly earnings, as your benefit rate, than other workers whose full SS pension earnings were reported to the SSA. Now that it knows its number was wrong, it is seeking the proper information so it can give you the exact amount due you - i.e., it may have been giving you 50% of your lifetime average monthly earnings, while those with the life time income you actually have, are only supposed to get 45% rate applied. Lower income earners get a 'welfare' rate for SS, not the rate for those with substantially more years of working, more hourse, more income, etc., so that they get at least the minimum SS benefit amount. But again, that higher welfare % rate, which is graduated, is truly given to those with X lifetime income, not those with X+Y lifetime income. X+Y income gets closer to the 'normal rate' for normal income workers. The SSA explains it like this, "U.S Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be determined using a different formula under the Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP), when you also receive a pension based on employment or self-employment, (employment, meaning work) from a foreign pension not covered by U.S. Social Security. Social Security benefit amounts use only earnings covered under Social Security with a benefit formula that gives proportionately higher amounts to workers with low lifetime earnings. A worker with a substantial period of non-covered work during their lifetime appears to have lower lifetime earnings than they actually had. WEP reduces the primary insurance amount upon which benefits are based and affects all benefits paid on that record except survivors. The difference in U.S. Social Security benefits computed under WEP cannot be greater than one-half the amount of the non-covered pension received in the first month you are entitled to both the non-covered pension and the U.S. Social Security benefit." See the SSA-308 form that I believe you have been provided.

However, that being said, you do NOT get reduced SS UNTIL you can claim your other pension. You are not permitted, generally, to choose to forego that other income, while relying on the US SS system to then give you a greater welfare rate of pay - if you can take it, you must, or still be held to have access to it.

If you are not yet old enough to claim it, you can answer those questions accordingly. YOu will want to make sure you have accurate information from your Canada agency.

Now, to make sure we touch on all your comments:

I have a document they sent asking me whether I'm retired and am I receiving a govt. pension based on earnings not covered by Social Security. If you are not YET retired, and can not claim til a later year, then answer that accurately as such.

 

When do I expect to retire,month, year. What is the earliest date I could have received a pension had I stopped working and made application. They want permission to contact my pension payer. When was my pension effective. You need to answer these - it is very likely that you will not receive your SS, it may be stayed, pending your compliance. Silence typically works against us when dealing with the SSA.

 

Note also this: If you had 30 years of "substantial" US SS earnings, WEP is waived. If you had 30 years in the States, working, let me know and I will get you the chart of amounts so you can see if all 30 are "substantial".

 

Also, the WEP reduction to your $348 cannot be more than one-half of the amount of your pension that is based on earnings on which you do not pay Social Security taxes. Let's say you collect $300 from Canada - your WEP coul d in theory, reduce your SS by $150. So you'd be collecting between the too, quite a bit more than just the US benefit: $348-150=$198 + 300 = $498. As shown in this example, it is better to collect both, then just one or the other, despite the application of the appropriate % rate.

 


They have also sent me a Modified Benefit Formula Questionnaire to fill out. Since I have not applied for anything I would just discount that . I thought you said you are getting $348? Or did you mean that is what you EXPECT to get if you apply for your SSR? Or, if you mean you are getting SSR, but haven't applied for your Canadian pension yet, that is irrelevent, because the inquiry is whether you can apply and get your Canadian pension. If so, an offset applies.

 

My main question is what can they do to my benefits?? See the above. They can reduce by some amount not to exceed $395.50 (2013 maximum), and it also should not exceed 1/2 of the Canadian pension you can access. But it is generally true that applying for both means you make the same or MORE than if you only applied for US SS. So don't forego your Canadian pension, since you will be paying the offset either way, you may as well at least take the Canadian pension.

 

I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions.

Sincerely,

Alexia Esq.

Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 10 months ago.

My legal question is. Can they reduce my benefits? Yes.

