In the January edition of our Elder Law Today newsletter, we explained how Congress had recently ended the popular Social Security strategy known as “file and suspend”. This strategy permitted a primary wage earner to file for benefits, but suspend receiving them. This allowed the other spouse to collect benefits based upon the primary wage earner’s Social Security contributions while the deferred benefit for the primary wage earner continued to grow. The additional Social Security benefits could be significant – potentially exceeding more than $100,000 in lifetime benefits. Congress did however grandfather those individual’s who turn 66 by April 29 to file and suspend under the old rule.
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration doesn’t seem to understand its own rules. As reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article, some individuals have been mistakenly told by Social Security agents they are not eligible for the file and suspend strategy (“Confusion Grows on Social Security Rules”). Multiple reports have been made of Social Security agents refusing to accept applications to file and suspend for benefits even though the applicants were in fact eligible.
The Social Security Administration has stated that it doesn’t “believe there is widespread misinformation being disseminated to the public.” – not very reassuring to those who might have been misled. It has however, tried to address this matter by issuing new explanations of the rules changes on its website and also publishing two “emergency messages” to its agents this month.
If you are 66 years old by April 29, this will be your last chance to file and suspend for Social Security benefits. Don’t rely on the Social Security agent to understand the rule and its implications, consult with an experienced adviser today.