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Social Security Underpays Surviving Spouses

February 21, 2018

An overwhelming majority of eligible surviving spouses aren’t getting the full Social Security benefits they’re due because the Social Security Administration hasn’t properly informed them of their options, InvestmentNews writes.

Had the SSA adequately informed widows and widowers about their ability to delay applying for their own retirement benefits, 82% of the people eligible to collect survivor benefits would have a bigger monthly Social Security payment, according to an internal audit conducted by the SSA’s Office of Inspector General and cited by the publication. Surviving spouses and certain eligible surviving ex-spouses can decide on their retirement and survivor claims separately, InvestmentNews writes. Meanwhile, retirement benefits grow 8% annually for each year they’re delayed, until the beneficiary turns 70 — but survivor benefits do not, according to the publication.

In one case, for example, a widow would have collected $13,000 more annually had she waited until she turned 70 to file for her retirement benefits, InvestmentNews writes, citing the report.

The SSA’s Office of Inspector General found 13,564 widows and widowers eligible for both retirement benefits and survivor benefits before age 70 — and currently receiving survivor benefits.

The office then took a random sample of 50 beneficiaries, finding that 41 would have received more had they waited until age 70, the publication writes. In total, the SSA underpaid those 34 of the beneficiaries 70 and over $485,911, while the seven beneficiaries under 70 will be collectively underpaid $36,300 annually once they reach 70, according to InvestmentNews.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the InvestmentNews article cited in this story, click here.