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Stephanie O Joy, Esq
Stephanie O Joy, Esq, Soc. Sec. Attorney
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 13282
Experience:  19+ years legal exp. - 10+ years owning/operating her own SSD Law practice.
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My benefit check was reduced. I had been getting 1000 as an

Customer Question

My benefit check was reduced. I had been getting 1000 as an benefit from my ex husbands death. We were married for 20 years, then he re married for less than 15 years. My regular check for the last 8 months totaled around 1700. This month it was around 1300(a 400 dollar difference. How do I find out why. If you are able to answer my concerns, I would greatly appreciate your help
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Social Security
Expert:  Rick Martin replied 2 months ago.

Hi, I'm happy to try and answer your question. It's best if you are online to discuss. Did the SSA provide you with a benefits letter explaining what your benefit would be 8 months ago when you first started receiving benefits?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
No letter was received regarding the increase. My ex died in December 2015,and the increase started in February 2016. While he was alive, I received a $25 increase when I retired at age 62yr(2005 or 2006) it was a spousal supplement that I asked for. That never changed until his death, and because of our lengthy marriage( and it was nearly 7 years (longer than his second marriage), I considered it to be a death benefit for over 8 months following his death. I am trying to find the best path to follow and receive an explanation, and see if there is a reason. I had limited work history as he was active duty Naval Officer(commander) through out our marriage. He was gone most of the time, and we had three young children I did work part time when I could. After our divorce in 1987(married in March 1968) I returned to full time. There was no child support payments until he was garnished in 1998. One child aged out by then, and he was ordered to pay $250 a month for about 2 yrs. my retirement check was around $700 per month, until his death in 2015. I struggled on a small fixed income until the additional death benefit in 2016. This reduction now puts me in a difficult financial circumstance, and I need to know why
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I still need an answer. At this, point I feel your assistance has been inadequate. I am not paying an additional fee for a phone call, and I am unsatisfied, and intend to ask for a $39.00 refund from my bank. Maybe you can answer how to process a request. It seems your company is using a unfair, extra charge as a way to gain additional funds Please respond to my complaint or I will challenge the charge to my card. Thank you
Expert:  Rick Martin replied 1 month ago.

Sorry we haven't been able to connect online. On my end it shows that you requested the call. I'm going to opt out and see if another expert is better able to assist you.

Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

Hi, my name is***** and I am here to assist you. I am a social security attorney in my private practice – that is ALL I do. Please let me know that my post here is coming through for you by typing a quick reply.

Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

And please, if you see some box about phone call, etc. no worries, we can do this right here. Note that it appears you are not online presently, which is fine. I will start my response and check back with you later to see if you have been able to respond.

First, how old are you?

ALso, I think you are saying you collected some sort of retirement benefit back when he was alive - this would typically be either on your own valuable work record OR, if higher than your own, a "divorced spouse benefit". Do you know which?

SO when you say: "While he was alive, I received a $25 increase when I retired at age 62yr(2005 or 2006)" - an increase over WHAT? We can't collect a regular retirement amount prior to age 62, so were you collecting a "disability" benefit? You don't mention that, but I need to be clear.

Thanks, ***** ***** forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Stephanie O. Joy, Esq.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
A couple of years after retiring I learned that you could apply and receive a divorce spouse benefit. He was hiding his asserts and money, so the compensation was ridiculously calculated in the amount of $25...he skirted all around child support, and lived outside the states for about 4yrs...no money or support ffor his children. He claimed to work part time in a cookie store, but was a mortgage broker. The court ordered $250 a month(for 3 children, by now in their teens, so that was what was ordered based on his false claims in income. He told me I didn't need an attorney for our divorce hearing, so I did not. He shows up with an attorney that day , and I was basically slaughtered, and had no options regarding spousal/child support My children and I were living on welfare and food stamps, so he was ordered to pay back the state @$25 for years. When I began receiving this extra $1000 per month, I thought it would be wonderful to no longer struggle on $700 a month, and 2 months after his death in Dec 2015. The $1000 started and remained steady until my October check was reduced by 4 hundred dollars. I am having surgery for renal cancer in November,and when recovered, I will have surgery to replace my right knee. It may seem not worth your time to research and advise, but with so many health issues at once it would such a financial burden. If you are able to help, I would so very appreciative....thanks
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

Excuse me, I am here and it is worth my time to help people, or else I wouldn't be here contributing my time during my work day.

But, I need set answers to my questions because the narrative doesn't provide me what I need to help you. Social Security is not effected by prior state child support matters, typically - it is an insurance proceed based on a worker's earnings:

"[1] First, how old are you?

