General, Online Services, Retirement

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

March 14, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

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.

Did you find this Information helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
See Comments

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. Davis

    I was born on January 1, 1954. I am divorced and have not remarried. I do not plan to take a benefit from my social security account until I am 70 years old. However, it is my understanding that I may be eligible for 50% of the benefit received by my ex-spouse through her social security account (she has reached full retirement age) while the benefit from my own account continues to grow. If this is correct, how do I apply for the ex-spouse benefit?

    What do I need to do once I reach 70 years of age and am ready to receive a benefit from my own account? Will taking the spousal benefit now reduce the benefit I receive from my account once I turn 70?

    • Vonda

      Hi Davis, thank you for your question. You may be able to get divorced spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you’re eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a divorced spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll 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.

      However, there is an exception to deemed filing for those who turn 62 before January 2, 2016. Check out our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits web page for details.

      You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for just divorced spouse’s benefits or you can make an appointment by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  2. Hule

    My wife intends to collect her SS at 62 (next year) and keeps working as long as she can. How will her income be affecting the SS benefits? Could she choose to have half of my SS benefits? (I’m receiving full SS almost a year)

  3. Julie B.

    At what age do I have to start taking money out of my IRA accounts? I was 71 on 8/25/2020.

  4. Janet L.

    I started collecting SS at age 62. Can I collect a larger benefit from my ex spouse? If so how much more

    • Vonda

      Hi Janet, thanks for using our blog. If you are divorced and currently unmarried, you may be able to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if your marriage lasted 10 years or longer. Your benefit as a divorced spouse can be equal to one-half of your ex’s full retirement amount only if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits you qualify for once you opt to start benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to your full retirement age.

      Remember, if you qualify for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a divorced spouse, we always pay your own retirement benefits first. If your benefits as a divorced spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher divorced spouse benefit.

      See our Retirement Planner: If You’re Divorced for other eligibility requirements and more detailed information.

      You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse’s, divorced spouse’s or Medicare benefits.

  5. Beverly A.

    Hi. Can I collect in the calendar year of my birthday?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Beverly, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. At Social Security, we’re often asked, “What’s the best age to start receiving retirement benefits?” The answer is that there’s not a single “best age” for everyone and, ultimately, it’s your choice. The most important thing is to make an informed decision. Base your decision about when to apply for benefits on your individual and family circumstances.

      As an individual, you have four basic choices when it comes to work and retirement. Consider the four options laid out in our benefit matrix to help you make the best decision for you.

      Our system is set up to take applications four months in advance, and when you’re ready, you can apply for your benefits online.

      There is a special earnings limit rule for those that retire mid-year and have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit.

      The Getting Benefits While Working web page provides more details. We hope this information is helpful!

  6. Row

    I am 66 yrs old as of April 30, 2020. I started receiving SS at age 62. Although I have a physical disability (mobility) I am do not received disability benefits. I will be going back to work this month. Will this affect my SS benefits.My salary will be 30,000/ yr.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Row, thanks for using our blog. Beginning with the month you reached full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. Plus, if you continue to work while receiving retirement benefits, your monthly benefit amount may increase. As long as you continue to work and receive benefits, we will automatically check your record every year to see whether the additional earnings will increase your monthly benefit. If there is an increase, we will send you a letter telling you of your new benefit amount.

      Check out our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working for additional details.

  7. Glenda P.

    I need to report my husband’s wages : Donny Pittman *** – ** – *** dob 8/27/58 his wages–$1222.90

  8. debbie

    I currently draw ssi benefits and have recently gone back to work, how much income can I earn and what will happen if I earn more that what is allowed

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Debbie, thanks for using our blog. Social Security has special rules that make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments. These are called work incentives. For details about the various work incentives, check out our publication Working While Disabled: How We Can Help.

      To ensure you continue to get paid accurately, and to help you avoid a possible overpayment, it is important to let us know promptly when you start or stop working, or if any other change occurs that could affect your benefits. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  9. Gary J.

    I want to get the maximum social security benefit. Should I request the start of payments the month of my 70th birthday, or the next month? I turn 70 on February 27, 2021.

  10. Carol O.

    I turn 70 on 12/11/20 and want to apply for social security benefits. Should I request the benefits to start on 1/1/21 so I receive the full amount of benefit being 70?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Carol, thanks for using our blog. When you delay collecting benefits beyond your full retirement age, the amount of your retirement benefit will continue to increase up until age 70. There is no incentive to delay claiming after age 70. So, if your birthday is in December and you want your benefits to begin when you’re 70 for the maximum amount payable, you would select December and you’ll receive the December payment in January because we always pay a month behind. Check out our Retirement Planner for additional details.

Comments are closed.