Created the Social Security Advisor Certification Education Industry in 2013.

Hey Marc!

The following are questions received from advisors across the country.  Contact Marc Kiner at mkiner@mypremierplan.com or 513.218.8505 with any questions.

Hey Marc! – I have a lady who lost her husband in February this year.  She is on PERS, so she has a non-taxed pension.  Here are the numbers:

Survivor DOB 12/23/1943

Husband DOB 07/13/1937

Husband Date of Death 2/4/2024

She receives $1,296/month from PERS

His SS income was $1,580/month

Seems to me that, after the 2/3 GPO offset, which would be $864, she should be entitled to around $700/month off her husband’s benefits.  But SS is telling her she gets nothing.

Anything I am missing on this?

Answer – You are not missing anything.  I am not sure why SSA is saying she will not get anything.  Is she receiving her own retirement benefit?  If so, is it higher than the survivor benefit?  That is all I can think of being the reason.  I would contact SSA again and ask for a complete explanation.

Hey Marc! – I have a question in regard to spousal benefit for my clarification.  If I have a client that is 63 and his wife is 62.  She has her own work record but is a much lower income earner.  If she elects to turn on her benefit early (age 62) and for a reduced benefit amount and her husband waits until age 70, will her benefit be subject to the earnings test? I think the answer is yes but want clarification.  When the husband turns his benefit on at age 70, she can apply for and get the step up in benefits.  Do I have that correct?

Answer – You are correct, her retirement benefit is subject to the earnings test at age 62.  And she is eligible for the spousal benefit boost when husband turns on his SS benefit at age 70.

Hey Marc! – A divorced client was married to her husband for 25 years. He is 25 years older and neither of them ever remarried. He passed recently and she would like to know if she can claim a “Survivor Benefit”.  She is now 62 and eligible for a benefit of her own of $1,916 at her FRA. 

Answer – Your client is eligible for a surviving divorced spouse benefit.  She has some options depending on what she is eligible to receive from her ex-husband’s record.  Deemed Filing does not relate to surviving spouse benefits. 

She can file for the survivor benefit now and file for her own retirement at her full retirement age or even wait until age 70.  Or;

She can file on her own now and file for the survivor benefit at her Full Retirement Age.

This would allow her to take a lower benefit now and the higher benefit later.

Hey Marc! – Quick question on the spousal boost.  Let’s say wife has a PIA of $1,000 and husband has a PIA of $3,000. Both are same age — wife starts at 62 and husband starts at FRA. My understanding is that when the husband turns on his SSB, the spousal boost happens automatically, but I recently saw that that is not the case. I’ve been telling people in my seminars that it usually happens automatically, but they need to watch for it. Is that not the case? Do you have to call Social Security every time?

Answer – In your situation, the wife will need to file an application, but the spousal benefit will begin the same month her husband begins his benefits based on deemed filing.  Since she has already filed for her own retirement she cannot file online and will need to call SSA (800.772.1213) and make an appointment to file.  If the spouse does not call she “should” be contacted by SSA to file but there is no guarantee they will do their job and call.  As an FYI, even if the spouse does not file for the spousal benefit until she is FRA, the date of entitlement will still be the month her spouse filed his application and will be reduced for her age at that point.  The spousal boost equals half of higher earner’s PIA less lower earner’s PIA. 

Hey Marc! – Do you know what Bend Points the SSA uses when estimating future retirement benefits?

Born in 1963.

Worker is 61 in 2024.

Worker will be 62 in 2025.

Does the SSA just use the current, 2024, bend points to estimate in the future?

Answer – Currently, SSA will use the Bend Points and Indexing Factors in place for 2024.  His estimate will be adjusted in 2025 to use those figures in the actual computation.  His bend points and indexing factors lock in for him in 2025 and that is what will be used from that point forward.

Hey Marc! – My client “Beth” worked for 20+ years in an occupation covered under Social Security. For the last 10 years, she has worked for a non-profit physicians group connected to Ohio State University and has had no Social Security withholding. The employer does not have a pension plan and she is not covered under the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System or any other non-covered pension. The employer does offer a 403b plan with a generous match and profit-sharing contributions. Beth has recently applied for Social Security. SSA is questioning her earnings record as she has not paid into Social Security with her current employer, and they indicated her benefits may be subject to WEP.  She told SSA she had no pension and they proceeded to ask for statements and information regarding the 403b, her IRA’s, etc.  I do not believe she is subject to WEP since she does not have a non-covered pension and I do not believe they are entitled to ask for her 403b or IRA information. Are there any statutory provisions I can relay to the SSA to get us on the same page and get them to approve her application without restriction? Perhaps a declaration from her employer that there is no pension plan. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Answer – Social Security will consider this a non-covered plan and she will be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).  If Beth does not provide the information requested her benefits will either not begin or SSA will apply the full WEP offset to her benefit payment.  They will base this on the Program Operations Manual System (POMS)  section RS 00605.364.  See the following link – https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300605364 for more information.

Hope to see you in Chicago on June 27th. 

Hey Marc! – Have a prospect whose wife has a green card. She is from Japan and has maintained her citizenship.  When he files for Soc Sec benefits, will she be eligible for a spousal benefit on his record?  I do not know if her green card, and maintaining her Japanese citizenship is an issue?

Answer – Citizenship is not a requirement.  As long as they are married, and they lived in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years she will be eligible for benefits.

Hey Marc! – It’s good to have some social security support for our client base and you guys certainly seem to know the stuff.

I wanted to reach out about a client situation.  The client is younger, but their father passed away years ago (dad was more than 10 years older than mom) and mom is now 60 years old.  I know that you guys mentioned survivor benefits being the only one that could be “restricted application”. 

Answer – The widow can begin benefits as early as age 60.  Benefits taken at age 60 will be reduced 28.5% from her full retirement age amount.  If she files for widows’ benefits at age 60, she can switch to her own retirement benefit, if higher, any time between age 62 and 70.  She is subject to the earnings test if working. Deemed Filing does not apply to a surviving spouse.  She may want to have a consultation and we will look at her various filing options. 

Hey Marc! – If a widow has her FRA for retirement benefits and FRA for survivor benefits in the same calendar year, then she must use the latter of the two (FRA for retirement benefits) for purposes of the earnings test. 

Answer – Regardless of when each FRA occurs, the retirement FRA date controls when the earnings test ends.  The year of retirement FRA controls which amount is used.

Hey Marc! – For a teacher that is about to retire, are pension payments calculated as income? What about if they are cashing out PTO (Paid Time off they did not take)

Answer – The pension is not counted as income for the earnings test but the PTO does count.  It would count in the last month worked so they can still use the monthly test to begin payments.

Hey Marc! – I think this may have been discussed on a previous webinar, but is there any way to “see” how the filing for benefits looks?  I have clients that have asked questions about the application process and seeing what they are walking through would be super helpful. Not sure if that is possible.  Any insights would be greatly appreciated. 

Answer – SSA does not have an example of an online application.  You can get an idea of the questions by looking at an old paper application.  The questions are not in the same order but generally the same type of question.  For example, the retirement application is Form SSA-1.  You can see a sample at the following link – https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-1-bk.pdf .  If you are interested in other types of benefits let me know and I can give you the form number.

 

 

Hey Marc! – I have a potential client who has a 21-year-old with autism and will never be able to work. The question is if one or both parents were to die does any of their benefit go to pay the cost of his care? They both are 60 years old and have saved a good bit of money to be able to retire but they are concerned when they decide to turn on SS if any of that benefit cares for the child. 

Answer – Their child, if found to be disabled prior to attaining age 22, will receive a benefit from the higher earner when they file for retirement.  This will equal 50% of their PIA.  If they die, the child will also be eligible for benefits and those will equal 75% of the PIA.  FYI, if the lower earner files before the higher earner, benefits are payable to the child on that record until the higher earner files.

 

Hey Marc! – Do Social Security statements include DRC’s?

Answer – The benefit statement does include DRC’s.  DRC’s are added in along with the assumed wage amount on all benefit statements.

Hey Marc! – I have a married female client Annette born 6/1958, who is undergoing 8 week spinal treatment and then possible back surgery.  The doctors are saying this has a 50% chance of success.

If she cannot work due to this pain, what is the best approach or process for filing for Disability?  Is getting an attorney needed or is it a matter of filling out the correct form, etc?

Btw, she was looking at retirement and filing FRA with PIA $2,900 current.

Answer – If Annette is expected to be unable to work and earn $$1,470 a month or more for 12 months or longer, she can file for disability benefits.  The difference between disability and retirement is the disability is not reduced for age.  She can file online and would not need an attorney to file her initial application.  She will complete a medical report asking for the names, addresses and phone numbers of any hospital, doctor or clinic that will support her claim.  It isn’t too difficult to do but does take a little time.  We don’t help with the disability claims, but she should be able to get it going without issue.  If she thinks she would not be able to do it herself she can call the SSA 800# and make an appointment to file.

Hey Marc! – We have a client in Texas that is an educator, paying into the Texas State Teachers Retirement fund. She is planning to retire in 2025 and is being told by an advisor in Texas that if she takes a refund of her retirement account and makes a planned move to Arizona after retirement, this severs her service credit and that she will then be able to file for Social Security under her late husband’s benefit avoiding GPO.

It looks like the Texas form would make the client’s account look like a traditional 401(a) employer retirement plan to avoid it looking like a pension for Social Security purposes.  If the client doesn’t take the pension and does the refund of her contributions and earnings, would the SSA take the same view?  Would she be GPO reduced since she was “eligible” for a pension?

Answer – According to POMS section RS 00605.364A2 ( https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300605364 ) :

Withdrawals of the employee’s own contributions and interest made before the employee is eligible to receive a pension are not pensions for WEP purposes if the employee forfeits all rights to the pension. This rule applies even if the employer paid the employee contributions.

Withdrawals of the employee’s own contributions and interest made after the employee is eligible to receive a pension are considered a lump-sum pension for WEP purposes.

Any separation payment, withdrawal, or refund consisting of both employer and employee contributions is a pension; for WEP purposes whether made before or after the employee is eligible to receive a pension.

The same applies for GPO.

If it is considered a traditional retirement plan the 403b is considered a unique payment and WEP and GPO will still apply.  See section C5 in this same POMS reference for more information.

Hey Marc! – I have a client, widower (July, 2016), has been drawing a surviving spouse benefit since he was eligible and just turned 70 on March 1, 2024.  He is wants to switch over to his work record, which he has been delaying. My question is, will he be able to back date his election to his own work record up to 6 months?

Answer – Yes, he has the option to elect benefits 6 months retroactive but will not only lose the delayed retirement credits but also what he received from his deceased spouse will be deducted from his back pay.

 

Hey Marc! – We have a client who filed and started receiving his benefits about a year ago.  His wife is going to now apply for hers, as she will be 62 this year. His benefit at FRA is more than 2xs hers at her FRA. They are applying online.

As they go through the app process online, there is no link or section to plug in his information. They want to be sure that any spousal benefits are received by her on his record.

Does this automatically happen (deemed filing), or is there another form that they will have to fill out to get those benefits?

They were also hoping that there was a way, online to view those benefits/estimate of what they would be as she goes thru the filing process, and they didn’t see anything as they were filling it out.

They set up a time to go into their local office because a representative couldn’t give them answers to some these questions.

Answer – She will show her husband’s date of birth and SSN in the marriage section.  When her claim is processed the Claims Specialist will look at his record to see if she is eligible for a spousal benefit on his record or if he is eligible on hers.  It doesn’t hurt to add a remark in the comment section that the application is for her retirement benefits and any spousal benefits she is due.  There isn’t a way to find out the amount of spousal benefits online.  The representative will give them that information when they file.

Hey Marc! – We have a client receiving kidney dialysis.  He needs to apply for Social Security Disability. He still works but can barely work anymore. We understood that if someone has renal failure and is on dialysis it’s an automatic qualifier for disability.  Are we incorrect? 

Answer – Kidney failure with dialysis is one of the conditions that can allow Social Security disability payments to be approved.  His work can be an issue, but he should file and get an official determination.  If he is thinking about stopping work he should definitely file when he stops.

