Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Social Security

Time Running Out to Capitalize on Expiring Social Security Claiming Strategy

If you want to file and suspend your benefit under the old rules, get cracking. Those who qualify have to apply by April 29.

Thinkstock

The clock is ticking down for those who are still eligible for at least one of two popular Social Security claiming strategies that Congress nixed about five months ago. And now you have new ammunition if a confused agency representative rejects your valid application.

See Also: Maximizing Social Security Benefits Special Report

Those who are full retirement age or older as of April 30 must submit a request to "file and suspend" a benefit by April 29 to use the old rules. This strategy allows a worker at full retirement age to file for his benefit, enabling his spouse to collect a spousal benefit or a minor child to collect a benefit on the worker's earnings record. The worker then suspends his benefit, allowing it to accrue delayed retirement credits of 8% a year until he reclaims it up until age 70.

Also, those who were age 62 or older as of January 1, 2016, are still eligible to use the "restricted application" strategy to file for a spousal benefit once they hit full retirement age. With this strategy, a spouse can claim just a spousal benefit while his own benefit grows.

Advertisement

Although Kiplinger's Retirement Report has kept you up to date on the changes, it was only recently that the Social Security Administration posted details on its Web site at www.ssa.gov/planners/retire.

Referring to the Social Security Web site can be helpful if an agency representative rejects your application. Shortly before the Social Security Administration released information to the public, it had sent instructions on the law changes to its staff. But even many representatives apparently remained confused.

Kiplinger reader Joe Neiner, 66, of Cumming, Ga., says he and his wife, Helen, 65, planned to delay collecting their own benefits until they each turn age 70. Helen would file a restricted application, thus claiming a spousal benefit, when she turns full retirement age at 66; that will enable her to collect four years of spousal benefits until she turns age 70. But Helen can't file for a spousal benefit unless Joe files for his own benefit. The solution: Joe will file and suspend his benefit now, before the strategy ends.

However, Joe says, when he recently tried to apply for benefits using the file-and-suspend strategy, an agency representative told him that he and Helen could not use these maneuvers -- although both spouses clearly fall within the age deadlines under the new law. The agency later got back to him, acknowledging that they made a mistake.

Advertisement

What to Do If You Are Told No

Understand the rules before you apply. If you think you qualify for these strategies but are told otherwise by Social Security representatives, refer the representative to the agency Web page with the details. If that doesn't work, ask for a supervisor. In our experience over the years, readers who have asked for a supervisor have been able to get their claim problems resolved.

But "if that does not resolve the problem, insist on filing so you can get a formal decision. Social Security cannot refuse to take your claim," says Jim Blair, a former district manager for an Ohio Social Security office and a partner at Premier Social Security Consulting, in Sharonville, Ohio.

Be sure to ask for the full name of each person you talk to and keep a record of what they told you, Blair says. "If you can show misinformation by a government employee, Social Security can go back to your first contact and approve benefits," he says.

Another option if you keep getting told no: You can visit your local Congressional office and request its assistance. Blair says each office has an employee who works with Social Security.

Advertisement

Tech-savvy applicants can go online to put in their request to file and suspend benefits. Be aware that there is no "file and suspend" option to click on the online application. Instead, you must note in a "comments" box that you want to file and immediately suspend your benefit. If you don't add that comment, Blair says, you could miss the opportunity to use that strategy, even if you apply by April 29.

See Also: Government Spells Out New Social Security Rules