Social security law has changed in recent years, and couples seeking to collect should know, or be reminded, of how these laws can impact their benefits. Here, the disability advocates at Disability Associates explain what to expect if you are filing this year.

In years past, there were several ways for couples to maximize their Social Security benefits. Now, new laws have limited these opportunities. Before filing for Social Security, it is important to understand the current laws, and which may be outdated.

File and Suspend

This former Social Security filing strategy enabled a higher earner to claim benefits, allowing their spouse to claim their respective spousal – typically half of the higher earner’s allotment. The higher earner would then suspend their benefits, waiting to reapply until age 70, which helps increase benefits collected at the later date. However, the lower earner could continue to collect spousal benefits on behalf of the original filing.

Under current law, if the higher earner suspends their benefits, the lower earner will not be able to continue receiving their spousal benefits. Further, if an individual suspends their benefits and then reapplies, they will no longer be able to collect retroactive benefits—benefits that they would have collected had they not suspended them.

Restricting an Application

Between the age of 62 and 66, benefits applicants must accept the highest benefit they are eligible for, whether those benefits are classified as spousal or retirement benefits. Before current law took effect, those who reached 66 were then able to choose which benefits they received, allowing them to take spousal benefits and let the retirement benefits accrue delayed credits. Now, applicants of any age must take the higher of the two benefits, or delay their benefits entirely.

The only exception to this rule is only applicable for survivor and disability benefits. If an applicant qualifies for survivor or disability benefits, they will be able to take them separately from their retirement benefit.

Enrollment Deadlines

There are specific dates of eligibility that allow applicants to continue taking advantage of these former avenues. If an applicant turned 66 or older between December 2015 and May 1st, 2016, they are still eligible to employ the “file and suspend” method. If an applicant was 62 or older by the first of January, 2016, they are eligible to employ the “restricted application” strategy.

Maximizing Benefits

One of the most successful ways to increase your Social Security benefits is to delay filing until age 70, at which age you will earn delayed retirement credits. This will help increase your benefits when you begin collecting. This is a preferred and viable option among those who are still able to work, or have other revenues of income.

At Disability Associates, we work hard to ensure that those who deserve Social Security disability benefits receive them. If you have questions about Social Security disability benefits, or wish to schedule a consultation, contact us today.