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.

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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

Comments

  1. Bob C.

    I am 60 and my wife will be turning 62 later this year. I am the high earner and 50% of my estimated benefits at age 62 is more than my wife’s benefit. Are there any disadvantages for my wife to claim her benefit when she turns 62 and then switch to her spousal benefit later when I start to collect?

    • Vonda

      Hi Bob, thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. If your wife qualifies for a retirement benefit from her own work history she can file for that benefit as early as age 62. She cannot receive additional spouse’s benefits unless you are receiving retirement benefits (except for divorced spouses).

      If your wife takes her reduced retirement first while waiting for you to apply, her own retirement portion remains reduced. When she does receive additional spouse’s benefits later, the total retirement and spouses benefit together will total less than 50 percent of your full retirement amount. You can find out more about this at our Benefits for Spouses web page.

  2. larry h.

    1/7/2021
    hello, i would like to know which is the best month to retire? after being on my job for 29 yrs. i retired in july 2020 which is the middle of the year,well they stoped my payments and said that i had made too much for that year and had to pay back the three months.i don’t understand.

    • Vonda

      Hi Larry, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. There is a special earnings limit rule for those that retire mid-year and have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit. The special rule lets us pay a full Social Security check for any whole month we consider you retired, regardless of your yearly earnings.

      If you will:
      •Be under full retirement age for all of 2020, you are considered retired in any month that your earnings are $1,520 or less and you did not perform substantial services in self-employment.
      •Reach full retirement age in 2020, you are considered retired in any month that your earnings are $4,050 or less and you did not perform substantial services in self-employment.

      If this applies to you, please call 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.

  3. Larenda H.

    Please Help

    My husband died July 2020. He was on disability which converted to retirement. He was having federal income tax taken out. I can no longer log into his My Account because I cannot find his log in information. I am also on disability and when he died I had to move in with my son. I changed my address and my written correspondence is getting to me.

    HOW AM i going to get his 1099 for 2020 to file our final joint income tax return? The SS offices are closed and when I called the local SS, because he is deceased, they cannot change his mailing address. What do I do??

    • Vonda

      We’re sorry to hear about your loss, Larenda. The benefit statement is mailed to the last address in our records and is intended for the spouse or executor of the deceased. If you do not have access to the mail at that address, you will need to call the local field office with proof of death and proof of executorship. An SSA-1099 can also be given to someone receiving benefits on the deceased beneficiary’s record such as a spouse, parent, or child of the deceased. We hope this helps!

  4. Bruce Y.

    I am 10 years + older than my wife. I started collecting SS at age 66-1/2. I am now 71 and my spouse is 61. She asked whether she can claim SS under my benefits and, if not now, when?

  5. Carol T.

    Hi, I will be 64 the end of this month. I have been collecting SS since retiring at 62. I wanted to go back to work, it’s a full time position . I want to suspend my SS benefit while I go back to work. I was told if I did that before full retirement age I would have to pay back what I have been paid so far. Is this true, and if so would it be for just this year?

  6. Geneva P.

    Once retired and on Soc Security, how much can you work for it not to impact your social security monthly income.

  7. Jesus V.

    I’m thinking about retiring at age 65 (August 2021) and begin drawing on my social security benefits. My employer had to layoff employees, due to Covid, and I would like to know if I will be allowed to work part time? What is the maximum amount I can earn without penalty.
    My wife is receiving disability benefits (age 62) due to terminal cancer, will this affect the above mention?
    Another question on behalf of my wife, how soon can she apply for her Medicare benefits?

    • Vonda

      Hi Jesus, thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. You can get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and work at the same time. However, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full benefits. The amount you’re allowed to earn while receiving benefits depends on your age. If you attain full retirement age in 2021, the earnings limit is $50,520 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2021, that limit is $18,960. Visit our Receiving Benefits While Working web page for more details. Your wife’s disability benefits are not affected by you filing for retirement benefits. In fact, if your wife’s disability benefit is less than half of your full retirement amount, she will be eligible for additional spouse’s benefits once you apply.

      Your wife will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and B once she’s entitled to Social Security disability benefits for 24 months. An information packet will arrive in the mail a few months before she becomes eligible. Check out the Medicare brochure for more information.

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

      If you are unable or would rather not apply online, 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.

  8. John s.

    Hi,my name is John and I retired at age 66,and when I did the social Security office asked if I would like to sign my wife up at the same time,and I said o.k. telling me that she would be receiving half of what I would be getting for s.s.,but my wife was still working and is still working now.My wife is now 71 and will be 72 in january of next year. my question is when she finaly decides to retire,can she change over to her own s. s.,or would it be best to leave it the way it is,because when I pass on she would receive what I am receiving from s. s.?

    • Vonda

      Hi John, thanks for using our blog. If your wife hasn’t yet filed for Social Security retirement benefits, she should call her local Social Security office to inquire. 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. Jeffery n.

    I will be 62 April 2021 and my wife will be 62 in August of 2021. How soon should we file for retirement benefits?

    • Vonda

      Hi Jeffery, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. You can apply four months before you want your Social Security retirement benefits to start. Once you’re ready to apply, the easiest way to complete your application is online.

      If you need further assistance, call 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.

  10. Lynda

    I filed for restricted benefits at 66 , receiving 50% of my spouses benefits. Since I was born before 1954 I can now file on my benefits at age 70. Can this be done on line or do I need in person at a SS office?

    • Vonda

      Hi Lynda, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. You can apply four months before you want your Social Security retirement benefits to start. Once you’re ready to apply, the easiest way to complete your application is online.

      If you need further assistance, call 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.

Comments are closed.