Widow(er)s Benefits – Key Points
Some key points to understand regarding widow(er)s benefits:
Age requirement: If your client is the widow or widower of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, they can receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60.
Earnings limits: However, don’t forget the detail about the earnings limits. If they want to collect a widow(er)s benefit early (prior to full retirement age), they have the same earnings limits as those receiving retirement and spouse’s benefits. See Getting Benefits While Working for details.
Full Retirement Age: Although the earnings limits are the same for survivors, retirement and spouses, the full retirement age for survivors may be different than the full retirement age for retirement and spouses.
Multiple Entitlements: It is quite common for someone to be eligible for benefits on more than one record which presents them with some filing options.
Scenario 1: Client is eligible for retirement benefits on own record and widow(er)s benefits on a deceased spouse’s record. They have options. One option would be to file for a reduced retirement benefit early and switch over to an unreduced widow(er)s benefit later. Another option would be to file for a reduced widow(er)s benefit early and switch over to an unreduced retirement benefit at full retirement age or switch over later, up to age 70, to earn delayed retirement credits. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/survivors/ifyou.html
Scenario 2: Client is eligible for widow(er)s benefits on two previous deceased spouses. Client can file for reduced widow(er)s benefits on one record and switch over to an unreduced widow(er)s benefit on the other record at full retirement age. https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300615301
The Q&A’s for the month:
Question: I have a client who is 61. Can he take his widowers benefit now and then file for his own benefit at age 62 or older? Did he lose money by not taking the widow’s benefit at age 60?
Answer: He can file for reduced widowers benefits and switch over to his own retirement later, whenever he chooses. However, keep in mind that the earnings test applies to retirees and widow(er)s. So, for him to collect at 61, he is subject to the earnings limit which is $17,040 in 2018. He didn’t necessarily lose money, each month you’re older, your benefit is higher.https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html
Question: My client is currently widowed for the second time. She is 56 and not sure what she should do. Her second husband passed away and he was a Vietnam vet. Because he was a vet she gets VA benefits and her concern is when we called into social security we found out that her spousal benefit at age 67 will be higher if she claims under her 1st husband as opposed to her recent husbands benefits. Her concern is if she takes the benefits from her 1st husband will that affect any of her VA benefits from her 2nd husband?
Answer: I cannot answer questions regarding VA benefits. She should call the Veterans Administration benefit administrator for that question. I can tell you that Social Security is not impacted at all by her collecting a benefit from the VA. One thing you want to consider; however, is the fact that she can file on one deceased spouse’s record early and switch over to the other record at her survivors full retirement age to receive the full amount, if it is advantageous for her to do so.https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300615301