OIG Reveals Social Security Underpayments to Thousands of Spouses
Virginia Beach, VA (Law Firm Newswire) May 22, 2014 – The Social Security Administration (SSA) owes thousands of Americans higher benefits, amounting to millions of dollars in total.
SSA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) – the agency's internal watchdog – recently conducted an internal audit that revealed failures to increase some retirees' benefits properly.
“The problem lies with some retirees' receipt of spousal benefits,” explained elder law attorney Andrew Hook. “These retirees initially claimed spousal benefits, but they later became eligible for higher benefits based on their own employment. Social Security failed to notify them of that fact.”
The OIG designated two categories of underpaid beneficiaries. First are those who, at full retirement age, claimed spousal benefits, but who are now eligible for a higher payment on their own benefits due to delayed retirement credits. Second are those who claimed their benefits before full retirement age and who were given spousal benefits even though their own employment entitled them to greater benefits at that time.
The problems have resulted from an SSA failure to apply what is known as the “deemed filing provision.” The OIG claims to be highly confident that between 22,000 and 30,000 spouses are eligible for higher retirement benefits. The estimated due total is between $132 million and $258 million.
The OIG first uncovered the underpayments in a 2008 audit. It created a notification letter and asked SSA to send it to those beneficiaries who might be affected. The agency did not dispute the findings, but claimed it lacked the funds and staff to send the letter.
In its recent follow-up audit, the OIG said that SSA owes underpaid beneficiaries both higher ongoing payments and back payments. And it pointed out that because SSA already notifies widows and widowers of the possibility of greater benefits at full retirement age and again at age 70, the agency should be able to add more beneficiaries to its process.
“If you receive spousal benefits from Social Security, or if you are turning 70 and claimed Social Security at full retirement age, you may be eligible for increased benefits,” added Hook. “If you think these circumstances may apply to you, visit your Social Security office or your elder law or estate planning attorney for assistance. You should also check your Social Security work record to make sure it is complete.”
Hook Law Center
295 Bendix Road, Suite 170
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452-1294
5806 Harbour View Blvd.
Suffolk VA 23435
- Top Scams Targeting Seniors – And How to Avoid Them
It’s no secret that the elderly are frequently the target of scams, financial abuse, and exploitation. A senior’s declining cognition may make it more difficult for him to distinguish between a legitimate phone call or e-mail and one designed to take advantage of him. Combine this with hearing or vision loss, and it becomes even […]
- Selling Real Property to Satisfy the Debts of a Decedent
In Virginia, real property vests with the heirs of an estate unless the heirs are divested of legal title. As a result, it is settled law that unless a personal representative of the estate is granted an express power to sell the real estate of the decedent by Will, the personal representative must seek such […]
- Early Signs of Dementia and What to Do About Them
The Alzheimer’s Association’s website, www.alz.org, has a page devoted to 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I commend the site to your review, especially if you are trying to figure out whether you have dementia or just age-related memory changes. Particularly for those of us who have a relative who has struggled with dementia, […]
- Healthy Aging in Hampton Roads: The Future Looks Bright!
Due to advances in healthcare and improved assistive devices, many Americans are healthier in old age and are living longer. The population of Americans over 65 has increased by approximately 30% in the last decade and is projected to continue increasing at a significant rate for the foreseeable future. So how is our region growing […]
- Why You Need an Elder Law Attorney
As elder law attorneys, we help our clients navigate through a host of issues: planning for incapacity or death; determining which long-term care services are appropriate for them; handling concerns about family dynamics, divorcing, feuding, or dysfunctional children; providing for children and grandchildren with special needs; and qualifying and applying for long-term care Medicaid and […]