Hey Marc! – If a worker is receiving benefits and they are over the earnings limit, which months would be withheld? Let’s say SSA needs to withhold two months. January and February or November and December or something else??

Answer – SSA holds benefits at the earliest point or as soon as they receive an estimate of earnings.  They would withhold January and February in your example.

 

Hey Marc! – I have a situation where someone has worked and is captured under WEP.  The client is currently 65, and believes that if he works another 6 years, he will collect his full SS benefits and government pension. 

Answer – If he has 30 years or more of substantial Social Security covered earnings WEP will not apply.  See SS WEP Fact Sheet 05-10045 for a list of substantial earnings.  Substantial earnings for 2024 is $31,275.

 

Hey Marc! – The husband is FRA but plans to continue working as an orthodontist and is eligible for the max benefit based on his income. He has a 20-year-old disabled child with Down Syndrome. His spouse has been talking with the Social Security Administration and was told the child is eligible for $680 month.

His wife works in the business and is eligible to receive $1,700 on her own work record.  Husband born June 2, 1957, and wife was born July 13, 1959.

The couple is looking for clarity on whether to take benefits for their child on the husband or wife’s record, and what lasting ramifications they need to consider for their own benefit.

Answer – The disabled child will be eligible for a higher benefit from the Father’s account once he files.  Based on the wife’s benefit she may also be eligible for a spousal boost also when he files.  Benefits will be subject to the family maximum.  If he waits until age 70 his benefit will increase but not the amount that the child or mom will receive from his record.    If you want me to take a closer look send me both his and the wife’s PIA.  We are not able to compute amount of benefits to child without each parents’ PIA.  A child is eligible for a benefit equal to half of parent’s PIA. 

 

Hey Marc! – Situation arose this afternoon, I am looking for some guidance.

 

  • Husband died in 2021 at age of 64 and had already begun his Social Security benefit.
  • 26 year old child is on SSI and is disabled.
  • It sounds like she (mom, widow) is currently receiving child-in-care benefit. 
  • She is about to turn age 60 this year.  She has never worked, no earnings on her own.

How does this situation work when someone is receiving child-in-care benefits and not yet survivor.  Can they continue to receive child-in-care benefits until they reach FRA?  Or does the child-in-care benefits switch to survivor benefit at some point?  Or can they receive both child-in-care and survivor?  I haven’t come across this situation before.  How do these situations work?

Answer – She can stay on the child-in-care benefit until her Full Retirement Age so the benefit is not reduced for age.  She would only want to switch to widows benefit prior to her FRA if for some reason her child-in-care benefit ended (child attained age 16).

Hey Marc! – Colorado is a common law state.  Mary and Lee were together for over 30 years until he passed three years ago.  Mary has attempted to get his social security but has had constant push back from the Lakewood, CO Social Security office. 

They said she was not entitled because they did not live together because Lee’s last address was different than hers.  His last address was the hospice facility where he resided.  Lee was there for two months.

Also required was a letter from a living relative of which he only has one who lives in Japan.  Mary took the letter down to the office unopened.  They had accused her forging this letter and other letters from people stating they knew Mary and Lee and one of them was with her. 

Mary has reached out to our local congresspersons, and they have never followed through. 

Mary’s income is $740 a month and her family has stepped in to help her each month. 

She has stepped up a timely manner with all the information required and still gets a kick back from the local office.  Our local Lakewood Social Security office is known for being mean, rude and lazy.  It’s really, really bad. . 

Answer – Living together is not an issue for surviving spouse benefits, only the lump sum death payment. Since he was in hospice that shouldn’t matter.  She should insist they take an application and give her an official decision so she can file an appeal.  Unfortunately, that is about her only recourse.

 

Hey Marc! – Have a client who is going to start Soc Sec benefits at 62. Her estimate is about 2,400 per month.  She has a daughter who is 24, and will be 25 in Sept.  She has been physically and mentally disabled and receives SSI (which is $947 per month). Will she get an increase when my client retires next year, and starts her Soc Sec benefits?

Answer – Assuming the child was disabled before attaining age 22 the SSI will stop, and she will receive 50% of Mom’s PIA (full retirement age benefit).  Mom taking benefits at age 62 will not reduce the disabled adult child’s benefit.

Hey Marc! – If a client starts the SS widow benefit before her FRA and continues to work, is the benefit reduced for earnings over the limit?

Answer – Yes, widows benefits are subject to the earnings test.  Benefits are adjusted twice for surviving spouses at age 62 and FRA.

 

Hey Marc! – I have a client just turned 62 and they haven’t filed or paid taxes in many years- probably 8-10.  My question is- How will this affect their SS benefits.  Will there be penalties? I know they have very little to no income for several years and I believe they may have been living off an inheritance and savings for a few years.

Answer – Social Security will not penalize your client, but his benefit will be affected because there are years without earned income.  Hopefully, he has 10 years (40 credits) and has enough work to be eligible for a retirement benefit.  Social Security uses your highest 35 years of indexed earnings to compute your benefit.  If someone does not have 35 years of earnings SSA will use zeros for the number to bring it up to 35.  As a result, benefits are lower than if they had worked and had earnings posted to their record.

 

Hey Marc! – Wife is collecting SSDI, but the husband with a much larger benefit has not filed for SSB.  Since she has SSDI, does deemed filing apply?  Meaning she will get a reduced Spousal benefit when the husband does file. This makes me think that she can refile for spousal at FRA if she wanted to get the max 50% benefit off the husband.

Answer – Deemed filing does not apply to disability benefits so the wife can wait until her FRA to file for the spousal boost and receive 50% of his PIA.

Hey Marc! – Do you know of any situation where a sibling can receive a payment off their siblings work record? 

For example, if sibling A is providing 50% or more for siblings B support?  Can sibling B file a claim for a benefit based on sibling A’s work record?

Answer – There are no benefits under Social Security to draw off a sibling.

Hey Marc! – Does the following seem correct?  I always thought that surviving spouse benefits will include DRCs earned by the deceased.  The following was obtained via a web search:

*If you delay your Social Security benefits past full retirement age and die before your spouse, your spouse may be eligible to receive survivor benefits based on your Social Security record, but they would not receive the delayed retirement credits that you earned.

If you delayed your Social Security benefits past full retirement age, you would earn delayed retirement credits, which increase your monthly benefit amount for every month you delay receiving benefits, up until age 70. However, if you were to pass away before age 70, your surviving spouse would receive a survivor benefit based on your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) at the time of your death, without any additional delayed retirement credits.

The survivor benefit that your spouse is entitled to depends on several factors, such as your spouse’s age, their own work history, and the age at which they start receiving survivor benefits. If your spouse is at full retirement age or older, they would generally be entitled to 100% of your PIA as a survivor benefit. If your spouse starts receiving survivor benefits before full retirement age, the benefit amount would be reduced.

It’s worth noting that your spouse may also be eligible for their own Social Security benefit based on their own work history, in addition to any survivor benefits they may be entitled to based on your record. If your spouse is eligible for both benefits, they would generally receive the higher of the two benefit amounts.

Answer – The information is not correct.  Surviving spouse will receive the death PIA of the deceased which includes DRCs earned up to death.  If e-mail referenced death PIA, then it would be a little more accurate.    E-mail says the surviving spouse will not receive any additional DRCs which is confusing.   First sentence in red is not correct.  POMS reference:   

 

Hey Marc! – I believe that I am WAY overthinking this, but I have a situation where a client (John) is collecting a government pension of $90k/annual – no SS benefits, a government job his whole life.  Hi spouse (Jane) worked and is collecting SS of $2,300/month.  There is a survivor benefit payout of 60% for the government pension to the Jane when John passes.  

If John passes, will Jane continue her $2,300 from SS, and roughly $4500 from the pension?  No reduction in her benefits from SSA?

Answer – You are correct.  The survivor government pension will have no effect on Jane’s Social Security benefit. Jane did not work for the government.  Neither WEP nor GPO apply.

 

Hey Marc! – A client recently lost his spouse and now he’s wondering if he got scammed. Does this sound legit?

About a month ago he got a letter from the Social Security Administration saying that there were funds remaining that had been unpaid to Shirley (deceased) and that they needed information from him in order to continue those payments to him. The information that was requested included Social Security numbers, bank name, account and routing numbers.

Answer – It seems this is not legitimate because SSA will not ask for that information.  If there is back pay due SSA will send him a form SSA-1724.  Otherwise, I would call the 800# or visit the local office.

 

 

Hey Marc! – We have a client who is the executor of an estate. They just received a notice from Social Security administration, stating that the decedent owes Social Security money for payments received prior to his death. The letter states that the executor is liable if the estate cannot pay. The letter also states they can seek representation and appeal. It does not give much context to why they are seeking the funds back. Do any of you have any experience with this or know someone who can help them.

Answer – This seems off to me.  The executor of the estate is not liable for an overpayment made to the deceased.  It is hard to tell without seeing the letter, but it does not seem legitimate.  I would advise the executor to call the Social Security Administration or visit the local office and question the overpayment before making any payment.

 

Hey Marc! – If I have a client who was permanently disabled and was drawing disabled benefits based upon his prior salaried employment, but then returned to work as a self-employed individual, would he still be eligible for SS benefits upon retirement based off his years as a salaried employee? Would they still qualify for spousal benefits?

Answer – The salary from the salaried employment and the self-employment would all be considered when computing the retirement benefit.  Entitlement to spousal benefits would be based on the new PIA.

 

 

Hey Marc! – I applied for benefits in December, 2023 at age 68.

A friend turned 67 on January 23rd, 2024.  He will pull his SS shortly; however, he will receive a lump-sum payment of $15,000 for 6-months of Retroactive Benefits. (Marc – Not sure if 6 months is available as retro period cannot precede FRA.)

My question is why didn’t SSA reveal this to me when I applied for Social Security?  What are the rules regarding retroactive benefits?

Answer – Up to 6 months of retroactive benefits are available for an individual who files for Social Security retirement benefits after they reach their full retirement age.  The retroactive period cannot go back past the month the attained full retirement age.  If your client was past full retirement age when he filed Social Security should have discussed the 6-month retro period available.  Keep in mind if you take the 6 months retro you lose delayed retirement credits and the 4% increase.  SSA will usually tell folks about the possibility of receiving 6-months of retro benefits. 

 

Hey Marc! – An interesting post from Larry Kotlikoff – on a topic I asked you about a couple of months ago. When I looked at my current statement, I couldn’t get the numbers to work out this year. My FRA is 67, and each year after FRA, the higher numbers were not accurately showing my DRCs. We didn’t think much of it, and I’m not claiming, so I let it drop.

But now, Larry is writing about similar – yet still wrong – calculations from the SSA on statements. And, he’s not getting any intel from the SSA.

Thought I’d ask you if you know what is going on. I think it’s clear that something is wrong in the SSA estimator tool. I just can’t figure out what. Not sure any of Larry’s ideas are correct, except that the tool is broken.

Answer – No one seems to be able to replicate this issue so I am not sure what caused it but I plan to keep an eye out to see if it is an issue with anyone else.

 

Hey Marc! – We have a client who is planning to go back to work and will be earning over the limit for the annual earnings test.  He understands that SSA will reduce his benefits in the first months of the calendar year based on the estimated earnings he reports. His question to me is what happens with his Medicare premiums during the months that he doesn’t receive SS benefits since the premiums are currently coming out of his monthly SS benefits? I didn’t have an answer and told him I know someone who does!  😊

Answer – It depends on how many benefit checks will be withheld.  Normally SSA will wait and collect the monthly premiums the first month benefits are due but if it is more than 3 months Medicare will send a bill for the payment.

E-mail from a client – The VA has determined that I am now entitled to disability benefits as a result of my service in Viet Nam. My question is how these new benefits will affect my current payments of Social Security Benefits.

Currently my monthly benefits are;

Social Security monthly payment $3,600.90 minus my medical payment of $164.90.

VA Disability monthly payment $1,933.15.

Please advise of what if anything I need to do?

Answer – Your VA benefit will have no effect on your Social Security benefit.  You do not need to notify Social Security of the benefit.

