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hey  all,

So this past week I went into the social security office to file a claim for full retirement widow benefits. I was not comfortable with how the appointment went so I thought I would post to see how others fared when claiming their benefits.

My husband died at age 64 and never collected any benefit from social security. He also worked consistently and had the maximum amount taken from his earnings in social security taxes. In other words he definitely had the 35+ years of earnings at maximum social security tax.

My record was not as good; I stayed at home for periods of time with our children, hence my intent to file for benefits as a widow.

BTW my bad, I did not file for widow benefits using my own earnings at age 60 as a widow.

Anyway, when I sat down the first thing the social security employee asked for was a copy of my pension statement. I worked for county and state employers for 10 years and have been receiving a pension. All of my employment was taxed at the 6.2 % social security rate. Social security taxes have always been paid. I had brought my earning statements for more than the 60 months that are required.

But, here is the deal, when planning retirement I think we all count on both spousal benefits. I am somewhat upset that once again as a widow I have to fight for getting what is honestly less than fair. I saw an article from 2008 that stated that widow / widower benefits should be paid out at a combined rate of 75% what should have been awarded

Strengthening Social Security Benefits for Widow(er)s:
The 75% Combined Worker Benefit Alternative
Joan Entmacher
Vice President for Family Economic Security
National Women’s Law Center
11 Dupont Circle, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
Submitted to the National Academy of Social Insurance
November 2008

https://www.nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/BenefitImprovementf...

Anyway, I just wanted to put this out there to see what others have experienced. I found the appointment to be upsetting and I actually had to point blank ask what the benefit would be. She was vague about the amount. Now, I suppose I will have to just wait to see what the check amount is. Oh, and I was also asked to come back and provide a copy of my husband's DD214 discharge papers from the Navy to verify no money had been collected from the service; he was discharged in 1968.

Well, good or bad please share your experience.

Views: 268

Replies to This Discussion

My appointment went fine. I was notified by mail a couple weeks later stating the amount I would receive; it was $500 more per month than the amount quoted at the appointment. Sounds like the requested information is to ensure you will receive the highest maximum combined amount your husband contributed into his account from all his employers ...

The only issue I see is that you cannot collect 2 pensions. A claim is filed under his or your account, but not both. However, since you are currently collecting, SS already has that information. If I remember correctly, the amount of your pension will be deducted from what you are eligible to receive from his Social Security to become 1 (one) benefit. Call their office to double check my information ...

I also called ahead to ask the type of documents I needed which were my birth certificate, marriage license, Bob's death certificate & his discharge papers ...

Hope this helps ...

Good luck ...

Hi Lissa,  My situation is a little bit different but may help with dealing with Social Security.  My husband passed on Feb. 18, 2018 at age 71, so he was already receiving social security benefits.  He was discharged from the military in 1970.  I was 66 and not on social security.  (I am waiting until I turn 70 and will contact SSA at that time to see if it is worth switching from his benefits to mine.  The longer you wait, as a spouse, the more SSA money you can expect to receive for your own SSA benefits.)  So after several phone conversations with Social Security, I managed to connect with a couple very helpful folks (there are good people working at SSA, you just have to find them).  All this was before I actually got an appointment to see someone at my local SSA office to hand over documents.  I had my list of all the documents they were going to ask for (from previous SSA phone conversations), and enough time before the face to face SSA meeting to obtain one document I did not have.  We were married in 1973 in another state and I had our marriage certificate, but needed to contact the County in that state to get a certified  document proving we actually were married.  This was the only document they asked me for.  I offered hubby's DD214 (hubby kept his all these years) but was told they already had it.  So, because both of us were old enough to be communicating with Social Security (SSA for him, Medicare (SSA is involved) for me), I guess all that document gathering had already been done, except for the one document that had not yet been created.  I do not know if you have tried to call SSA (not your local office) for further information, but it could not hurt.  These folks have a difficult job educating all us benefit receivers.  It is worse at the face to face meetings.  My meeting started out with a woman who was very nervous and reserved with me, until I convinced her that I knew she was a professional and that I was going to treat her well in spite of any bad news she had to tell me.  (Our meeting was interrupted by two irate women who wanted to argue about whatever news she had given them earlier in the day.  It took a while before they left and she and I could resume our meeting.)  And there was bad news for me.  I knew how much SSA benefit Hubby was getting and I expected to receive the same.  However, he retired at age 67 and my benefit was going to be his SSA benefit as if he retired at age 65 or 66, I forget which, so I had to run new numbers to calculate my yearly earnings for my budget.  Sorry to run on.  I hope there are a few nuggets of information in my comment that will be of use to you.  Hang in there.  

BTW, I forgot to mention a widow receives 100% benefits upon their retirement age, not their spouse at time of death ...