Am I legally supposed to inform them if I collect from Canada. Yes, or potentially be charged with criminal fraud by misrepresenting in order to gain moneys you are not entitled to under the law.

 

Both of these benefits would not add up to over $15,000 which I believe I'm allowed to collect under Social Security guidelines. No, that is not how it works. As you may understand from what I posted above, we get a % of our lifetime average monthly income. Extremely low income persons don't get the "normal" rate, because they'd starve. So the rate incrementally goes up the lower income were are in our lives, as relates to our later ability to collect retirement income - so that we are not in utter poverty. If the SS rate was incorrectly calclulated based on incorrect information on our life time earnings that effects retirement, once that information is clear, we have the correct rate applied for our SS retirement to accurately reflect that we are not entitled to the rate for even lower income persons.

 

Let me know if this is not clear! I know it can be confusing.

Stephanie O Joy, Esq, Soc. Sec. Attorney
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 11699
Experience: 19+ years legal exp. - 10+ years owning/operating her own SSD Law practice.
Stephanie O Joy, Esq and other Social Security Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • I really was impressed with the prompt response. Your expert was not only a tax expert, but a people expert!!! Her genuine and caring attitude came across in her response... T.G.W Matteson, IL
< Last | Next >
  • I really was impressed with the prompt response. Your expert was not only a tax expert, but a people expert!!! Her genuine and caring attitude came across in her response... T.G.W Matteson, IL
  • I WON!!! I just wanted you to know that your original answer gave me the courage and confidence to go into yesterday's audit ready to fight. Bonnie Chesnee, SC
  • Great service. Answered my complex tax question in detail and provided a lot of additional useful information for my specific situation. John Minneapolis, MN
  • Excellent information, very quick reply. The experts really take the time to address your questions, it is well worth the fee, for the peace of mind they can provide you with. Orville Hesperia, California
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
  • This expert is wonderful. They truly know what they are talking about, and they actually care about you. They really helped put my nerves at ease. Thank you so much!!!! Alex Los Angeles, CA
  • Thank you for all your help. It is nice to know that this service is here for people like myself, who need answers fast and are not sure who to consult. GP Hesperia, CA
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • dylatess

    ATTORNEY

    Satisfied Customers:

    3086
    35 plus years of SSD practice
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/DY/Dylatess/2012-9-11_1968_BHBTemplePhoto.64x64.jpg dylatess's Avatar

    dylatess

    ATTORNEY

    Satisfied Customers:

    3086
    35 plus years of SSD practice
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MY/MyVirtualCPA/2012-7-5_44024_cookmegan1.64x64.jpg Megan C's Avatar

    Megan C

    Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

    Satisfied Customers:

    3247
    Licensed CPA, CMA, CFE M.Accy Also Teach Accounting courses at Master's Level
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/LA/LawTalk/2012-6-6_17379_LawTalk.64x64.JPG LawTalk's Avatar

    LawTalk

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1138
    I have 30 years of legal and litigation experience, including representing clients before the U.S. Social Security Administration.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FA/fastfile/2011-12-15_23139_Klein2011small.64x64.jpg R. Klein, EA's Avatar

    R. Klein, EA

    Accountant

    Satisfied Customers:

    254
    Tax matters relating to Social Security Benefits only
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/dkaplun/2009-05-17_173121_headshot_1_2.jpg Dimitry K., Esq.'s Avatar

    Dimitry K., Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    188
    Licensed in multiple jurisdictions, experienced business attorney.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FL/FLAandNYLawyer/2012-1-27_14349_3Fotolia25855429M.64x64.jpg FiveStarLaw's Avatar

    FiveStarLaw

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    137
    25 years of experience helping people like you.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/CU/Cuttinggirl/2011-10-29_03719_wcrop2.64x64.jpg Wendy Reed's Avatar

    Wendy Reed

    Enrolled Agent

    Satisfied Customers:

    83
    15+ years assisting tax clients with taxation and eligibility of Social Security Benefits.