Q. When I receive my annual Social Security Statement showing the benefit I am eligible for at various ages, does this amount include my wife’s spousal benefit? If not, how can I determine what it is? And what impact does her age have on the benefit? Since she is 3 years younger than me, I’m assuming her spousal benefit will not begin until she reaches eligibility age.
A. A maximum Social Security spouse benefit is 50 percent of your full-retirement-age benefit. The extra 50 percent is not included in the benefit estimate shown on your Social Security Statement. The spouse benefit is paid in addition to the wage earner’s benefit.
A wife is eligible for a spouse benefit as early as age 62, but if the benefit begins before her full retirement age, it must be reduced for months of early retirement. If your wife’s full retirement age is 66, her spouse benefit at age 62 would be 35 percent of your full benefit. Regardless of the age at which she begins a spouse benefit, if she is full retirement age or more before being widowed, your wife’s monthly benefit would rise to the full benefit you would receive if still alive.
Q. I receive Social Security Disability but was claimed as a tax dependent. If that person passes away and I’m no longer claimed as their dependent will my Social Security disability rise or will it remain the same.
A. As a surviving divorced spouse (widow), you have the choice of which benefit to begin first — your own Social Security benefit or your widow’s benefit. You can begin a reduced widow’s benefit as early as age 60 (age 50 if you are disabled) and, if it is more advantageous for you to do so, switch to unreduced benefits on your own record at full retirement age or later. Your own benefit will reach its maximum at age 70.
You may begin benefits while continuing to work, but Social Security beneficiaries who have not yet reached their full retirement age are subject to an annual earnings limitation. In 2024, the limitation is $22,320. The Social Security Administration will withhold $1 in benefits for each $2 of excess earnings.
Before applying for any benefit, you will want to contact the Social Security Administration and obtain up-to-date estimates of the benefits payable on your own and your former husband’s earnings record. Ask for these estimates at your current age, full retirement age and age 70. That information will help you make the decision that is in your long-term best interest.
Q. I am nearing retirement age. I have to continue to work due to financial issues but am wondering if I could claim Social Security through my deceased, former husband now and then when I retire, claim benefits on my own record. I was married for 11 years and have never remarried.
A. Whether your Social Security benefit will increase when you are alone depends on the type of benefit you receive.
If you are receiving your own Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit based on your personal earnings record, the only increase is annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).
If you are receiving a Social Security Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record, it would increase upon the death of the parent. During the parent’s lifetime, a dependent child receives a maximum of 50 percent of the parent’s full benefit. A surviving dependent child receives up to 75 percent of the parent’s full benefit.
Q. The Department of Child Support Enforcement started garnishing my Social Security Disability Insurance benefit for child support arrears they claim I owed. This began after my son graduated from high school and turned 18. I do not owe child support nor do I owe child support arrears. Can you please help me contact the Social Security Administration to stop this illegal garnishment of my small Social Security Disability benefit?
A. The Social Security Administration is obligated to honor a court order for garnishment of child support. To have the deductions ceased, you will have to petition the issuing court to rescind the order. This is a legal matter that must be resolved in a court.
Q. I’m 5 years older than my wife. We’re both still working and planning to continue for 3 or 4 more years. I’ve worked continuously and have a higher income. I want to ensure my wife receives the largest monthly payment if I die before we both reach 70. If I never claim, could she claim my “70-year-old” benefit when she reaches 70?
A. Should you predecease your wife, she would have the option of which benefit to begin first — her own benefit or her widow benefit. She would maximize her widow benefit by waiting until she reached full retirement age to apply for widow benefits. Under current law, she would gain no increase by deferring benefits beyond her full retirement age. Should you die before reaching full retirement age, your wife’s widow benefit would be calculated as if you had reached your full retirement age. If your death occurred between ages 66 and 70 (but before you begin benefits) your wife’s widow benefit would be calculated as of your last full month of life.
Q. Will I and my 16-year-old daughter continue to receive any part of my husband’s Social Security disability now that he has passed?
A. The Social Security Act provides two kinds of benefits to widows — retirement benefits and caregiver benefits. Young widows with dependent children in their care receive caregiver benefits until the youngest child reaches age 16. A dependent benefit to a child remains in effect until the child reaches age 18, age 19 if still in high school. A Disabled Adult Child can continue to receive dependent benefits for life if the child is disabled before age 22. A mother caring for a Disabled Adult Child remains entitled to a benefit as long as the child remains in her care. Other than the caregiver benefit, no monthly benefit is payable to a widow until she reaches retirement age. If you are unmarried, you will be eligible for a widow benefit based on your deceased husband’s Social Security earnings record when you reach age 60. As a disabled widow you would be eligible for a widow benefit as early as age 50. If you remarry after age 60 (50 if disabled) you will remain entitled to a widow benefit based on your first marriage.
Q. I was just wondering if we will get an increase on our Social Security next year or not?
A. In 2024, Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 3.2% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). That amounts to about $59 extra per month for the average Social Security beneficiary.
Q. If I apply for disability and become approved, will this affect my husband’s check and what about our son’s check?
A. Your eligibility for a Social Security benefit based on your own Social Security earnings record cannot affect your husband’s benefit in any way. If you each meet the law’s eligibility criteria, each of you is entitled to your full, earned benefit. Your son will continue to be entitled to a benefit based on his father’s Social Security earnings record unless a benefit payable on your earnings record or on your combined records would be a greater amount.
Q. I am retired and receiving Social Security benefits and am planning on getting married. My fiancée is still employed. What effect will this have on my Social Security benefits? Also I am wondering if I should be having taxes taken from my benefits.
A. Marriage or remarriage never affects a wage earner’s own Social Security benefit. Your Social Security benefit will continue unchanged. After one year of marriage, assuming they have reached retirement age, your spouse could be eligible for a spouse benefit. Death benefits would be payable if the marriage lasted at least nine months before ending in death — even less if death was accidental. With regard to having taxes taken from your Social Security benefits that can be done if you have determined you need to do so. The Social Security Administration allows withholding at four possible rates: 7, 10, 12 or 22 percent of your benefit.
Q. Do pension offsets apply only to federal government pensions or also to state, county and city pensions?
A. The Government Pension Offset of spouse and widow benefits applies to any public employment that was not covered by Social Security. The pension received could be from local, state or Federal employment. A second offset, known as the Windfall Elimination Provision, reduces an individual’s own Social Security if he or she also earned an annuity from non-Social Security employment that was not covered by Social Security. Pensions based on employment with international organizations located in this country or based on employment performed outside the United States can also invoke this offset.
Q. I was always the primary earner. I am also 7 years older than my husband. I started taking Social Security at 66. He will turn 62 this year. His full Social Security benefit will be less than 1/2 of mine. If he files for his reduced benefits at 62, can he switch to half my benefits at full retirement age with no decrease in them? Or does his early reduction for his benefit transfer to mine for him?
A. When your husband files for Social Security, his application will cover both his own benefit and his spouse benefit. Each will be reduced for months of early retirement. In effect, he will receive whichever of the two benefits is the greater amount.
Q. Have there been any changes regarding Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and investing? Is it still not considered earned income?
A. There has been no change in the definition of earnings for recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Earnings are income received from employment or self-employment. Profits on investments are not earnings for earnings limitation purposes or as a measure of whether or not a disabled individual has regained the ability to perform substantial gainful activity.