Hey Marc! – A woman who is about a year out from collecting Social Security had a problem of her own making when she was a young girl. When she was in school, they handed out the forms in Catholic Schools to apply for a Social Security card. Her parents had never given her a middle name, and having gone to Catholic school and received her confirmation, she put her confirmation middle name on the form.  To this day, her SS card reflects that middle initial that doesn’t exist on any other legal documents and will likely present a future problem for her. 

They’re attending my seminar next week, and I’m hoping to be able to provide them with some guidance.  Even better, if there’s a particular form or procedure to follow, I’d love to have it outlined for them as a solution I could hand them when they check into the event.

Answer – The individual needs to go into her local office with her birth certificate and any documentation showing her confirmation name.  Should not be a problem.  SSA can reissue a card without the middle name.

Hey Marc! – I have a client who began her benefits in September, with her first check being this month. Prior to receiving SS benefits, she was paying for Medicare via check. She paid for her November benefits this month but received her statement from Social Security and they are withholding Medicare payments in the October check she received. Will that be double counting for October or November? Is there a way to apply for a refund from Medicare for the she wrote that double count with the Social Security withholdings or will it even out in another way?

Answer – SSA will send her a refund for double billing, but I am not sure how long it takes these days.  In the past it was about 60 days for the refund.  If she does not want to wait that long she can visit her local Social Security office and request the refund.

Hey Marc! – Would you be so kind to look at this Social Security question that my client presented to me?

Client – I’m trying to figure out when we should think about Katie starting to draw a social security. I’m now 70 and have started drawing (I delayed until I reached 70) and she’s now 64 (Date of Birth: 8/18/1959). If she were to file at her full retirement (which would be at 66 years and 10 months old), she would be entitled to half of my social system security or hers at FRA, correct? Problem is that I can’t tell what my PIA is now that I’m drawing (My Date of Birth is 5/24/1953 so I began drawing on 6/1/2023). That never shows up anymore on the social security website when I log in. So it’s hard to compare what the spousal benefit would be versus her own benefit. Can you help with that?” Marc, thank you so much for your help in providing clarity to this client question. I finally need to take the time and get your designation! I AGREE.

Answer – Wife should consider filing at current age (64).  Her own retirement benefit will be reduced along with the spousal boost as she is under FRA.  The spousal boost will be added to her retirement benefit when she files. The Spouse Benefit Boost equals half of higher earning spouse PIA, (FRA benefit), less lower earning spouse PIA.

But, with a 6-year difference in age, she will receive a larger widow benefit upon passing of husband.  So, taking her benefits now might make sense.

Client can contact SSA to obtain PIA and determine amount of spousal boost payable to wife.  We can also compute.  Our fee is $295.  To proceed send:

 

  1. Wife’s SS statement
  2. Send husbands total earnings history.  This earnings statement can be found in the online account.  When you log in go to the bottom of the home page and look for the heading “Earnings”.  Click on “Review Your Full Earnings Record Now”.

Hey Marc! – A client born Dec of 1958, turning 65 in Dec. He has been drawing SS benefits since November, 2022. This year he has earned $20k in working part time income. PLUS $2k in a military pension, $152/month in military disability, and $480/month in a pension from another company.

Will the client have to payback some of his Social Security benefits because he is over the income limit for the year? What income goes into this calculation? Is there any income that is excluded? The client wants to withdraw $35k from their retirement account but wants to minimize the impact on his Social Security benefits (which sounds like it will be hard to do). Let me know what you think. I appreciate the help! Let me know if I need to clarify anything.

Answer – The military pension, military disability and the pension from another company are not included in the annual earnings test as this income is not considered earned income.  The earnings limitation for 2023 is $21,240 and only if his part time job went over will he be penalized.  Only earned income is included in the annual earnings test. Distributions from a retirement plan is not earned income and has no impact.  Of course, pension distributions might impact the taxability of Social Security benefits.

This will allow you to check in for:

  • Scheduled and non-scheduled appointments.
  • Services—including requesting a replacement Social Security card, a benefit verification letter, proof of income, and more.

For Mobile Check-In Express to work, you must be at the Social Security office and have location services on. You should also make sure you’re using the latest version of your internet browser. 

Link to blog post is here: https://blog.ssa.gov/save-your-place-in-line-with-mobile-check-in-express/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Marc

 

Received this e-mail from SSA.  Folks living abroad can now create an online account. 

Email states that “People living abroad can now create a personal my Social Security account and access many of our online services using ID.me.

Visit our Advocates Page to learn more. “

Hey Marc! – A client of mine was told she had to have taxes taken out of her SS.  I don’t think the source of information was very reliable and wanted to ask you.  

She started receiving widow benefits in February which is when she reached her FRA.  She receives a small pension and still works FT but only makes about $30,000/year. 

If there a reason someone would need to have taxes deducted from their SS benefits? Is there a form she would need to fill out to have this stopped?

Answer – Tax deductions are not required.   You can voluntarily request a percentage be deducted on form W-4V.  This can be found online and submitted to her local office.  It’s her choice.  I completed Form W-4V and having Federal income taxes withheld from my Social Security benefits. 

A new blog was recently posted on the Social Security Administration website, titled “Save Your Place in Line with Mobile Check-in Express.

Hey Marc! – I was asked a question that I need clarification on.

Husband and wife born in 1965.  Wife has 40 credits and is eligible for Social Security to earn $600 at age 62.  She has been a stay-at-home mom for many years.

Husband has 40 credits and will qualify for $3,500 at age 67.

If Wife starts her SSB at 62 can she switch to his after he activates at 67? 

Answer – The spousal benefit boost will be added to her reduced benefit when husband begins SSB. The Spouse Benefit Boost equals half of higher earning spouse PIA less lower earning spouse PIA.  She will not receive half of husband’s PIA as she took her own retirement benefit early.

Hey Marc! – What is the updated figure to earn a SS credit in 2024? 

Answer – To earn a credit in 2023 you must earn $1,640.  To earn a credit in 2024 you must earn $1,730.  Did you get the 2024 Fact Sheet showing lots of changes? 

Hey Marc! – A client claimed her own benefit when she turned 62 last year. Her ex turned 62 this year which qualifies her for a greater spousal benefit. When she called Social Security to claim off her ex, the representative recommended she defer spousal for a larger future benefit. This doesn’t seem right considering the deemed filing rule. Is this an option if she was born after 1/1/1954?

Answer – Deemed filing applies and she is required to file on her ex-spouses work record since she has filed on her own.  Reference POMS section GN 00204.035C4.  Section E2 gives an example.  She should contact Social Security and make an appointment to file for the benefit.  The birthdate of 1.1.1954 does not apply.

2024 COLA – 3.2%. Press Release

FICA wage base – $168,600

Earned Income to obtain one credit – $1,730

Earnings test – $22,320 ($1,860 monthly amount)

Earnings test (year of attaining FRA) – $59,520 ($4,960 monthly amount)

Average retirement benefit – $1,907

SSA COLA 2024 Fact Sheet https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2024.pdf

Bend Points:

Bend Point 1 – $1,174

Bend Point 2 – $7,078

COLA for 2024 – 3.2%

Hey Marc! – I just wanted to clarify my last email and I thank you so much for your expertise and help. I have a sixty-two-year-old woman who was married to a gentleman for over fourteen years they divorced ten years ago.  She never remarried, he did. He is now seventy-two and drawing Social Security retirement benefit.  Is she entitled to receive 50% of his FRA benefit and let her own grow via the DRCs as long as she does this before 12-31-2023?

Answer – She cannot take off ex-spouse and delay her own as she was not born by 1.1.1954.   When she files, deemed filing requires her to take her own benefit.  The spousal boost will be added to her benefit if eligible.  The Spouse Boost equals half of higher earning spouse PIA less lower earning spouse PIA. 

Hey Marc! –One of my FA’s has a client who started taking Social Security benefits at age 62. Her Full Retirement Age is 66 years and 8 months. She was born in 1958 and is currently age 65. She is receiving 1099 income that she is referring to as “deferred comp” from when she was working and being distributed this year. Does this 1099 income “deferred comp” factor into the earnings test?  She is retired.

Answer – If she retired, and the income is for services performed before retirement it will not count toward the earnings test.

P.S. – SSA will publish the 2024 COLA Fact Sheet tomorrow (Thursday)

Hey Marc! – I am both a Canadian & US citizen with years of substantial earnings in both Canada and USA. I believe my situation is covered by the Canada – US Social Security Agreement and want to apply for early social security at age 62 early next year. I am not sure of the best way to apply given my personal situation and whether I need to fill out Social Security form SSA 2490 – BK or not. Hoping to have a consultation with you folks. I live in the state of Washington. Look forward to hearing from you, thanks so much!

Answer – File an application for the U.S. benefits at your local office.  I would make an appointment to either file over the phone or go into the office, so you speak directly with a Claims Specialist.  File for Canadian benefits in Canada.

Hey Marc! – When will the COLA and related figures be published for 2024.

Answer – SSA will publish the 2024 COLA Fact Sheet on Thursday, October 12, 2023.  Stay tuned!

 

Hey Marc! – Interesting case, met with a prospect last week, both husband and wife will turn 70 by end of the year. Both are still working, do they need to contact Social Security to start receiving benefit, or will it happen automatically?

Answer – Clients must file for benefits to begin at age 70.  You should consider the use of the Restricted Application and 6 months retroactive.  One spouse files for own retirement benefits effective six months ago.  The other spouse files the RA also effective 6 months. Both will receive lump sum checks.  The spouse filing the RA will file for their own retirement benefit at age 70.  Time for a SS refresher!

Hey Marc! – Does deemed filing does apply to child in care (young mothers/young fathers) and SSDI? 

Answer – Deemed filing does not apply to the child in care or SSDI benefits.   Deemed filing requires folks to take all benefits that they are eligible to receive.  For example, under deemed filing, a spouse is not permitted to take a spousal benefit without taking their own retirement first.  After receipt of their own benefit, the spousal boost maybe payable.  The boost is computed  – half of higher earning spouse’s PIA less lower earner spouse PIA.  This boost is added to the individual’s retirement benefit.  Deemed filing does not apply to the child in care benefit or SSDI.  A child in care benefit is payable if a parent/spouse is taking care of a child under age 16 or a disabled adult child.  Hope that I did not lose anyone.  Call me at 513 218 8505 for additional clarification.  Hope to see you in San Diego next week at the WIFS National Conference.

Hey Marc! – A client worked for the city for 35 years. He receives a sizable government pension.  Client just received a letter indicating that he is overpaid due to the government pension (WEP).  Do you have any suggestions regarding repayment to SSA?. Client is 71 years old.

Answer – Your client is overpaid due to his pension from the city.  Apparently SSA was not aware of the government pension for quite some time and is overpaid.  He can just allow SSA to withhold his check until the overpayment is repaid.  Client can also pay back benefits over 36 months without any questions from SSA.  If more time is required, SSA will require that your client submit a form regarding financial condition.  Once the overpayment has been recovered SSA will send him the benefit he is now due.

Hey Marc! – One of our Social Security seminar attendees says she’s been told that her own Social Security benefit amount (from her own work record) will be reduced by half because her husband gets a pension from CalSTRS (teacher pension) due to Government Pension Offset rules (GPO).  It doesn’t seem reasonable that her own benefit would be reduced just because her husband gets a pension.

Answer – That is completely wrong.  Her own retirement benefit is in no way connected to her husband’s work history.  His CalSERS will only affect him.   If he dies first and she receives a survivor pension from CalSTRS, GPO will not apply as she did not work for the government.  Thus, she is not subject to WEP or GPO.

Hey Marc! – I have a potential client who is 61 and will be 62 in October. She is currently divorced and has not drawn any Social Security benefits. Am I correct in stating she can reach out to SSA and draw off her ex-husband’s record given they were married for 10 years, as long as his record his higher than her would be at 62?  This filing would prohibit her from claiming on her own record later? 

Answer – Due to “Deemed Filing”, she is required to take her own benefit first.  If a spousal benefit boost is payable, the boost will be added to her SS retirement benefit.  Both parts of her benefit will be reduced for age.  The spousal benefit boost equals half of his PIA less her PIA equals the spousal boost.  She is not able to draw off ex without taking her own retirement benefit. 