[2] ALso, I think you are saying you collected some sort of retirement benefit back when he was alive - this would typically be either on your own valuable work record OR, if higher than your own, a "divorced spouse benefit". Do you know which?

[3] SO when you say: "While he was alive, I received a $25 increase when I retired at age 62yr(2005 or 2006)" - an increase over WHAT? We can't collect a regular retirement amount prior to age 62, so were you collecting a "disability" benefit? You don't mention that, but I need to be clear.

------

If the above is difficult, I can try it this way:

How old were you when you started collecting A benefit?

How long ago was that?

What kind of benefit was it (i.e. your own retirement, disability, etc.)?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I am 70. The spousal divorce settlement didn't start until he retired. I believe we both retired at age 62 in2005/2006, and created the divorced spousal support shortly after. My children and I were estranged since 1987. He reached out to them when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in2014. My eldest son never spoke to him after our divorce, but m twins made every effort to reconnect, and all was forgiven I believe I retired in spring of 2008. I am not sure about my ex,but it must be in or around the same in order for me to receive a small portion of his social security, and he may received SSI. HE WAS QUITE A MANIPULATER,so it would not surprise me. While married he was an active duty navy commander pilot, and made very good money. After all those years as a highly respected pilot , even becoming a Blue Angel. 6 months before retiring, he was court marshaled and dishonorably discharged, with no retirement, no medical insurance,etc. have abandoned his family about 6 months later. I have my paperwork scattered and if you should want it, it would take at least a day. I do have accurate recall about this trauma in our lives,and thought maybe karma intervened to balance all that happened. ***** ***** South was born in Santa Monica on October 23, 1946. I was born on August 28, 1946, so I suspect he did receive social security or SSI around the same time. I will answer any questions you may have, and hope to find and resolve this issue. Thanks for your response....Sadie
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

OK, so you started collecting in 2008 at the age of 62. This means that you opted for a reduced amount on your own record, but if it was your own record amount, it means that your own amount was preferrable to a spousal amount (which would only have been about 35% of his full amount.)

Now, once he died, since you were married more than 10 years before you divorced, and because you were OVER your full retirement age, you'd be eligible for a divorced WIDOW benefit of 100% of his primary insurance amount. It sounds like that is what you got in or around 12/2015. Let me know if you have reason to believe otherwise. Now, usually that means if his amount was 1700, and you were already getting 700, they make up the difference to get you to that widow amount of 1700. So that would be your 700 plus 1000 widow addition for the total of 1700. So, assuming those numbers to be accurate, the question then is, why the $400 drop? And I believe you are saying the SSA did not send you a letter of explanation. So, let me ask you a few more questions. If these end up resulting in no expected drop, then it could be that the SSA made a huge mistake.

OK: In 2013, 2014, 2015 did you experience a big increase in income? Such as sale of a home, cashing out a big retirement benefict or investment? Anything?

Also, did you recently change your Medicare Supp plan or Advantage Plan or RX plan?

I look forward to your answers to these 2 questions.

---

No, I don't need any info about is military life or demise, as it does not effect your SS eligibilities.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I got a little carried away......have been fighting to forgive him I was able to speak to him via video a one of the twins wedding...he had been very generous and paid for the catering and open bar. When I spoke, I asked the guests to take a moment and find a memory that was important to them. He was too sick to attend and died a month later. My retirement in social security was based on my income earned. As I said we had a good life for over 20 years, and I truly believe he had a nervous breakdown...al long sad story followed. I was unable to work except part time jobs. 4 months after he left for a job in the Philippines (our family were priveledgef to spend a 3 yr tour After he was discharged, a very good friend(a independent contractor) offered him a job as a general management position, as the contractor had several projects and assets in the Philippines. He was offered double the commander salary, plus perks. My ex left in February 1986, and I was going to join him in May 1986, when the school year ended. Another long sad story..again! Bottles line he met a 19 year vet(medical)and grabbed him up.. She was an EST TRAINER, and had no reservations in manipulating a sad, vulnerable man into abandoning his wife and children. We had tickets to fly in May, as well as a series of shots and vaccinations. He and I talked and wrote often. I had no suspicions. I invited many of our friends, as we had planned a Mexican fiesta so everyone could talk with him. Our best friend happened to answer, he was Italian and really close to the boys...As I watched the blood drain from his face, I could not have been more devastated to find he was "in love" and stated he had no interest in his children(she was a horrible woman, and insisted she would not support my children in any way, and Brian was in agreement. It was maybe the worst night of my life...after more than 24 years together, he dumped me in a phone call!! Anyway, our lives were completely in chaos I knew I would need full time employment Five months later I was critically injured by a drunk driver, illegal and uninsured. We were stopped for a train and he was driving over 70 mi/hour, and we were trapped, rear ended and pushed into an Amtrak train We were seriously injured, and continue to to suffer bone, joint, and soft tissue issues I broke my neck, surgery and fusion, 2 rotator cuff surgeries on the left has had four repairs, most recently in February 2016. I have degenerate disc and spine problems, and had to postpone a knee replacement due to a diagnosis of renal cancer the day after I set the date for my knee replacement I have many other issues, and I really hoped my spousal benefits increase would remain static. I did my social security claim with an attorney, and I was less than a quarter to qualify for full disability, so initial monthly payments were around $630. Over the years it was raised to about $710. In February 2016 the death benefits started, and with that, my total deposit was s little over $1700. It has continually the same until my October check, with a $400 difference/reduction I may have answered your questions, and apologies for the life story...thought it would give you more, sharing pieces and parts of my life. It may explain my urgent desire to claim and receive what I am entitled to. Please continue to communicate and assist me. Sincerely, Sadie
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I have never received extra income in those(and any other years)! My Medicare and supplement (AARP:/United Health) it is about $185 a month(a small increase last year in payment)and it does not include a drug plan. My son was active duty Army officer/pilot who divorced in 2005 with a 2yr old and 6yr old He would lose custody if he didn't find a caretaker, and I qualified as maternal dependent. Fortunately I am able to get drugs through Tricare/Express scripts because of my staid as a dependent. Hope this info is helpful. Thanks, Sadie
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

