General, Online Services, Retirement

What You Need to Know About the New Laws for Claiming Retirement Benefits

March 14, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: August 19, 2021

Have you heard that some of Social Security’s rules about claiming benefits are changing? Well, it’s true. The Bipartisan Budget Act that passed last November closed two complex loopholes that were used primarily by married couples. We want you to know why this happened, how it might affect you, and what you should do next.

But first, don’t forget that one of the best ways to increase your Social Security retirement benefit is to delay claiming it between ages 62 and 70. Each month you delay results in a higher monthly benefit for the rest of your life. The new law doesn’t change this.

The new law closes loopholes that allowed some married couples to receive higher benefits than intended. Only a small fraction of retirees used these loopholes. Closing them helps restore fairness and strengthens Social Security’s long-term financing.

So what’s changing with the new rules?

  • First, if you are eligible for benefits both as a retiree and as a spouse (or divorced spouse), you must start both benefits at the same time. This “deemed filing” used to apply only before the full retirement age, which is currently 66. Now it applies at any age up to 70, if you turned 62 after January 1, 2016.
  • Second, if you take your retirement benefit and then ask (on or after April 30, 2016) to suspend it to earn delayed retirement credits, your spouse or dependents generally won’t be able to receive benefits on your Social Security record during the suspension. You also won’t be able to receive spouse benefits on anyone else’s record during that time.

For more information about these changes in the law, please visit Recent Social Security Claiming Changes and Retirement Planner.

Deciding when to start your Social Security benefits is a complex and personal decision. You may contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or visit your local field office, to speak with a representative about your retirement options. In particular, if you are or will be full retirement age (66) or older before April 30, and you think you want to suspend your benefits, contact us as soon as possible before April 30. But remember, if you want to let your retirement benefit grow, you can simply delay taking it, up to age 70.

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About the Author

Virginia P. Reno, Deputy Commissioner, Retirement and Disability Policy

Virginia P. Reno, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration


  1. LM

    To Jim:
    Most people at your local SS office are still being trained and don’t understand the rules well. File BEFORE April 30, or you lose the right to file, and tell them you are filing for yours and suspending. Put it in writing. Then immediately ask to suspend collection of benefits for yourself but it gives your spouse (or former spouse of at least ten years), the right to qualify for a spousal benefit based on your benefits, her age, her employment or disability.


    What most reader here don’t understand is: SS was NOT meant to live on. It was a saving, supplement only. Deal with what you did.
    Two: True our government sold us out when they raided SS and put it to their use. Crooks period.
    Our government is so crooked and so big and without checks and balances period, it will be very hard to come clean & honest period.
    Our gov.: they control us NOW with credit cards, cell phones, your SS number, bank #s, it is out of control.

    • Tawnya B.

      Thank you! My God I wondered if anyone would mention that….ITS NOT MEANT TO LIVE ON……and btw next time you have a sec and pissed about welfare recipients…….
      check out baby formula…20,30,40.00 and that won’t last a week…. ….ITS NOT MADE TO LIVE ON EITHER..
      Im not being cruel….just being real……
      The government is more like a burglar than our rich daddy….
      Honestly ….our government has made us dependant, angry, elderly people…..We’re thinking families get too much help…. families thinking wtf they had all their life to do something. Just about everyone mad at the rich guy…..ya know what?
      I’m not going to be a victim (if I can help it)
      CONGRATULATIONS RICH GUY spend it as you wish.
      ..idk if it came to him easy or if he clawed his way there….but he made good .
      I’m not going to feel entitled to anything but death…..wether your a believer or not deaths the resting from work here because no one ever said we got 20-30 however at retirement of shear bliss….only more of the crap..
      I could point fingers but truth is we are adults …. responsible for learning early and planning or acceptance of limited choices.( You still have a voice ) Jezz though the dang thing was meant to help not cover it all…..we fooled ourselves with that thought….
      Keep yelling someone needs to help…that would be nice,,,,,but I need no one to blame…. when I was young I had more important things on my mind than retirement. Once you admit that you start finding help from all kinds of places……
      No one owes me a dang thing just for being old…We should do for others and stop saying a country should take care of its old …..Bull pucky I DIDNT CHANGE A DIRTY BUTT OR ROCK AND FEED THIS CONTRY….I DIDNT WALK THE FLOORS WITH WORRY THAT ID NEVER SEE THIS COUNTRY……
      …I had 3 snot nosed cooky crublers AND NOT SPOILED Caring kids…they can fight over who has the “honor “of momma living with them….or they can bag me up like potatoes and shuffle me between the three

  3. Vicki E.

    Is there an unknown thing about Social Security helping with children & grandchildrens college expenses that is going to expire soon? I seen the headlines but didn’t read it, so could you explain, please.

  4. Jim

    The link you provided (Retirement Planner: Recent Social Security Changes) states under “Who will be affected?” that the new law applies to individuals who request a suspension on or after April 30 2016. I will be 66 on May 1, 2016 and according to Social Security rules I am full retirement age for the full month of April. For example, if I begin benefits with April I will received an unreduced benefit. Therefore I can request my benefits be suspended before April 30, 2016 because they are suspended April 1st. My local Social Security office is telling me I cannot suspend under the old law because I cannot request suspension until April 30th. Can you please explain? Thank you.

    • Ray F.