Hey Marc! – Below is a message from one of our advisors. This is the second time that a client is being told not to come down to SSA and just to apply online for a spousal benefit and a SS representative will call. That is what we told someone to do in June. They applied for a July date and still have not heard from anyone. What can you tell us that may help this person.

“My sister was a stay-at-home mom. She has planned to take half of her husband’s SS benefit when she got to FRA. You told me she should go to the SS Office. She did that today and they informed her that they have not done spousal benefits for 3 years. They told her to sign up on her own online and someone from SS will call within 15 days to review her options. The rep told my sister that when they see that she’s applied they will determine if she qualifies for a spousal benefit. She even checked with her Supervisor.”

Answer – The service at the Social Security offices is nothing short of “pathetic”.  I suggest she visit her local Congressional office for assistance and let them inquire into her claim for her.  Unfortunately, that is about her only recourse.  We will discuss this issue on our SS Open Forums and SS Updates.

Hey Marc! – I have a client who delayed his benefit after FRA for 4 months which equates to a total of $60 (DRC) which will be added in January. His current benefit is $3,488 a month gross.  What is the order of applying DRCs and COLA or is this a simultaneous calculation?

Answer – SSA applies the COLA to the PIA.  Then they will apply the DRC’s.  Yes, it’s the Government!  (FYI – PIA does not increase for DRCs.)

Hey Marc! – – I am working with parents of a special needs adult child. An attorney has advised the family that one of the parents needs to collect their SS benefit for the son to receive SSDI. That does not sound correct to me…is it?

Answer – If the child has his own work he can receive SSDI based on his record regardless of what the parents do.  If he does not have the work to qualify on his own he can file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits assuming his resources and income levels are low.  Once the parents file he can file on their work records if disabled before age 22.

Hey Marc! – I have a client that took his Social Security Retirement benefit at age 65, and his Full Retirement Age is 66 and 8 months. He did not take the Medicare Part B as he is still on his wife’s employer plan. He is diabetic and had his leg amputated below the knee.  Since he is already taking his social security and is age 65 would he benefit from applying for the disability?

Answer – He can apply for SS disability and if approved the reduction factors will be reduced.  Any month he receives a disability benefit the benefit is not reduced for age.  If the disability would cover the entire period he received retirement his benefit would increase to his full PIA.  Since he is already 65 he would keep his Medicare as it is now.

Hey Marc! – I have client that is asking questions about her 61-year-old father.  Apparently he had an emergency quadruple bypass back in May. She wants to know if he’s able to claim social security disability or will he have to wait once he turns 62 in December? Also, what happens if he goes back to work?

Answer – Your client’s father can file for disability now.  He does not have to wait until age 62.  If the disability is approved and he returns to work he would be eligible for a 12-month trial work period assuming he was on disability for over 12 months.  After the trial work period either benefits will stop or SSA will place him on an extended period of eligibility and any month he earns $1,470 or more he is not due a payment, any month he is under he is due a payment.

Hey Marc! – Does a person pay a penalty when they re-enroll if they lose their Medicare status upon incarceration?

Answer – Medicare is only suspended while incarcerated.  They don’t need to re-enroll when released.  They will need to notify Social Security and benefits will be reinstated.

Hey Marc! – My question:  My client is needing to get income now (64 years old) and just applied for SS.  He plans on working and making under the $22,000 amount so he does not subject himself to the earnings test.  If he applies for disability and is accepted, will he get bumped up to his full PIA?

Answer – If your client files for disability and the disability period covers all the months he received retirement benefits he will receive his full PIA.  If there are some months he received retirement benefits not covered by his disability Social Security will still reduce his benefit for age but only for those months not covered by the disability.

Hey Marc! – How do I figure out Social Security credits – is it strictly based on time/quarters worked?

Answer – Credits are earned based on income.  This year you earn a credit for each $1,640 of earnings up to 4 per year.  Last year it was $1,510.  Credits are not based on working in any quarter.  Purely based on amount of earned income.  Forty credits are needed to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.  You need to be alive in each quarter to receive a credit for that quarter.  Example – Charlie earns $25,000 in January and dies in February.  He will only receive one credit for the year as he was not alive in the final three quarters. 

Join us in Chicago on September 13, 2023. Discount of 50% for new advisors.  Code is “chicagoextra”.

Hey Marc! – I have a 69-year-old who began taking SS at 66. He is still working and making more money than ever before – $200,000 per year.  He’s made that kind of money since beginning SS.  At what point does SS adjust his deck of 35 highest income years?  I would have thought this would be every year, but he hasn’t seen an increase since beginning benefits, other than COLA.

Answer – (From Marc) SSA will add in new earnings every year.  SSA will increase SSB if additional earnings results in a higher benefit.  Additional earnings do not always increase benefits as prior year earnings are indexed for inflation.  Example – $40,000 earned in 1985 results in $120,000 of indexed earnings.

(From Jim) SSA does review the earnings each year.  If an increase is due it is usually processed in October with a one-time payment for the increase back to January and the higher payment then received in November.  If he wants to check to see if he has had any increases he can log into his online account and look under benefit and payments.  Look for any payments marked “One Time Payment”.  That would indicate he received an increase for the prior years earnings.  Otherwise as Marc mentioned, sometimes last years earnings do not replace the low year and there is no increase.

Hey Marc! – My client has been dealing with social security for the last year trying to correct an error she had selected when applying for Social Security. When asked if she was receiving a pension she accidentally marked Yes, instead of no. It’s been over a year with her going into social security, sending in documentation form her plan admin office stating she doesn’t get a pension from them, and still nothing! Any ideas on how to help? Is there a social security advocacy group out there? 

Answer – This should be a simple fix, but it can’t be done in the local office, so they are dealing with folks in the payment center.  I suggest she contact her local Congressional Representative’s office for their assistance.

Hey Marc! – I have a client inquiring about the Form SSA-2. Her question is below: 

“I understand there’s a form SSA-2 about collecting on your divorced spouse, that my daughter keeps telling me about.
When I applied for Social Security, I did have to put in my information about being married and being divorced, and I believe dates.
Is this SSA-2 something different that I should fill out regarding my ex-husband?”

Answer – The SSA-2 is the form for spousal (or ex-spousal) benefits.  However, when she filed for retirement benefits (form SSA-1),  deemed filing would have covered her ex-spouse benefit if she was due anything.  She can call SSA at 800-772-1213 and ask about the benefits and see if she should file.

Hey Marc! – I have a client that’s under the CSRS offset, is 63 years old and gets approx $5,731/mo.  Unfortunately, his wife just passed at 69 years old.  What’s the best way to determine if it makes sense for him to collect his wife’s ss?  His wife was collecting $2,357/mo?  Will the widow benefit be redacted by his pension?

Answer – Generally, your client will be subject to GPO.  However, there are exemptions to GPO.  See the exemptions in the following planner from Social Security – https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/gpo-calc.html.  I copied and pasted exemptions below:

Generally, we won’t reduce your Social Security benefits as a spouse, widow, or widower if:

  • Your government pension is not based on your earnings.
  • Your government pension is from a federal, Civil Service Offset, state, or local government job where you paid Social Security taxes; and at least one of the following applies:
    • You filed for and were entitled to spouse, widow, or widower benefits before April 1, 2004.
    • Your last day of employment at the job was before July 1, 2004.
    • You paid Social Security taxes on your earnings during the last 60 months of government service. (Under certain conditions, fewer than 60 months may be required for people whose last day of employment falls after June 30, 2004, and before March 2, 2009.)

Hey Marc! – Are there any circumstances or instances in which someone can collect survivors benefits retroactively before their own FRA?  I was not aware of any, but I read something in a Social Security guide from Fisher Investments that indicated that this could happen.

Answer – If the surviving spouse is under her FRA she can receive up to 6 months retroactive benefits if the deceased had taken benefits prior to his FRA.  This is called RIB-LIM.  If disabled and not yet age 61 SSA will allow up to 12 months of retroactivity.  See POMS section GN00204.030D.

Hey Marc! – I have a 69-year-old who began taking SS at 66. He is still working and making more money than ever before – $200,000 per year.  He’s made that kind of money since beginning SS.  At what point does SS adjust his deck of 35 highest income years?  I would have thought this would be every year, but he hasn’t seen an increase since beginning benefits, other than COLA.

Answer – SSA does review the earnings each year.  If an increase is due it is usually processed in October with a one-time payment for the increase back to January and the higher payment then received in November.  If he wants to check to see if he has had any increases he can log into his online account and look under benefit and payments.  Look for any payments marked “One Time Payment”.  That would indicate he received an increase for the prior year’s earnings.  Sometimes last years earnings do not replace the low year and there is no increase.

Hey Marc! – Do you have knowledge or experience in dealing with someone who is a citizen of multiple countries (in my client’s case USA, Switzerland, and Italy) that can collect both US Social Security as well as Swiss Social Security?

I have documentation for both and am trying to think through the details.

Naturally if you have experience I am happy to engage you for your services on this specific matter.

Answer – Switzerland is one of the countries the U.S. has an agreement with regarding pension and Social Security benefits.  If the individual has enough work to receive benefits from each country the U.S. Social Security benefit will be subject to WEP.  The agreement is attached.

Hey Marc! – Can you help me confirm the best way to begin the application process and which disability report, adult or child, is needed to apply for the Disabled Adult Child benefit? 

On the website, it states that this benefit cannot be filed for online, and you must call in to start the process which requires the ADULT Disability report.  However, in the 2023 Benefits for Children with Disabilities brochure it says you can complete the CHILD Disability report online and you will be contacted after submission to begin the application.

Any clarity here on how to guide my clients would be greatly appreciated!

Answer – The child’s disability application cannot be filed online.  What they suggest saving time is to complete the form SSA-3368 which is the medical report form which can be found on the SSA website under forms.  It’s not something that has to be done in advance, but it will shorten the application process by about an hour if completed in advance.  I would always call the 800-772-1213 and make an appointment first to protect the filing date for the disabled child in case past due benefits may be payable.

Hey Marc ! –  I have a client who hasn’t reached the 40 credits yet with his US SSA. He is also eligible for an Australian SSA benefit as well. I read through the SSA Australian agreement answered some questions but was wondering if he collects the US SSA and an Australian government benefit is there some international WEP offset with the US SSA benefit? Also was wondering if you had a contact that specializes in international SSA?

Answer – If the benefits are based on the combined Australian and U.S. credits then WEP does not apply.  If he earns his 40 credits and a pension is received from each country WEP will apply.  Unfortunately, I do not have any contacts regarding totalization benefits.  Social Security seems to keep those experts in Baltimore.

Hey Marc! – I have a client who is 62 and thinking of retiring and taking Social Security.  Her husband is 74 and waited until 70 to collect his retirement benefits.  They want to maximize her SS when he passes away.

She has worked and earned enough credits to collect off her own record at 62.  If she goes ahead and collects at 62 on her record, then I think the deemed filing applies and they will look at her record and his and she will get the higher of the two, reduced for age.  Correct?

Regarding survivor benefits, if she waits till her Full Retirement Age to switch to survivor benefits would she collect off his benefit without reduction or because she collected prior to FRA on her own record, will the widow benefit would be reduced?  I think if she waits there would be no reduction but if she takes the widow benefit prior to her FRA then it would be reduced.  Please clarify.

Answer – Good news is the husband already maximized the survivor benefit by waiting until 70 to collect his benefit.  She can file at age 62 on her own and if her PIA is less than ½ of his PIA she would also draw an additional spousal benefit (boost).  Upon his death, if she waits until her Full Retirement Age to file for widow benefits she will receive 100% of what he was receiving at death.  If he dies before she is full retirement age she can wait to take widow benefit at FRA but would lose the spousal boost in the meantime.  Clear as mud?!

FYI – Jim and I created the Social Security Advisor Certification Education Industry.

Hey Marc! – We have a client couple who lived in Canada for several years and then moved to the US and have been living here for the last 10 years.