Too much narrative. Again, here are the 2 questions:

OK: In 2013, 2014, 2015 did you experience a big increase in income? Such as sale of a home, cashing out a big retirement benefict or investment? Anything?

Also, did you recently change your Medicare Supp plan or Advantage Plan or RX plan?

I look forward to your answers to these 2 questions.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
No I have been living with my eldest son since 2001 I worked from 2003-2005. I pulled my retirement funds ( about $12,000) in 1994 and moved to Seattle. Never been able to save or invest My Medicare and United Health supplement has not changed since 2009,and have no drug coverage as I am my son's dependent and can receive drugs at no cost. Thanks
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

OK, it sounds like you received a possible welfare/needs based benefit in the form of those free prescriptions over the years, is that right? (based on being son's dependent)?

Are you still getting that?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
but it is a benefit from the military, and continues even after his retirement. Welfare and needs benefit was never designated except as a veterans retirement for life king medical for him and his dependents
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

Hmm. None of the standard reasons for legitimate reduction are applying. This is good, in that it could mean the SSA has erred (which is more common than you may think). You absolutely MUST bring to their attention the change ($400 reduction) and they can either fix it, or explain it if there are facts you didn't include here or perhaps may be unaware of.

I just want to double check any implications involving if you are a tax dependent on your son while also collecting a widow benefit. Give me some time on this. If I find no correlation, they you will want to hop on over to your local SSA office and officially inquire and get it fixed if appropriate. OK?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I was designated the for use of free Rx because he was a single active duty Army officer, and I was part of the requirement for a designated as gaurdian for his childtren and eligible for no cost drugs as a parental dependent This was a benefit for active duty and retirement. He has never claimed me as a dependent on his yearly taxes, and my status is only for prescriptions I also have access to the commissary and the post exchange, and have been and will continue to remain a dependent as such because I live with him(since 2001) and my grandchildren and am guardian for life
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

OK, that is good! There is a decent chance now that this is an error you can remedy by pointing it out to your local SSA. I recommend following up any conversation or visit with a confirming letter of the details mailed certified rrr, for later proof if needed. It is possible that a reduction was applied to your/your ex's SS number, due to a clerical error / 1 number off type mistake, and if so, you can get that corrected.

Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurateservice – 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 aredone. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions. Be sure to start future posts with "To ***** Esq., ONLY" if you want me to specifically answer it.

Sincerely, ***** ***** Joy, Esq.

Your online SS legal resource!

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
At your suggestion, I will go to Social Security office in my county. If follow is needed I will contact you as advised. What do I need to take with me....???
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 month ago.

I'd bring photo ID and the banking statements showing the change in payments. Also bring any SS letters you may have received, if any. This could take more than one appointment because at the first one, the staffer may need to get the understanding of what you asking about, and if she can't grab (or comprehend) the numbers or answer, she may have homework to do and/or direct it to a different more experienced person within the SSA. That may mean a second appointment.

I wish you the best and hope it falls properly into a correct place for you.

In the meantime, kindly click on the 5 STARS, so I receive credit for my interaction here from the company - as it costs you NOTHING additional. Thanks!

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