Money: Social Security Connection-March 2009

Answers to readers’ questions.

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Question:

I applied for Social Security benefits at age 65, while I was still employed. The man who filled out my application at the Social Security office told me that if my husband passed away, I would be able to draw a good percentage of his Social Security benefit amount along with my own benefit amount. Thankfully, however, my husband is still living.

I recently spoke with a different representative at the Social Security office to see what percentage of my husband’s check I could draw if he were to pass away. I told the woman my husband draws $645 a month and that I draw $642 a month. She then told me that I would get his full benefit amount, but would lose my benefit amount, to which I argued that there is only a $3 difference. She then proceeded to tell me that was correct.

What happened to me getting both my husband’s benefit, as well as my own, like the first representative explained? This doesn’t seem right. Is the second representative I talked to wrong? – V.B., Missouri

Answer:

The rules regarding surviving spouse benefits are complex and varied. In the situation described, if you became entitled to widow’s benefits, your own retirement benefit would continue, but would be supplemented with an additional amount up to the total that could be paid on your husband’s record. In other words, you would continue to receive your own benefit amount of $642, in addition to being supplemented $3, which is the full amount of your husband’s benefit, $645.

Other factors, including the full unreduced benefit rate of your husband, his age at the time of his death, and your current age, could also affect the amount of the benefit due to you.

For more detailed information for your particular situation, contact the Social Security office again. Tell the representative your situation, and have him or her access your record to provide you with more details.

Social Security Connection  

To contact the Social Security office, call, toll-free, 1 (800) 772-1213, or visit the Web site at www.SocialSecurity.gov.