The wife is a Canadian citizen with Canadian work history and Canadian Social Security benefits.  She is working in the US and plans to work to get a 10-year work history.

The husband is a US citizen and worked in the US while he lived in Canada and continues to work in the US.

The husband’s FRA is 67 and the benefit estimate is $3,592.  Her Canadian benefit is $558 at age 60 and $1,237 at age 70.

Is she still eligible for ½ of the husband’s US SS benefits at her FRA after he files along with collecting her Canadian SS benefits?

Answer – While the wife’s retirement benefit will be subject to WEP and will be reduced, the spousal benefit is not subject to GPO so she can collect as a spouse along with her Canadian benefit.

Hey Marc! – Do you know if Social Security requires when a spouse dies that the surviving spouse has to present a marriage certificate to SS to receive survivor benefits?

Answer – If the spouse had received any benefits from the deceased individuals record prior to his death a marriage certificate is not needed.  If she is listed on the death certificate a marriage certificate is not normally requested.  Otherwise, she would need to provide one.  I would wait until it is requested to send it to SSA so she knows exactly where to send the document.

Hey Marc! – I read an article that says that someone with a military background, mostly National Guard or Reserve forces, are eligible for additional SS wage credits added to their earnings record. 

Answer – If in the miliary between 1957 – 1967 provide SSA with DD-214 to receive additional earnings of $300 per quarter.   Folks in the military after 1967 do not need to provide the DD-214 as earnings have already been adjusted. 

Hey Marc ! – Have you heard of a waiver for Medicare Part B for postal workers?

Answer – This was new to me but what I found was it looks like there was legislation passed in 2022 regarding Postal workers and Medicare once the Postal worker retires.  If I read it right new retirees will be required to take Medicare Part B once age 65 and retired.

See the information from their Union – https://www.narfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/PSHB-Summary-and-FAQs_FINAL-3-24-22.pdf.

Hey Marc ! – I have a couple who married when the woman, Diana, was age 61.  She is age 64 and looking at retiring at the end of the year.

Can she file for widow benefits since she married after age 61 or is the rule such that she needed to be receiving widow benefits before remarrying?

Answer Remarriage after age 60 does not affect eligibility to survivor benefits.   There is no requirement she be receiving the widow’s benefit when she remarries for eligibility to continue.  Look for the survivor portion on the following link – https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/ifyou.html.

Hey Marc! – Hello, I am having an issue with Social Security, they say that my SS number is not correct and that they have no record of me. I have been to the office on numerous occasions with as much documentation as I have, and they always send me back for more. The most recent time they asked for my elementary school records (from the early 1960s) which I have been unable to obtain. This has been going on for years and now I need to enroll in Medicare before my 65th birthday in September and I can’t move forward with that. Is this something that you have seen before, and do you have advice as to how best to correct it? Thank you very much in advance!”

Answer – This is a new one for me.  Does she have a Social Security card?  Did she work under Social Security covered employment?  I am not sure why they need her elementary school records.  If the number she has belongs to someone else they need to have her review the employers who reported earnings under that number and find if any of those were her employers.  They would also need to assign her a number if she doesn’t have one currently assigned.  Since she has been dealing with this for a while with little to no help, I would suggest she take this to her local Congressional office for their assistance.

Hey Marc ! – We have a client that is filing for his SS.  He is also moving to Columbia, South America.  He is a U.S. citizen.  What, if any will be the repercussions?

Answer – As a U.S. Citizen he will continue to receive his benefit moving to Columbia, South America.  No issues.

Hey Marc! – If a person is still working and is paying into TRS (Teacher Retirement System of Texas), they cannot not take spousal or ex-spousal benefits?

A new client thinks she can take her ex-spouse benefits while working and not receiving the government pension.  She is FRA.

Answer – GPO will not take effect until she retires and takes her government pension.  Since she is still working and not receiving a government pension she can file for spousal or ex-spousal benefits.  The earnings test does not apply as your client is at FRA. 

Hey Marc! – I ran into a Social Security situation the other day and I was surprised about what happened. I had a client who was planning on taking a spousal benefit and I thought we could do the application online. When they came to our office for our appointment, we helped them log in and I couldn’t see the “start your application” button. Was it not showing because she didn’t have enough work history? Can you not do a spousal benefit application online anymore? 

Thank you for all of the great content about Social Security! I’m so glad I took your course. 

Answer – If an individual is already drawing a benefit you cannot start at new application from their online account.  They can still file online by going to the SSA home page and clicking on the “Apply for Benefits” link under the Apply heading.  They will eventually log into their account, but it goes directly to the application page.  However, if someone is receiving their own retirement benefit, they cannot file the spousal application online.  They need to call the SSA 800# and make an appointment to file with someone in their local office.

Hey Marc! – This was a question I had never had before and was hoping you know the answer.  I had a client ask me if they will still have Medicare taxes deducted from their paycheck once they are on Medicare.  

Answer – Unfortunately the answer is yes.  Regardless of age or Medicare status, if you have earnings, you pay the tax.  Same rule relating to FICA on earnings while receiving SSB. 

Hey Marc ! I have a question about starting retirement benefits after FRA.  I understand that if someone turns 68 in February 2023 and they start benefits any time after FRA month in 2023, then the monthly benefit amount will not increase for DRCs.  Individual will only receive his/her PIA.  For example, if you delayed the start date from February to August, you should have a 4% increase, $3,120 vs. $3,000.  How exactly is the extra $120/month paid out? 

 Answer – The DRCs earned in 2023 will be reflected in the January 2024 benefit which will be received in February.  Back pay is not paid for DRCs not paid in 2023.

Hey Marc! I have a client that is being told to repay Dec 2022 Social Security payment.  He did not work in Dec 2022 (the month he began SS). The SSA 561 doesn’t seem like the right form.  But I can’t find anything else.   How can he apply for this appeal?

 Answer – The SSA-561 is the correct form if he needs to file a Request for Reconsideration but I think I would contact the local office and explain he was under the monthly amount for December first.  Could avoid having to file the form.

Hey Marc ! – I have a client who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  He was laid off from his job and is going to be receiving a severance package for 30 weeks.

His SSDI payment would be about $3115 a month.  He is wanting to know when it would make sense for him to apply for SSDI knowing that he has a severance and I explained to him that he would be subject to the annual earnings test.

Also, if he takes SSDI now ($3115) will that take him to his FRA to receive a retirement benefit? His retirement benefit at 62 is less than his SSDI benefit so I want to be certain he can continue to collect that until he reaches his FRA.

Answer – Your client can file for disability now.  The severance package will not interfere with his disability benefit.  If approved he will receive the $3,115 until he reaches FRA.  At that point, his benefit is converted from disability to retirement.  The benefit amount will remain at the same as his disability benefit.  If he is at least age 62 he can file for reduced retirement benefits while he is waiting on a decision.  If his disability is approved he would go to the unreduced amount.  IF not approved he would stay at the reduced rate.

Hey Marc! – If Roger (born 09/01/1950) has a non-covered pension and drawing less in SS because of WEP , does that affect Ann’s SS?

I am thinking Ann (born 08/07/1956) should take hers at FRA which is 66 & 4 months and would receive 50% of Roger’s unadjusted SS.

Do you agree?  And what date should she use when applying for SS?  She will need to backdate it to her 66- & 4-month age.

Answer – It appears Ann is only eligible for benefits on her own work record.  Any spousal benefit would be based on 50% of his WEP PIA.  Her own PIA is $995.  If she files before July 1st she can begin benefits effective December 2022 which is the month she attains FRA.

Hey Marc! – When a SS beneficiary passes away, what are the rules for the benefit paid in the month of death?

 Answer An individual must survive the preceding month to receive a benefit in a current month.  An individual passing away in March, will not receive a benefit in April.  Here are the rules for an individual passing away in April relating to the benefit to be received in April:

 If death occurs prior to payment of SSB – US Treasury will take back benefits.  File Form SSA-1724, (Claim For Amounts Due In The Case Of A Deceased Beneficiary),  to retrieve final month benefit. 

If death occurs after payment of SSB – US Treasury will not take back the benefit.

Hey Marc! – I had a gentleman in a class yesterday with this scenario that I want to confirm with you.

He is age 62 and will be 63 in Oct – Birthdate is 10/13/1960.  He was married for 15 years and has been divorced 3 years.  Neither ex-spouse is remarried.  Ex-spouse birthday is 06/27/1973.  They have four children ages 5,9,15,16.  He made $118 but was laid off from his job making last March.  He is considering retiring when he turns 63.  His SS benefit was $2,333 at 62, will be $2,488 at age 63.  At FRA of 67 it’s projected to be $3,321 and at age 70 $4,118.   Will the 4 children be eligible for benefits of half is FRA up to a family maximum?   Will his ex-spouse be eligible for ex-spousal benefit at age 50??   There is a family maximum listed on his statement as a survivor benefit of $5,806 but this is not a survivor situation. 

He has a brother back in NJ who retired at age 63.  His is married with 2 minor children and his wife is 47 years old.  He said his wife is getting a benefit and so are his 2 kids.  No disability or special circumstances involved.   Is that possible – because they have minor children??  I thought spouse had to be 62. 

Answer – When he begins benefits the children will be eligible for benefits.  Their amount is 50% of his PIA but as you stated subject to the family maximum.  The amount for the family max shown in the survivor section can be used to figure the children’s benefits.  The ex-spouse cannot receive child-in-care benefits until she is age 62.  Whoever has custody of the children will receive their benefits.

His brother’s wife receives child-in-care benefits.  A current spouse is not limited to being age 62.  They can draw that benefit at any age.

Hey Marc! – I have an individual who turned 65 in January and was trying to sign up for Medicare Part A.  He has 38 credits but realized his 1986 earnings are not presented on the statement from the SSA.  He cannot locate his records – W2, tax return, etc.  Do you know how to correct a statement that is that old?  Any advice?

Answer – Unfortunately for your client without the proof Social Security will not add earnings to his record.  Is the company still in existence?  If so, maybe they have records.  SSA can use records from the employer.  If he had earnings last year he should present his W-2 or schedule SE and they can have the earnings posted right away.  If he needs to use earnings from 2023 he needs to have his employer provide proof of earnings equaling $3,280 and he can have 2 quarters posted immediately.  In the meantime, he can have premium Part A and since he has more than 29 credits he will pay the discounted rate of $274 plus his Part B.

Hey Marc! – Client is roughly 40 and has a (likely terminal) cancer diagnosis.  They are planning to work for another couple of years and then go on disability (private).  She wants me to run a plan where she anticipates passing away in the next 5-7 years. She is married (husband doesn’t work currently and used to be a chef), and they have 2 kids with special needs.  

Answer – If your client files for disability benefits or she passes away, benefits will be payable to their children if under age 18 or if they became disabled before age 22.  If she is working, she will not be able to file for her disability benefit.  If the children are under age 16 or were disabled before age 22, the Father can draw a child-in-care benefit but not until she receives disability or passes away.

Hey Marc! – Our client was told by a Social Security representative that she would have to go to a Social Security office to apply for spouse benefits.  Is this true?  Are there any other options?

Answer – Spousal benefits can be filed for online unless she is already receiving retirement benefits.  In that case she needs to contact Social Security and make an appointment to file.

Hey Marc! – A new case has come to my attention where the ex-wife of over 10 years died.  The ex-husband has remarried but remarried after age 60.  He went to SSA to file on the ex-wife’s record (widower benefits) and was denied.

  • Married over 10 years
  • Divorced more than 2 years (not an issue-MDK)
  • Remarried after age 60
  • Has not filed on his own record

He’s good to file on her record, correct?

Answer – Yes, he is good to file.  He should appeal the denial.

SSA just released the 2023 OASDI Trustees Report.  View summary via this link.   View actual trustees report – link.  

Highlights

$22 billion deficit in 2022.

66 million beneficiaries.  Benefits paid  – $1.232 trillion.

Both trust funds expected to be depleted in 2034.  One year earlier than projected last year.

Benefits payable when depleted – 80%.

Trust fund reserve at $2.830 trillion at 12/31/2022

Total receipts                $1.222 trillion

Total expenditures       $1.244 trillion  (includes benefits paid and admin costs)

181 million people covered by SS.

