Ask Larry: ​​​​​​When Social Security Doesn’t Pay Widows Their Survivor Benefits On Time

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Social Security may be one of your largest assets. What and when you collect will make a huge difference to your lifetime benefits.

Today’s column addresses ensuring timely receipt of benefits due, deeming, suspending and withdrawing, determining future benefits and the ability to receive a spousal benefit after receiving a disability benefit. Larry Kotlikoff is the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security, a Social Security benefits calculator referred to in this post.

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When Social Security Doesn’t Pay Widows Their Survivor Benefits On Time

Hi Larry, I’m a recent widow, with a survivor claim opened in March. A year ago I was not old enough when my husband passed away after almost 20 years of marriage. I worked all my life until his strokes and became his caregiver. Prior to that he worked and on file somewhere I have his Social Security earning statement. They don’t seem to send these out anymore. I was told in 2016 wait a year till I turn 60 and apply and this March I did. A representative informed me that the claim was pending and they would process it within the 60 days maximum time and that the entitlement would start back from 2/2017 and the expected date is in May. I have not received one notification and none of the staffers could tell the status of the application.

Being a caregiver has many challenges and being left not employed and struggling until then is frustrating. I am experienced but age becomes a factor. So how do you expedite matters if they go beyond the maximum 60 days? They have ensured me that it would not be my retirement benefit but my widow’s benefit for sure but I am leery. I know later I can switch to my retirement benefit and I have read your posts on filing strategies for widows. Thanks, Jane

Dear Jane, I’m very sorry to hear about your husband. This is a very tough time and having to deal with Social Security’s incompetence is just awful. First, please run Maximize My Social Security or some other program that’s very precise to make sure you should be taking your widow’s benefit now and your own retirement benefit at 70 as opposed to waiting till 62 to take your retirement benefit and then taking a higher widows benefit either when you turn full retirement age or earlier, if your husband took his retirement benefit before his own full retirement age.

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