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


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  2. Antionette

    I applied for my retirement social security my birthday is February,but I won’t receive my first payment until April,Why?

    • Vonda

      Hi Antoinette, thanks for using our blog. The minimum age for Social Security retirement benefits is 62. To begin receiving reduced retirement benefits at 62, you are required to be age 62 for the entire month. Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if your benefits begin with the month of March, you will receive your first benefit payment in April. The exact payment date is determined by your date of birth. For future pay days, you may find the Schedule of Social Security Payments calendars useful. We hope this helps!

  3. A.G.T.

    I am 57, divorced (married 21 yrs & entitled to spousal benefits). I currently receive SSDI + a set monthly payment for alimony IN FUTURO. My former spouse & I were born in 1967 & 1963 respectively. He remarried 6 months after the divorce. His current spouse is older than both of us, but also born 1960 or 1961. Her earnings have by far exceeded his over lifetime.
    1. If she retires before him, does that entitle him to her retirement benefits & will he have to file for retirement benefits at the same time, although he is younger?
    2. If so, how/does this impact my spousal benefit?
    3. Is he required to notify me before claiming retirement benefits?
    4. Because I am 3 yrs older than my former spouse, live on a fixed income & provide care for our 28-yr old daughter w/multiple disabilities (no child support, but SSI from him + auxiliary benefit from me), as well as my 21 yr old son with a developmental disability (does not drive & works part-time), it is imperative I find out what my spousal benefits/income will be, as well as our daughter’s mo. benefit.
    5. Also, since I will reach FRA before my former spouse, does this mean my former spouse will have to claim at the same time? If not, then…
    6. Since his current spouse will reach FRA before him, regardless of whether she “retires” at 62 or 70+, will this affect my spousal benefit and how?
    7. Is there anything I need to file now to ensure I receive my full spousal benefit (it will be far more than my SSDI or SSI) as well as my daughter’s benefit?

    I did not find out until divorce discovery that my former spouse, took loans from and did not contribute to his 401K for many years; there was virtually nothing left to split (I actually cried when my LAET attorney produced the 401K statement). After reading some of the information on this site, I am more scared than ever for the futures of myself & my children. That is why ANY information you can provide is vital, so I can take all the appropriate steps to protect us.
    Thank you very much.

    • Vonda

      Thanks for your questions. If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

      – Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
      – You’re unmarried.
      – You’re age 62 or older.
      – The benefit that you’re entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.
      – Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

      Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information. We hope this helps!

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  5. Roger

    My wife has been collecting SS for almost 2 years. I Just reached full retirement age and applied for my own SS benefits. Will my wife automatically get the benefit increase for spouse’s benefits.

    • Vonda

      Hi Roger, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. We will always pay your wife’s own retirement benefit first. If benefits as a spouse are higher than her own retirement benefits, she will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. However, the spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your full retirement amount. So, she can only receive additional spouse’s benefits if her own full retirement benefit (not a reduced benefit) is less than half of your full retirement benefit.

      If she qualifies, she should call her 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.

  6. Julie

    If you are on social security disability and over 70 yrs old, can you work ( ex. driving people to appointments, stores etc.) They pay you for driving them for 3-4 weeks. They claim the money paid on there taxes. My question is what is: Do I also need to file taxes on that money also?

    • Vonda

      Hi Julie, thanks for using our blog. Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries become full retirement age. The law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability benefits on one earnings record at the same time.

      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.

      As for your question related to whether your work is subject to taxation, we suggest you contact the IRS directly.

  7. Cheryl A.

    Is your social security check determined on points..i.e working hours/years/income? Does administration go by you 3 highest paying years?

  8. James i.

    I got laid off on 1/7/21 due to covid-19 staff reductions. I received the last payroll from 2020 and 1 week in 2021. I also had 269 hours of vacation and received 8 weeks severance at termination. The total amount is $7537 earned income, $17,457 vacation pay and $21536 severance. How with these payouts affect filing for SSI this year. I am 62 and not employable anymore.

    • Vonda

      Hi James, thanks for using our blog. 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.

      When we figure out how much to deduct from your benefits, we count only the wages you make from your job or your net profit if you’re self-employed. We include bonuses, commissions, and vacation pay. We don’t count pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, veterans, or other government or military retirement benefits.

      After you retire, you may receive payments for work you did before you started getting Social Security benefits. Usually, those payments will not affect your Social Security benefit if they are for work done before you retired. Check out our factsheet Special Payments After Retirement for more details.

      Visit our Receiving Benefits While Working web page for more details.

  9. Julie K.

    My husband wanted to withdraw his social security benefits from his 67th birthday to get 8% delayed benefit increase. His birth month is November, so he started to draw SSB from December 2020. We didn’t get 8% increase because we didn’t wait to January 2021, which we didn’t know about. Is there any chance we can get that 8% increase. SS benefit advisor didn’t inform us. We asked about it because on line benefit amount is bigger in January, but the advisor told us that we can draw anytime of the year, and it doesn’t affect. What can we do at this time? We appealed it on December 4, 2020, but no answer has been given.

    • Vonda

      For your security, Julie, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can 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.

  10. Irene C.

    My sis was stop and said I was overpaid , for 4year sent me a letter asking if I received a raise on state retirement and filled it out and returned every year and they just decided after 4year that I was getting over paid . I am 70 years old now

    • Vonda

      Hi Irene, thanks for using our blog. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. Please call your local Social Security office. 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.

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