Marc

Good morning to all, I have been caring for my partner the last two weeks due to knee replacement surgery.  Sorry about the delay in sending Hey Marc! questions. 

Hey Marc! – I have a client that is 62 and wants to draw benefits early and continue to work. When he is issued his W2, will SSA look at box 1 (wages, tips, other comp) for his earnings limit or box 3 (social security wages). I question this because if they are only looking at box 1, he wants to put enough money in his 401(k) to drop that box down below the earnings limit. Seems it would be box 3 but I cannot find anything definitive.

Answer – They look at box 3, Social Security taxed wages.  That is what is reported to SSA as income and posted to their earnings record.

Hey Marc! – I have a client who is considering waiting to age 70 to draw her benefit.  Her husband started drawing his benefit at age 66.  There are 9 years difference in their ages.  He is currently 67 and she is 58.  If she postpones this decision and he dies before she reaches age 70, is she able to draw off his and allow hers to continue to grow to age 70 or is she forced to start her benefit, which may be more than his, depending on what age this happens.  She was a little bit larger wage earner than her was.

Answer – In your scenario, if the husband dies before the client files at age 70, she can draw widows benefits until age 70, then switch to her own retirement with all the delayed retirement credits.

Link to blog on the SSA website:

https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2023/?utm_content=pressrelease&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery#3-2023-2

Areas of impact:

  • Improve Service Delivery
  • Advance Equity and Accessibility
  • Modernize our Information Technology
  • Provides National, Comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave (to be administered by SSA)

Hey Marc! – I have a question for you. As you know, my Social Security payments are starting this month (about $3,500/month).  I am considering retiring from my job with the county and being re-hired, hopefully at the same rate I make now, about $85,000/year. 

If I am re-hired, would that affect the amount I receive in SS benefits?  Is there a cap on the amount I can earn without affecting my Social Security?

Answer – Since you are past your full retirement age, your earnings are not subject to the earnings test so you will receive all your monthly benefits.  If your earnings in a year are higher than the lowest year of indexed earnings used in the computation of your benefit you will see an increase.  If it is less the benefit stays the same.  The adjustment is effective in January of each year but it is normally October before SSA makes any adjustments.  They will send any back pay you are due.

Hey Marc! – Do you know whether someone receiving SS benefit can suspend their benefit – basically stop the payments and resume them at a later time.  You used to be able to do this, but I’m wondering whether SSA put limits on this.  I have someone needing to reduce their income for the next 2 years and they started SS benefits in January 2023.

Answer – An individual can withdraw their application by filing SSA-521.  All benefits will need to be repaid.  This is known as the “Do Over”.  Also, if someone is full retirement age or older they can suspend benefits and earn delayed retirement credits.  Only issue is if anyone else is receiving on their record their benefits will be suspended as well.

Hey Marc! – What is the processing time with SSA on SSA 44 right now?

Answer – These forms are processed in the local Social Security offices and the time depends on who is processing the request.  Some will process quicker than others.  If it has been a while I would suggest a visit to the local office and ask for a status report.  If this isn’t satisfactory I would then contact my local Congressional representative for assistance.

Hey Marc ! – We have a client who is 61 and was recently widowed.  She is still working, and not sure about her official retirement. Can you refresh my memory on how they rectify benefits if she begins collecting and then exceeds the earnings limit? I seem to remember it eventually being adjusted for any months she was docked for the earnings test but can’t remember the details.

Also, are the earnings numbers the same for widows as they are for all retirees?

Answer – The earnings test applies to widow(er) benefits the same as it does for retirement benefits.  If earnings are over $21,240 SSA will withhold $1 of benefits for each $2 it is exceeded.  Any month a full benefit was not paid as a result of the withholding will be considered a credit month and the reduction factor is adjusted for widows at age 62 and FRA to increase benefits.

Hey Marc! – Someone asked me if his wife could buy credits to hit the 40 needed for social security.  Is that a thing? Seems unrealistic to me and everything I’ve read suggests that is incorrect. 

Answer – Cannot purchase credits.  SS Credits are only obtained via earned income. 

Hey Marc ! – We have a client that is at FRA and plans to begin collecting benefits. She (and her husband) are primary caregivers of their two grandchildren both under the age of 16. They have a “split” custodial agreement for their grandchildren. They have primary custody at 51% and the remaining amount is split between the grandkid’s parents.

Would they still qualify for social security benefits as dependents or does our client need to have “full custody”? All individuals live in the state of Texas.

 Answer – Are the parents of the children disabled?  Both must be deceased or disabled before the Grandparents file for benefits to be eligible on their record.

Hey Marc ! – His wife who was born 12/20/57 is getting $1100/m from SS Disability.  Once Ron starts his SS at 66.8 will she be entitled to almost half of his FRA amount?  Or since she is on SS disability it changes things?

Answer – The wife will be eligible for a spousal boost determined by taking 50% of his FRA amount less her disability amount.  If she files for spousal benefits prior to her FRA it will be reduced for age.

Hey Marc ! – I have a client, Larry, looking to retire this August at age 65 and will earn 50K in 2023.  If he files for his own benefits Dec 2023 age 65.4 and gets his first check in Jan 2024, will he be subject to the earnings test for the Dec amount being that the first check doesn’t come until 2024?

Answer – The earnings test will apply, however, he can use the monthly test and as long as he earns $1,770 or less in December he can receive the December benefit in January.

Hey Marc! – We have a client that is getting some advice from Ohio SERS regarding a lump sum distribution and its impact on her SSA benefits that I am not sure that I agree with.

SERS is advising that she retire early to get the lump sum out prior to her benefit eligibility date.  They are claiming if this path is followed there would not a WEP/GPO adjustment.  The client turns 62 in June but will not be turning on her benefits until a later date.

Answer – It appears GPO will apply to your client since she does not have 40 credits of Social Security covered work.  It doesn’t matter when she withdraws.  It only matters that she takes her contributions only to avoid GPO (and WEP).  See the GN section below.

The POMS reference for Windfall Elimination Provision in RS 00605.364A2 states:

RS 00605.364 Determining Pension Applicability, Eligibility Date, and Monthly Amount

  1. Determining If Payments Are A Pension
    1. Pension contains employee and employer contributions
      1. If employer contributions or employer and employee contributions are used to determine the payment, it is generally a pension subject to the windfall elimination provision (WEP).
      2. If only employee contributions are involved and the payment amount is based on employee contributions plus interest, i.e., a savings plan, it is subject to WEP, only if it is the primary retirement plan.
    2. Withdrawals
      1. Withdrawals of the employee’s own contributions and interest made before the employee is eligible to receive a pension are not pensions for WEP purposes if the employee forfeits all rights to the pension. This rule applies even if the employer paid the employee contributions.
      2. Withdrawals of the employee’s own contributions and interest made after the employee is eligible to receive a pension are considered a lump-sum pension for WEP purposes.
      3. Any separation payment, withdrawal, or refund consisting of both employer and employee contributions is a pension; for WEP purposes whether made before or after the employee is eligible to receive a pension.

    The POMS reference for Government Pension Offset in GN 02608.400A3 states:

    1. Withdrawals from pension plans
      1. Withdrawals from a defined benefit plan, before or after eligibility for the pension, of only employee contributions plus any interest (i.e., none of the employer contributions are included in the withdrawal), and whereby the employee forfeits all rights to a pension, are not pensions for GPO purposes. This rule applies even if the employer paid the employee contributions for the employee (i.e., some employers may pay for the employee’s contribution).
      2.  Any other separation payment, withdrawal, or refund that consists of both employer and employee contributions from a defined benefit or defined contribution plan is a pension subject to GPO.

Hey Marc! – The heart of the question relates to the adjustment at FRA relating to benefits withheld due to the Annual Earnings Test.  Does that adjustment occur with only retirement benefits, or will that adjustment apply also to survivor or spousal benefits as well?

Answer – While Retirement and spousal benefit adjustments for credit months occur at FRA,  survivor benefits have the adjustments made at age 62 and FRA.

Hey Marc ! – I have a client who has 3 kids under 18 –> 8, 11, 13.  Do you have to claim kids on taxes to be able to claim for SS benefits?  What do those benefits look like for him?  His SS benefit at 67 is $2,765.

Answer – The children do not have to be claimed on taxes to be eligible for benefits from his work record.  The children are eligible for 50% of his PIA (full retirement age benefit amount) subject to the family maximum.  He will receive his full benefit plus any delayed retirement credits and the children will receive the balance of the family maximum minus his PIA divided equally among them.  If they do not live with him he will not receive the benefit.  Whoever they live with will file for the benefits and be selected as their representative payee and receive the payments.

Hey Marc! – My client, Jan, retired March, 2022.  She was born 9/1956.  She earned $118k Jan-March, 2022.  She is a widow and planned to collect on her husband’s benefit until she turns 70 and will collect on her own benefit.  She met with Social Security last March and was told she was approved for her husband’s benefit and that it would begin last May.  After the meeting, she received a letter stating the payments would actually begin in June because they were withholding the April payment due in May for Medicare premiums. 

She had another meeting in July because she had not received a payment and they advised that due to her earnings and the timeframe she took Medicare part B she owed back payments.  She applied for Part B while still working, in November, 2021.  At this time, she was told she would receive her first check in August.  They also mentioned on more than one occasion that the payment center needed to switch her from deferred to active status and that was the reason for the delay.

On an October call, she was told her Medicare premiums were now overpaid and they owed her money.  She did pay her Medicare premiums out of pocket for Oct-December, 2022. She has filed an SSA-44 for both 2022 and 2023 (she has no income this year other than Social Security).  In early January, 2023, she was told that because of her last 2 years of income her part B premium would be $527.50 and they will review it again in December, 2023. 

She finally did receive a check at the end of January, and they withheld $597.50 for Medicare premiums.  The SSA website now says her next payment will have the $527.50 withheld.  In January she was told on a call that she is owed a back payment for part B and D but no one can tell her the amount or when she will receive this.

Can you help me sort out why her payments began so late and how can she determine the amount she is owed for back Medicare premiums?  Shouldn’t her 2022 premiums have been reduced to due to her lower earnings as well as her 2023 premiums since she filed SSA-44? 

Answer – Assuming your client had not used the annual earnings test monthly earnings to receive benefits in the past, she should be eligible for widows benefits to begin effective April 2022.  Medicare premiums should be based on her modified adjusted gross income for 2022 since she had a life changing event.  Her 2023 premium would be based on her 2023 income.  She needs to ask for a printout showing what she was paid and what she should have been paid broken out monthly.  She also needs to know what income they are using for her Medicare premiums for 2022 and 2023 to see what the premium amount is based on.  If they don’t want to provide the detailed explanation of her benefit and Medicare premium amounts I would contact my local Congressional representative and ask for their assistance.

Hey Marc! –  had a quick question I was hoping you could help me with. A client of mine unexpectedly passed away in the middle of January. I just spoke with her husband who claims he didn’t receive her SS check for the month of January. This seemed a bit odd to me as she only just passed in the middle of January and I’m sure no death certificates were processed in time that would have stopped her benefits. 

Is there a way I can investigate this for them? Or have you ever heard of something like this?

Answer – The payment for January is payable but since the death was reported, Treasury did not send out the payment.  Her husband will need to file a form SSA-1724 to claim the funds.  He can find the form at the following link – https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-1724.pdf .

Hey Marc! – We have a client who recently applied for Social Security online and after it was complete, realized he entered an old bank routing number and account. Do you know the quickest and most efficient way for him to get that changed? He isn’t starting payments until April, so he should have plenty of time!

Answer – It depends on the status of his claim.  If SSA has processed the claim and it is just waiting for his first payday he can change the bank information through the online account.  If it is still in process, he will need to either call the 800# or visit his local office and provide the correct information.

Hey Marc ! – I have the fire chief asking me how to contest the reduction in his SS due to his Gov’t pension. Is that even possible? He is single and retiring in 2024 will be age 59. He has worked and you already provided how his WEP reduction affects his benefit.