      You are right Jim, for Social Security benefits, if you were born May 1st, we figure your benefit (and your full retirement age) as if your birthday was in the previous month of April. Under the new law, you can still voluntarily suspend benefit payments at your full retirement age (currently 66) in order to earn higher benefits for delaying. But during a voluntary suspension, other benefits payable on your record, such as benefits to your spouse, are also suspended. Refer to the section “Voluntary Suspension of Benefits (also called “File and Suspend”) in the Retirement Planner: Recent Social Security Claiming Changes link. Please continue working with your local office as we continue to implement these changes diligently for the benefit of individuals affected by the new law. Thanks!

  5. Colleen C.

    Why are there no published answers to these questions? We’d probably all like to know the answers.

    • Lou

      there are on…..or simply call and they will do the math for you and tell you on the phone the advantages and disadvantages of retiring at each age….in most situations waiting for 65 or 70 doesnt benefit the recipient compared to the 3 or 8 years of lost benefits….you have to take into consideration your health and your realistic opinion of how long you may live….they are great about helping you over the phone…just prepare a list of questions and call……..good luck

    • Ray F.

      Hi Colleen, you may find our Frequently Asked Questions FAQ’s web page helpful.

  6. poorman

    How about everyone that gets social security get at least one hundred dollars in SNAP since some of us barely make it with what we now get from social security. Why reward just those that keep having children? I know social security has nothing to do with SNAP, but they could easily add that money to our pensions.

  7. Dick E.

    I’m 77 and still work five days a week. I’ve been on SS since age 62. When I retire, will my benefit check change?


    • Lou


    • Ray F.

      Good question Mr. Ellingson. Any wages you earn after signing up for Social Security may increase your overall average earnings, and your benefit probably will increase. Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings may increase monthly benefits. If an increase is due, a new monthly benefit amount is established on your record automatically. We notify individuals about any changes in their benefits. See “What happens if I work and get Social Security benefits” for more information.

  8. ronie

    I can’t figure out what happens if I quit working at 62 and then just don’t draw any SS until I turn 65. Do they base my income with a bunch of zero earnings for the years between 62 and 65? They are saying to hold off drawing SS as long as possible. It seems that the 3 years of zero income from working would drastically lower the SS.

    • Lou

      Just do the math….its that simple….Im retiring at age 62 because waiting I lose that 3 years of benefits or more and the difference of collecting at an older age just doesnt add up and what if I die?

      • Daryl

        I agree with you. My dad died un-expectantly 3 years after retiring at age 66 1/2. All those years of working and the money goes back into the pot.

    • LM

      Yes and no. If you are 62 now, your full retirement age is 66, not 65, so it’s 4 years, not three. SS is based on your top 35 years of earnings. If you’ve worked more than that, those zeros won’t count for much. You can hold off on collecting until 66 or even 70, and it will grow due to the yearly increment which is like “interest” that accrues. But, not collecting that long means you’d have to live to at least to 86 to make up for not collecting SS at 62. If you’re not healthy, it’s a bad deal. If you are and have other income, go as long as you want. Sign on to the website, register and get your estimate. Otherwise make an appointment to visit a local office with all your ID and documents and they’ll give you an estimate for your different scenarios. Be sure to do so before April 30.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Ronie, you may find our “Early or Late Retirement Calculator” helpful. For retirement benefits, we use the individual’s highest 35 years of earnings to compute monthly benefit amount. Yes, you can start receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you decide to get benefits before your full retirement age, they will be reduced. In the other hand, starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits. Happy planning!

  9. Kathy

    I was married to my husband for 28 years. We divorced, he remarried, I did not. He is in very poor health, if he should pass before me could I draw off his social security? He receives almost twice as much as I do.

    • Lou

      You are divorced sealing the deal…if anyone collects his SS it will be his new wife….sorry

      • JS

        This is not accurate information. If you were married over 10 years and have not remarried, YOU WILL be allowed to collect on his benefits regardless if he remarries.

    • Jon

      As far as I know, as long as you have been married to the guy over 10-years, you should be able to get his SS benefits; how much depends in part on your age.
      I would really encourage you to discuss this with an “official SSA” representative.

    • Teddy

      Wrong, check with the SSA office. Don’t look for advice from laypeople. You were married over 10 years. As long as you don’t remarry before age 60 you can draw surviving divorced spouses benefits. If under 60 and disabled check with your local office.

    • LM

      See Jon’s response, he is correct, not Lou. The Law is: If you were married ten or more years, are age 62, or disabled, you are entitled to a divorced spouse benefit. That entitlement has some exceptions but his remarriage is not one of them. If you are considering it, yours could be, and that too has exceptions based on your age, among other things. You may collect a spousal benefit if you are at least 60, if ex spouse is deceased, whether or not he also remarried. In some cases both Ex and widows may collect. SSA has all the rules on their website. Look them up or call them.

      • Don

        There is something else tied to this and that’s if you are still working and making above 32k you cannot draw that money without penalty

    • Fonda M.

      check with your local SS office as my sister-in-law collected on her ex husband when he died and so did his present wife.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Kathy, in the event that your ex-husband dies, you should contact Social Security to see if you qualify for a higher benefit amount as a Surviving Divorced Spouse.

  10. Pat

    I am recently divorced after 25 years of marriage. We both turn 62 this year. My ex-husband just turned 62 and started to collect SS. I am currently working and will continue to do so until age 68, maybe 70. Am I entitled to his ss benefit now? And if so, can I hold off collecting mine until age 70 (which will be higher)? Or does the new law prevent this?

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