Lissa,

I'm sorry this has come as a shock to you. I am going to receive a state pension from the state of Ohio when I retire in a few years, so my Social Security benefits will be reduced by 45%. (I turned 62 in late winter and went in to see what [if any] benefits I might receive.) I am covered by SS because I have the requisite forty quarters in the regular workforce, but (because I am covered by a state pension system), I receive no widower's benefits at all, as that would be "double-dipping". [Thank you, Ronald Reagan and the members of the 1983-84 Congress!]

I am not in dire financial straits, but others may not be as fortunate. I hope that some of the younger widowed people reading these comments will take something away from the experience and plan accordingly. 

My husband died in late 2016 and I found the people in the local SS office very helpful- they even looked up what I could have collected on my Ex's record (he was also deceased).  I retired at 61 and was 63 when Ron died, but hadn't filed for SS on my own record, which will be higher.  Still planning to wait till age 70 for my own.

I was well aware of the potential drop if both spouses are collecting and one dies, and feel bad for couples who had little or no income other than SS and were trying to make it on SS alone.  It's a good case for buying some life insurance when you're younger so the surviving spouse isn't left to struggle.

This is the way SS has always been structured- continuing to pay a widow/widower what the couple was collecting isn't anticipated in setting the payroll taxes and they'd be higher if that feature were included.  IMO, they're high enough!

Social Security is the same nationwide ...
SSDI (disability) has been mentioned, it is a completely different government program from SSI (retirement) ...
SSI contributions are made by a worker into their personal trust fund ...
SSDI contributions are paid for by every worker into a consolidated fund; similar to welfare ...
Only one benefit from SSI can be drawn at a time; either yours or your deceased spouse. If the spouse's benefit is used first, then yours will continue to gain interest till ready to file under your name ...
Age can make a difference. For myself, I draw early survivor's benefits. It will increase from 75% to 100% when I reach age 65, full retirement age ...
If you have the requisite amount of work credits, early retirement is an option. For me it was a matter of doing the math. I found it was better for me to stop working since we had both maxed our work credits. The continued contributions would be money I would not be able to collect nor would it increase my benefits. Of course, SSI will never tell you this ...

Please check the information I found on the Social Security website ...

"SSDI contributions are paid for by every worker into a consolidated fund; similar to welfare ..."

This means contributions are "allocated" into separate government funding programs. It is a "similar procedure" used to fund welfare; it does not mean it is welfare ...

SSI will pay the highest amount of the benefit it is "filed under" whether it be your retirement fund or under the survivor's benefit. I chose to file under the survivor's benefit for early retirement. SSI will recommend or make the change to the deceased spouse's fund when it will pay more than your own or if you want your account to gain interest to draw on at a later time ...

Hope this helps ...

SSI is Social Security Insurance ...

SSDI is Social Security Diability Insurance (full name) ...

You are entitled to receive Social Security disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits when you are no longer able to perform a "substantial" amount of work as the result of a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months, or 

possibly result in death.

https://www.ssa.gov./benefits/benefits ...

*The suggestion to locate the information I found on the SS website was not directed at you personally, it was for everyone to check my information ...*

Thanks to all who replied. I actually did my best to prepare for my appointment. I even downloaded their detailed calculator and entered all of my husbands taxable social security earnings to see what my benefit would be. Honestly, I think that calculator is written in DOS it was very clunky :) 

My state and county positions were always taxed for social security. The pension was based on my earnings and shared contributions from my employer and me.

I think the problem I had was the first thing the social security employee did was ask for my monthly pension statement. Instead, I produced the more than the 60 months of earning statements that showed I always paid the 6. 2% social security tax.  This was listed on the Government Pension Offset publication under the subtitle "When won't my Social Security benefits be reduced?" 

I wanted to alert others to be prepared and cautious about filing. I will reiterate I left my earnings on the table by not claiming them first as a widow before my full retirement age. That was a very costly mistake. Only one of many I have made I'm afraid. Hopefully, by providing the necessary documentation I will receive 100% of my husband's benefit.

I hope my experience may help others.

Unfortunately, forgetfulness is to be expected when burdened with widowbrain; it makes those grieving work harder to overcome it. Confusion can also a big problem ...

Glad you looked for the cause of the error rather than beating yourself up as well as in being helpful to others ... 

I have had a very good experience with the local SS office. I decided not to work two more years and be vested in the local retirement program. Under the windfall act, my SS benefit would have been cut proportionately. I decided instead to file for Ed's SS which was only about 100 less than mine. I retired at 65. When I turn 70, I will file for my benefit which will be at its max.

I'm blessed to have some other funds from my parents. Not gobs of money by any means but I don't know how folks survive on SS alone.

Good luck to all in this SS path! Sometimes it is not for the faint of heart!

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