Answer – Once he files and SSA makes the determination of his benefit based on WEP he can file a Request for Reconsideration, form SSA-561.  It will be denied and then he can file a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge, form HA-501.

Thought this would be of interest to Hey Marc! subscribers. Another Top Ten List!   Marc:

Please use this link to access the blog.

Hey Marc! – We have a client who is still working but thinking about beginning S.S. next year. Will be below FRA making $24,000 annually.  Assuming the limit is $22,000 at that time, will SSA withhold $1,000 of her SS benefit? Mechanically how does that work? Do they withhold all at once or over the year? How/when does it start to get credited back once they stop exceeding (if that is still how it works?).

Answer – Yes, SSA will withhold $1 of benefits for each $2 she goes over the limit for that year.  SSA will ask when she files what she thinks she will earn and withhold full benefit checks until the amount is withheld.  They will adjust the following year if more or less than her estimate is earned.  Her reduction factor will be adjusted at her FRA to give her credit for any months she did not receive a full benefit payment so her monthly check will increase.

Join us in Orlando on February 23rd!

Just received this email from the SSA.  Marc

Social Security recently redesigned the Information for Military & Veterans webpage on SSA.gov. This new design includes improved navigation to help you find information more easily with clearer graphics to explain what resources are available to you.” -Direct from SSA website. Click here to go to the full SSA page about this.

Hope all is well. I have a case that I’m working on right now where I’m trying to estimate a clients social security benefit. Could you possibly help point me in the right direction?

Here’s info about the client

She just turned age 65 and is divorced (divorce happened more than 2 years ago) and never remarried.

Her ex-spouse (married for 30+ years) is also 65 and has not turned on his own SSA benefit.

She is going to receive a SERS state pension benefit that we estimate to be $1,500 per month.

Her SSA statement on her work history shows it should be worth $974 per month at FRA.

While she doesn’t know anything about her ex-spouses SSA benefit, she says that he “made a lot more money than her” and has always worked in an SSA covered job.

Ex-spouse is still working and probably not looking at retirement in the next few years.

Here’s my questions:

  • Looking back through my notes from our training, it looks like she could claim on her own work history and would be eligible for Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse benefits without needing him to claim benefits first, correct?  CORRECT.   HOWEVER, GPO WILL REDUCE SPOUSAL BOOST BY TWO-THIRDS OF SERS PENSION.
  • I’m guessing her benefit would be reduced by the WEP CORRECT… Would the WEP OR GPO have any effect on the Spousal benefit?  SPOUSAL BOOST WILL BE REDUCED BY GPO.
  • Is there anyway to estimate what she might receive without knowing anything about the spouse’s benefit?  YOU NEED TO KNOW EX-SPOUSE PIA. 
  • How would she go about getting any information about what her benefit might be worth from SSA?   CONTACT SSA AT 800.772.1213.  WILL NEED TO PROVIDE DIVORCE DECREE AND POSSIBLY MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE.
    • Is it best to call in to SSA, schedule a time to meet with someone, etc. CALL SSA FIRST TO SCHEDULE A VISIT TO THE LOCAL OFFICE.
  • As we talked about in our training, it seems like you get different answers from different people at SSA… What’s the best way to get to someone that knows what they are talking about?  TALK WITH SSA AND THEN E-MAIL US WITH DETAILS OF CONVERSATION.  ASK FOR A SURPERVISOR IF NOT COMFORTABLE WITH SSA REPRESENTATIVE.

A question that she asked and I know what the answer is, I’m just not sure how to best explain it to clients. Any recommendations?  LUMP SUM DISTRIBUTION WILL NOT AVOID WEP OR GPO.  SSA WILL DETERMINE MONTHLY BENEFIT AMOUNT AND ADJUST ACCORDINGLY. 

  • The state pension plans have a partial lump sum option where you get a portion of your retirement benefit upfront as a lump sum, but you still receive a monthly benefit. People ask if that would help reduce the WEP effect on their SSA benefit since their income from the pension is lower.

Hey Marc! – Have the benefits on the Social Security statement been adjusted for the 8.7% COLA? 

Answer – The Social Security benefit statements do include the most recent 8.7% COLA.

Have a super weekend.

Hey Marc ! – Here is the situation. Dad murdered his wife, and he went to jail and is now out. They have a 4-year-old and the court gave full custody not to the grandparents but to the Great Grandparents. Dad is disabled. Would the great grandparents be entitled to In Care benefits and the child entitled to benefits until he is 18? I was not sure since it passed down to the great grandparents. I know there would be a family max. Can you break that out for me in percentages if this works?

Answer – A Great Grandchild does not qualify for benefits from a Great Grandparent.  If the Mother had earned credits the child should be eligible for benefits from her record.  If Dad is eligible for disability the child will be eligible for benefits from his record.  The Great Grandparents would be the representative for the child as his guardian.

Hey Marc ! – Quick question regarding SSDI:  I have a client whose husband died a few months ago.  He was age 59 and she is 60, and they were both collecting SSDI benefits.

The SS office called her and told her she’s eligible for an increased benefit based on her deceased husband’s record.  Is this correct or is there anything I’m missing?

Answer – She is eligible for a widows benefit at age 60.  Apparently his benefit off of the deceased spouse is higher than her SSDI.  Her widow’s benefit will be reduced for age if she takes it now.  She will remain technically entitled to her disability, so she keeps her Medicare entitlement.

Hey Marc! – If someone is planning on filing at the FRA and their FRA is March 6, 2023, should they file before that date or on that date? When would their first check be received?

Answer – You can file for benefits up to 4 months in advance so they can file now.  Benefits will be effective March and the first payment received the 2nd Wednesday of April.

Hey Marc! – A woman referred to me whose husband passed in November at age 46. She is also age 46.

She is scheduled to collect SS for her two kids ages 11,13. She isn’t currently working. She will go back in 2023.  Will her earnings affect the SS her children receive?

Answer – Her earnings will not impact benefits to the kids.  Her earnings will only impact benefits that she might receive.  She might want to consider applying for the child in care benefit while not working.  However, the Family Maximum will limit the benefits paid to the kids and herself. 

Another discussion with a client, (Chloe), and Probing SS Questions

Marc – When were you born?

Chloe – 1952

Marc – Are you married?

Chloe – No

Marc – Divorced?

Chloe – Yes

Marc – How long married?

Chloe – 20 years

Marc – Are you and your ex-spouse both eligible for Social Security retirement benefits?

Chloe – Yes

Marc – How long divorced?

Chloe – 10 years

We discussed with Chloe the opportunity for her to file a Restricted Application to receive benefits off ex-spouse.  Additionally, Chloe should make application effective six months prior to receive a lump sum check.  At age 70, Chloe will switch to her own retirement benefits. 

I believe that knowing which questions to ask is just as important as understanding Situational Social Security.

Hey Marc! – I have an individual that will turn 66 on February 13.  She will reach FRA in August.  If she starts taking SS in August or September, will her benefits be reduced, since she will start in the month of or later of reaching FRA?  I am reading some conflicting reports relating to whether her benefit would be reduced or not, so I thought I should just ask the experts.

Answer – She can begin benefits with August 2023 and receive 100% of her PIA.  No reduction for age 😎.

Hey Marc! – I have a client who is unable to download his XML files from SSA.gov.  He currently has filed for, and was approved for, disability benefits due to start in February (although he did just get a call saying his claim was rejected – that might be a whole other issue!).  Anyhow, I know the SSA system itself isn’t having an issue because I was able to download my own file.

Does the system block someone who is currently collecting any benefit from downloading their XML files?  That doesn’t seem right to me.  Afterall, it’s now the only document where you can go back and see year-by-year earnings since the start of a taxpayer’s work history.

Answer – I’m not sure what the issue would be.  I receive benefits and can download my file so it’s not that unless they changed something when they update their website.  He may need to call the 800# and ask for assistance.

Hey Marc! – If the person takes the FERS supplement at age 60, does that technically count as starting the pension and GPO will apply to the widow benefit? Or can the person collect the widow benefit at 60 with no GPO reduction and collect the supplement?

Answer – If under FERS, neither WEP or GPO will apply as the individual paid Social Security tax on their wages.

Hey Marc! – Just wanted to confirm with you – does the FRA estimates for someone that is reaching FRA in June 2023 include the COLA increases?  Trying to estimate monthly benefit and do a projection on income for 2023.  I am referring to the FRA estimates on the My Social Security Account login.

Answer – The online account should now include the 8.7% COLA effective December 2022.

Hey Marc! – We have a client who filed for SSDI and is waiting on the application.  I wasn’t sure, but she can file for retirement benefits while waiting correct?  And then if she’s approved, they will bump her up to the higher SSDI benefit, correct?

Answer – Yes, if someone age 62 or older files for SSDI they can file for reduced retirement benefits while waiting on the decision.  If approved the reduction will be removed for all months covered by the disability payment.  If the disability is denied they will stay on the reduced retirement benefit.

Hey Marc! – If someone has a State/Government job and is not having SS withheld from their paycheck, are they still subject to the earnings test if they collect SS they earned base off their work record?

Answer – Yes, earnings test includes ALL earned income.  SS covered and non-covered earnings are all included in the Social Security Earnings Test. 

Hey Marc! – It’s been several years since I’ve had a divorcee!  Since the rules changed regarding spouses where one cannot file and suspend and must file for benefits for the other to file on their record, does the same hold true for ex-spouses?

Are there any other requirements that I should know about?

Answer – As long as they have been divorced for 2 years or more the ex-spouse can file as long as they are both age 62 or older.  The worker need not file in this case for benefits to be payable.  This is the Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse. 

SSA has a redesigned website.  Yippe!!!   See blog – Link is here.

Hey Marc ! – How is WEP reduced benefit computed if beginning SS prior to FRA?

Answer – You reduce the benefit at full retirement age by $558 (in 2023) and then would reduce that amount by age.  If you want a more accurate number go to his account and print the earnings statement instead of the benefit statement.  The earnings statement link is normally found at the bottom of the online home page.

Join us this morning at 10 EST for the SS Open Forum.  Link

Hey Marc! – My client, age 67, is currently collecting his SS benefits.  He called SSA to suspend his benefit so he could start to receive DRC’s.  SSA told him he could only do so if he paid back the SS benefits that he had received so far.  She said that was a recent rule change.

Is that correct? If not, is there a POMS reference I can provide my client with?

Answer – To my knowledge the rules have not changed and your client can suspend any time starting with FRA.  POMS section GN 02409.110 covers voluntary suspensions.

Hey Marc! – Question:  Can someone remain on SSDI and Medicare when returning to work?

Circumstance:  30-year-old male currently on Social Security Disability due to 3 kidney transplants (1998, 2005, 2019).  This fall he returned to work part-time in a warehouse in a temporary seasonal job ending this month, and wonders if he should call Social Security to report his return to work. He also thinks he may be offered a full-time job there.

Q – Will he lose his disability from working a temp job, and therefore lose his Medicare?

Q – If he gets a full-time job, may he keep his Medicare for a period of time (especially given repeated kidney failure every six years or so?

Answer – The short answer is yes.  The longer version is disability recipients have a 9-month trial work period.  A trial work period month is any month they work and earn $1,050 or more.  The nine months need not be consecutive.  They will receive benefits during the trial work period regardless of their earnings.  After the 9th month, they could have a continuing disability review and either benefits will be terminated, or they can be placed in an extended period of eligibility (EPE) for 36 months.  This decision is made on a case-by-case basis and is based on the individuals condition.  Medicare continues during these periods.  It can last longer if the individual is working but still disabled.  It can last up to 5 years.

HOLIDAY SPECIAL WEBINARS

Your colleagues can take our class at a 40% discount during our Holiday Special webinars.  Tuition for new advisors is $477 versus $795.  Details:  (discount code is “nssaspecial”).  (code for current advisors is “returningw”)

December 27 & 28 (10 – 2 EST both days) – Registration Link.

December 29 (8 – 4:30 EST) – Registration Link

As you remember, we emphasize Situational Social Security and how to ask Probing SS questions to uncover additional SS benefits for your clients. At the end of the class advisors will understand the questions and issues that relate to every unique client.

