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Ask Christopher B, Esq. Your Own Question
Christopher B, Esq.
Christopher B, Esq., Attorney
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 2677
Experience:  associate attorney
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I am trying to file own reduced benefits now and plan to

Customer Question

I am trying to file for my own reduced benefits now and plan to file for full widow benefits in a year. My diseased husband never filed for social security and it makes most sense to draw upon my own benefits now, and switch to widow benefits in a year. My understanding is I have to limit the scope of my initial application to exclude widow benefits. However, when I went to the Social Security office, they told me I could not do that. Am I correct in that I need to limit the scope of my application and file a restricted application? If so, can you please provide the social security policy so I can show the social security office when I go in and try to file again. Also, I am not sure what forms I need to use. What specific form do I need when filing now for my own reduced benefits while restricting the scope of my application (assuming that is correct), and what form will I need to use in a year when I want to file for widow benefits. Please help.
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Social Security
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

My name is***** and I will be helping you with your question today. This is for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney client relationship.

First understand there is a difference between widow's benefit (100% benefit depending on widow's age but requires death of spouse) and the spousal benefit (spouse must be receiving retirement benefit and it is 50% depending on your age, spouse is living). You cannot restrict your benefits unless you are age 66 (full retirement age) and this will not be possible if you elect to receive your benefits early. According to SS rules you will be precluded from filing for the restricted benefit if you file before full retirement age. The restricted benefits is also being eliminated by the new legislation going into effect on May 1, 2016. You will be grandfathered in if you were age 62 on December 31, 2015. So if you want to restrict your benefit you must wait until full retirement age and not file for your benefit early.

Please let me know if you have any further questions and please positively rate my answer if satisfied. There should be smiley faces or numbers from 1-5 to choose from. This extra step will cost you nothing extra and will ensure that I will be compensated for my time by the site.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
I know there is a difference between spousal and widow benefits...I am talking about widow benefits. The new legislation does not apply to widows, so that is a moot point. Can you please provide the social security policy reference that states you cannot restrict your benefits unless you are age 66, because that is contrary to what I have found online from other experts.
See following link for just one of the many articles that state you can file a restricted application prior to FRA, and then switch to widow benefits at FRA (http://hileyhunt.com/social-security-switch-strategies-for-widows/)Also, on the social security website (see section D in the below link, which states that you can restrict the scope of your application, but it never specifies age).Thus, what I am looking for is the actual social security policy reference that explicitly states what to do when taking early reduced benefits on your own record (and whether that entails restricting the scope of the application or not) and then switching to widow benefits at FRA. Also, what forms would I need to use in both instances?
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
sorry, here is the link for the social security reference I noted in my last correspondence: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204020
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

Is your husband deceased?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
in the very first note to you is says "my deceased husband"
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

No it says "My diseased husband", which made me think he was sick. Sorry for the confusion.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
oh, my fault...sorry.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
basically if you look at scenario 1 in the attached link...that is my exact situation. however, whenever I talk to anyone at social security, they are saying I cannot do that. I can cite scores of other articles that say I can in fact do that, and the people at social security do not seem to know what they are doing. I've gotten 3 different answers each time I call them. So I am looing for the social security policy reference that I can cite next time I communicate with them to demonstrate, yes I can in fact do what is described in scenario 1 in the linked article. http://hileyhunt.com/social-security-switch-strategies-for-widows/
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

I understand now, let me take a look and see if I can find the exact policy. Understand that scenario 1 also assumes that the "widow" will live to age 90. It does make sense, if your benefit is much lower than the survivor benefit to delay that survivor benefit until FRA. Let me see if I can find it for you as I know this is possible.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
yeah, don't worry about life expectancy, etc...I've already factored that into my calculus
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

Hopefully this does the trick for you, there is not that exact language that you would like to simply cite but the below language should put the SS rep on the right track.

Under "If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record" at: https://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/survivors/ifyou5.html#&a0=1

"If you receive benefits as a widow or widower or as a surviving divorced spouse, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. This assumes you are eligible for retirement benefits and your retirement rate is higher than your rate as a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse.

In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate."

https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204020#e4

“A widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse may wish to exclude a reduced RIB from the scope of the application and defer filing for an unreduced RIB because of the increasingly greater amount payable after FRA because of DRCs,” and that in order to do so the Social Security office needs to take get a statement such as “I do not wish this application to be considered an application for reduced benefits on my own record.”

This is the policy that allows you to restrict your retirement benefits while taking your survivor benefit (it is the policy you already linked). But it should work in reverse as well.

https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300615301#a1

"Where a correct termination of WIB occurs before FRA and the individual is again entitled to WIB, on the same earnings record, months of non-entitlement are eliminated from the RF at age 62 and/or FRA. For example, an individual files for WIB on her husband’s earnings record at age 60. At age 62, she files for higher RIB on her own earnings record, which causes her WIB to be terminated because her own RIB PIA is higher than her WIB on her husband’s earnings record. At FRA, she files for WIB again on her husband’s earnings record and receives an ARF for the months in which she was terminated due to higher RIB entitlement."

This shows that you can elect to take your retirement benefit at age 62 and then elect to take you widow's benefit at age 66. The situation is a bit different than you describe as the retirement benefit is higher than the widow benefit at age 62 and then the widow's benefit is higher at age 66. It does show that it is possible.

https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204020#e4

"The SSA-10-BK serves as an application for all benefits to which the widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse could become entitled within the effective life of the application, including the LSDP, RIB, survivors' benefits under the Railroad Act and Department of Veterans Affairs payments. When a widow(er) is eligible for WIB on more than one record but does not restrict the application to one record, see RS 00615.301A.1. The application must be restricted to allow the widow(er) to apply for a higher benefit subsequently payable on the other record because of lesser reduction for age.

NOTE: For more information on the validity and scope of an iClaim Medicare-only application, see GN 00204.059K.2."

This also allows the widow to restrict her benefits if she is eligible for benefits on more than 1 record before FRA. These links and language should give you enough info to be dangerous when you speak to the next rep from SS. What you want to do is possible and can be done. It is called "claim and file" and is just not used or taken advantage of much.

Please let me know if you have any further questions and please positively rate my answer if satisfied. There should be smiley faces or numbers from 1-5 to choose from. This extra step will cost you nothing extra and will ensure that I will be compensated for my time by the site.

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