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. Dee D.

    If my husband is retired and drawing SS and I am 63 years old in May 2016, can I draw my spousal benefit at FRA of 66 and wait to draw my own until 70? And what is my spousal benefit?

    • Ray F.

      Hi Dee, thank you for your question. Section 831 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, made some changes to Social Security’s laws about claiming retirement and spousal benefits. Individuals born before January 2, 1954 that have already reached their full retirement age, can choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If you qualify for benefits on your own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your spouse’s record is higher, you’ll get an additional amount on your spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount. See our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information.

  2. John D.

    My monthly social security pension check nearly always was in my bank account by the 3rd of the month. This month of March it never arrived. I live in Australia and tried to find the answer to my problem by calling the help line number 1 800 772 1213. I was told that a certain former that was mailed to me was never returned…Hensel my pension was suspended. On further investigation, I discovered that my change of address had not been registered with SS and consequently the ketter/for that I was supposed to receive never got to me. I requested a copy of the form but was told I should contact the foreign US embassy in Manila. After several calls to an automated receptionist, I was told the number of calls being serviced at the time required a wait of some time…and that I should ,when asked, state my name and ss# plus contact phone number and that I
    would be contacted within 3 working days. I think the former I require is called REPORT TO THE US SS ADMINISTRATION.
    HOW CAN I GET THIS FORM SO THAT I CAN FILL IT OUT AND RETURN IT. Can it be sent to me via my email address?

    • Ray F.

      Hi John, we have some forms available in our website. However, in your situation you should still contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila, which services the area where you are living. This link includes the U.S. Embassy email address. Also, our Office of International Operations home page provides more information to assist our customers living abroad. We hope this information helps!

  3. Linda

    Just turned 63 and still working. I have guardianship of my two grandchildren ages 7 and 10. When I retire will they receive any benefits.?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Linda. Under current law, Social Security can only pay benefits to grandchildren if certain conditions are met. Generally, the biological parents of the child must be deceased or disabled, or the grandchild must be legally adopted by the grandparent. See “Benefits For Grandchildren” for more information.

  4. Missy

    I am one confused retiree….I started drawing at 62 and did not have the information explained well enough to understand that i would be i suspended my draw..However, now I was going to be quitting a job to move to another state to assist my 90 yr old mother, of which i started drawing again and things changed that now at age 64 about to turn 65 in june…I simply do not know what to do, if i should suspend it again since I am continuing to work .. and when could i start officially draw again…can anyone shed light

    • Ray F.

      Hi Missy, you can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time. There are some restrictions as to how much you can make, depending in your age. See “What happens if I work and get Social Security retirement benefits” and read our publication How Work Affects Your Benefits for more information. For specific questions about your situation, please contact your local office or you can also call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. Thanks!

    • koreen

      one of the biggest mistakes that I made was to retire at 64+ still working but my benefits are so small I cam never live on $500. a month they are giving me ,was never told that it would have reduce it to nothing it I applied early,never knew ,would have listened and could have waited,some of those workers in ss tells you nothing at all just lets you run like a lamb to the slaughter.

      • Ray F.

        Thank you for your comment Koreen. The decision on when to file is a personal one. However, there are many factors that go into deciding when to apply and start receiving benefits on your own record. If a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify for. In the other hand, if you delay getting your benefit up until age 70, you will earn Delayed Retirement Credits. We continue to provide tools to help individuals plan for their retirement; you can estimate the amount of your own benefit using our online calculators. You can also create a my Social Security account to verify your earnings, and get a copy of your Social Security Statement. For general information about our programs and services visit us at

  5. Chris N.

    People claim SSI benefits for financial disability as well as medical disability. My concern is when household income is $0.00 and prevents future jobs from being obtained, financial disability is determined. How do 30-40 year old people file and receive non medical financial disability and what should they look for as far as penalties comparable to early retirement?

  6. Shirley

    I just retired. I am 58 , will that have any affect on my ss. When I draw? I have put in 38years.

    • Ray F.

      Congratulations Shirley! For retirement benefits, we use the individual’s highest 35 years of earnings to compute monthly benefit amount. 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. The best way to start planning for your future is by creating a my Social Security account online. With my Social Security, you can verify your earnings, get your Social Security Statement, and much more. Also, we have a variety of benefit-calculators to help you plan for the future. Hope this helps!

  7. AC

    It appears that since I have had the misfortune of being born in spring of 1954, my husband and I must change retirement plans. I was going to claim my reduced amount at 62 and then switch to spousal at 66. Husband is 70 and still working even after heart/surgery/ issue. Lost home and retirement in the financial crisis…Backed of from full time work to raise grandson and care for parents. Millions of women like myself in the same situation due to mistake of “birth”. And you call this a loophole? Unfair?….How insulting to caretakers (and to women at large )who have worked very hard and whose family situations have necessitated these choices. Back to work with prayers that we now can make the goal that is further down the road due to back room deals.

  8. Kim

    What I would like to know is why congress has indexed most of the tax code to inflation, but has never indexed the limits on SS (25,000 single, 32,000) married. It seems to me that the government has found a windfall from retires by not indexing SS limits for inflation.

  9. Kathy659

    I’m 57 – Can I collect on my deceased spouses SS when I turn 60? (we were married 13 years). If so can I than collect my own SS when I turn 67? Will my benefits (at 67) be reduced by doing this?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Kathy. Widows or Widowers of persons who worked long enough under Social Security are eligible for benefits at age 60 (age 50 if disabled). If a person receives widow’s or widower’s benefits, and qualifies for a retirement benefit that is more than their survivors benefit, he or she can switch to their own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Please see the “Social Security Benefit Amounts For The Surviving Spouse By Year Of Birth” web page to find out how much the benefit will be reduced if someone begins receiving survivors benefits between age 60 and full retirement age.

  10. Kelli R.

    I will be 60 in april. I was married for 22 years and got divorced. He has never remarried and will not. I am planning on retiring when I am 61 from my current job. I am trying to figure if I can draw off his soc security at age 62 or if something happens to him, god forbid, can I draw sooner and what would my penalty be? I understand that I can no longer draw his and then switch to mine later when it would be more. Is this also correct.

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for contacting us Kelly. Under existing law, if you are eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a divorced spouse in the first month you want your benefits to begin and are not yet full retirement age, you must apply for both benefits. You will receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other. Under the new law deemed filing is extended to apply to those at full retirement age and beyond.
      If you turn 62 on or after January 2, 2016, and will be eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a divorced spouse, then the new law applies to you. Deemed filing applies to retirement benefits, not to survivor’s benefits. So, if you are a widow or a Surviving Divorced Spouse, you may start your survivor benefit independently of your retirement benefit if you restrict the scope of your application. We hope this information helps !

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