Hey Marc! – My birth date is 4/30/58.  I will retire at 65 and one month 5/31/23, prior to full retirement age.  From 1/1/23 to 5/31/23, I will earn $150,000 earned income.  After 5/31/23, I will never have any further earned income.

  1. If I elect SSA benefits 6/1/23 will I have any reduction in benefits due to the 5/31/23 and prior earned income?
  2. Assuming the answer to question 1 above is no, how does SSA know my earned income ended on 5/31/23?   Clearly my 2023 Form 1040 does not reveal that fact.

Answer – You will inform SSA when filing for Social Security that your monthly earnings from June – Dec will be zero/$0.  The SS application will ask for this information. You can use the monthly earnings test in 2023 instead of the annual test.   Your benefits will not be impacted due to the earnings test.   The monthly earnings test in 2023 is $1,770.

Hey Marc ! – Chloe worked for the state and gets PERA.  Her Social Security report says she would get $746/mo benefit at age 62.   John will get $,2011/mo at age 62.  When we run Social Security Timing, the suggested timing is for John to take his social security at age 70 and Chloe as well. It says she would get $0. Wouldn’t Chloe’s benefit be reduced to a maximum of half her benefit due to PERA? Also, if John predeceases Chloe, does Chloe get John’s social security in addition to her PERA benefit?

Answer – I am assuming Chloe’s PERA is based on wages not covered by Social Security, thus subject to WEP/GPO.

Chloe’s Social Security retirement benefit is reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).  Based on her benefit amount, I am guessing she has less than 20 years of substantial Social Security covered wages.  If that is correct Bend Point #1 will be 40% instead of 90%.  This can reduce her benefit by as much as $558 in 2023.  It can be less if her AIME is less than $1,115.

The Social Security spousal benefit is reduced by 2/3rds of her PERA pension due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) (also known as Grumpy Partner Offset).  If John dies before Chloe, she will receive 100% of his Social Security reduced by 2/3rds of her PERA pension.

Hey Marc! – My sister-in-law turned 66 on August 15, 2022 and will reach full retirement age on December 15. She is currently in a residential Mental health facility but will be released tomorrow. She has not applied for Social Security benefits and the psychiatrist is telling her to apply for Social Security disability benefits. She has PTSD and is bipolar. She has not worked since May but has only been under psychiatric care for 3 weeks. They are currently telling her she can’t get a job at this point in time.

Is there any benefit to her in applying for disability benefits or is it too late considering her full retirement age is in 3 weeks?

Answer – I don’t see any reason for your sister-in-law to file for disability.  Disability has a 5-month waiting period which would be June through October.  She would draw disability for 1 month and then it would be converted to retirement at full retirement age effective December.  She can file for retirement to be effective November and it would be reduced 5/9ths of 1% or wait and begin with December with no reduction.  Unless she has been in contact with Social Security prior to November any retirement benefit cannot begin before this month.

Hey Marc! – I am not able to locate my earnings by year.  Has SSA removed this from my online account?

Answer – SSA did move earnings by year.  You can download your earnings history through my Social Security online account.  Log into your account and on the bottom of the home page you will see a link under earnings  “Review Your Full Earnings Record Now”.  Click on this link for the complete earnings history.

An advisor sent this phishing e-mail regarding their SS benefits/account.  (FYI – subscribers to Hey Marc! receive notifications like this prior to other advisors.  Please renew if you have not already per earlier e-mail.)

Subject: Attention! Dear: Deactivation Notice for your SSN ID:2023124909# Contact us..

Attention

All your SSN services has been terminated by the SSA.
To know more about the case docket please refer to the given attached notice.

Team SSA,

USA

This mail was sent to at 18-January-2023 12-49-09.

Hey Marc ! – Will the wife of an incarcerated ex-husband be eligible for a spousal benefit on her ex-husband’s work history? Would it make a difference if they were not officially divorced?

Answer – Only the individual’s benefit who is incarcerated are suspended.  Others entitled on their record will continue to receive payments.  If they were not officially divorced the spouse is not eligible for benefits unless the worker had filed for benefits and they are only suspended because of his incarceration.  If he had not filed before going to jail she will not be eligible because he never established his application.

Hey Marc! –  I took the NSSA program last June and was on your open forum last Monday.  Last Thursday I had a couple come to me with a “situation”.  His dob is 10/21/1953 and her dob is 9/15/1954.   They have had mixed messages from SS. They asked if he could draw the spousal benefit off her SS if she files.  I told them I thought he could but she has to file first.  He would collect spousal until he turns on his age 70 benefit next year in November.  I am not sure this is the restricted application, just filing for spousal benefit.   So for the next year he should get one half of her SS benefit and she gets her full benefit by filing, right?  It is still all a little confusing when the facts start flying with other people’s numbers.  I would appreciate any guidance you can provide to confirm or correct my thoughts.

Answer – you are correct.  He can file a Restricted Application for a spousal benefit.  They can both file at the same time.  His age 70 benefits will begin in October, 2023 and not November as he turns age 70 in October.  Consider the following strategy:

  1. Wife files for her benefits in November 2022, effective in May, 2022.
  2. Husband files a RA in November 2022, effective in May, 2022.
  3. Husband files for his own benefits at age 70.

They both receive lump sum checks.  Both applications can be filed online.  We can assist with the online filing.  Fee is $250 for both applications.

Have a great weekend.

Hey Marc! – I have a client who is going to be 65 in Jan. She’s divorced and no longer speaks to her ex. He’s an immigrant, but has worked long enough to get SS and is a little older.  He is already receiving his benefit. Let’s say his benefit is $1,000 per month and she’s entitled to 50%.  If she claims off ex-spouse now, prior to claiming hers, can she switch to her own benefit at her Full Retirement Age? And will SS give us the information on what is available off ex-spouse?

Answer – She must take her own Retirement benefit when she files due to Deemed Filing.  She was not born by 1.1.54 and cannot file a Restricted Application.  Deemed Filing requires an individual to receive all eligible benefits when filing.  Generally, an individual will receive their own benefit and a spousal boost if applicable. She should contact SSA for information on benefit off ex-husband if necessary.   SSA number is 800.772.1213. 

Hey Marc! – I recently received my SS Advisor certificate and I have a client that has a question about social security. The client is 69 and his wife is 74.  He plans to take his social security at 70.  With the Restricted Application is she able to switch and file on her spouse’s benefits?

Answer – She cannot switch as she has been receiving benefits for over a year.  The Do Over is not available.  Also, he is not receiving his benefits, so a spousal benefit is not even payable.  When he turns on his SSB, she might be eligible for the spousal benefit boost.  HOWEVER,  HE SHOULD file a Restricted Application and claim a spousal benefit off her record.  He was born by the magic birthdate of January 1, 1954.  He should make the RA effective 6 months ago resulting in a nice lump sum check.  Do not delay.  We can assist with the application.  Our fee is $250.  You will be a hero in the eyes of your client with this strategy.

Hey Marc! – had a client inquire on behalf of a neighbor who recently lost her husband to COVID. The surviving spouse was told by SS that she in entitled to receive her SS benefit AND his because he died from COVID and they have been paying her both benefits since April.  My bet is that someone at SS made a mistake, and that SS will come calling for a repayment of benefits. I can’t imagine cause of death being COVID would change what a surviving spouse is entitled to receive. Am I right?

Answer – SSA is incorrect.  There is no exception for COVID deaths.  However, she is probably receiving a benefit off deceased husband’s record to bring her up to a full widow benefit.  So, in essence, she is receiving her benefit and an additional benefit off deceased.  I guess, SSA is correct in some way.  Ugh!  Mar

Hey Marc! – Had a call yesterday with a client who is quite confident her SS amt off her ex-husband’s record is stronger than her own. She does not know if her X-has filed or what the amount would come to. 

How do x-spouses find out in that scenario?  Also, she is receiving a state pension.  Does GPO apply?

Answer – She should contact SSA to determine amount of benefit off ex-husband.  If divorced less than two years, ex-husband must be receiving a benefit before she can claim off his record.  She will need to supply a divorce decree and probably a marriage certificate to support 10 years of marriage.  Of course, GPO, (Grumpy Partner Offset), will apply reducing benefit off ex by two-thirds of state pension.

Hey Marc ! – I am delivering a SS presentation at our firm’s annual holiday client brunch (500 people – mostly retired and approaching retirement age). I would like to design a “MYTH BUSTERS” style presentation around SS.

If you have a moment, what are the top SS MYTHS that I can “de-bunk/bust” for the audience? 

Answer – Five myths are below.

Myth – The nice SS representations at the local office will provide advice and guidance.

Answer – No, the representations will take your application but not provide advice or guidance. 

Myth:  Social Security is broke.  Congress stole all the money from Social Security.

Answer:  Social Security has 2.8 trillion dollars in US Treasury bonds.  As the funding decreases they will cash in the bonds.  They are fully funded through 2034.  If nothing is done SSA will still have money coming in (i.e. FICA tax and income tax collect on Social Security benefits) but only enough to pay 80% of benefits.

Myth:  Social Security computes your benefit using you last 5 years of earnings.

Answer:  Social Security uses your highest 35 years of earnings to computer your benefit.  They use 35 years in the computation even if you don’t have 35 years of earnings.

Myth:  You must notify Social Security at age 65 even if you are not filing for benefits or Medicare.

Answer:  You do not have to contact Social Security to tell them you are not filing.

Myth:  I will never collect all the money I paid into Social Security.

Answer:  You will be paid all the money you paid in taxes in about 4 years if you file at your full retirement age.

Hey Marc ! – I just wanted to get your take on the potential tax impact on the COLA increase related to people being taxed more and how that could we impact distributions from their investment portfolios etc. question can you give me some commentary on the impacts of this change? 50% versus 85%.

Answer – Unfortunately, the taxable amounts are not indexed for inflation so as benefits go up folks are subject to their Social Security being taxes or taxed at a higher rate.  It is all dependent on their other income, so your question is more of a tax advisor question.

Hey Marc ! – If a client’s birthday is 8/2/1956, is his FRA effective start date of 66-4 months in December or November?

Answer – FRA is December.  If he had been born 08/01/1956 FRA would be November. 

Hey Marc ! – Quick question.  I have a client who will be turning 62 in January.  SS retirement benefit is around $750, and she makes around $16,000 a year income.  Her ex-husband is deceased.  They were married over 30 years.  His death PIA is over $3,000 per month.  Ex-husband had not filed for SSB before he died.  The plan is for her to file for retirement benefit at age 62 and then switch to the survivor benefit at FRA.  Is this doable?? 

Answer – Yes, she can take her own at 62 and switch to the surviving divorced ex-spouse benefit at her FRA for survivor benefits.

Hey Marc! – Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise in today’s meeting.  I just wanted to follow up with a quick note to see if you’d been able to determine the name of the form or report I would have clients ask for when they go into the office (or call in) that details their potential survivor benefit amount.  I get nervous accepting just a verbal amount when advising clients on decisions regarding lifetime income streams!   ….. not that I think a SS rep could ever be wrong, but…. 😉 

Answer – It is called the Benefit Matrix.

Hey Marc! – Can you clarify for me. 65 female is drawing survivor benefit from her deceased husband. She remarried after age 60 to a man that has non covered pension and when he retired he included survivor benefit for her on his pension. Will GPO apply to her current survivor benefit from deceased husband or her own work history which will be greater at age 70 if her current husband passes away?

Answer – She did not work for the government, so she is not subject to WEP or GPO. 

Hey Marc! – Does SSA ever define terms like COLA, Credits, Earnings Record, FICA?

Answer – SSA just issued a blog defining these terms.  Link.

Hey Marc ! – I know in the NSSA® class in Kansas City you said that someone could still do a Claim and Suspend (really means Restricted Application!) on a Divorced spouse.

I think I had it come up recently at a SS workshop, asking if a person could do a Restricted application on a Divorced spouse.

Answer – Assuming they meet the magic date of 01/01/1954, a divorced spouse can file a restricted application on their ex-spouse’s record.  If divorced for 2 years or more the ex-spouse doesn’t even have to be receiving a benefit.

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