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
- What you should know about myRA accounts
MyRA accounts are a new type of government-backed starter retirement savings account, designed for people whose employers do not offer retirement accounts. As of now, anyone who has direct deposit for their paycheck can sign up and start saving. MyRA accounts are free to open and are sponsored by the government. Account holders can contribute […]
- Increasing number of American retirees affected by student loans
A record number of older adults now carry student loan debt, and the phenomenon is still growing: people over 60 are in the fastest growing age group for college debt, according to a report from The New York Times. A record 2.2 million people age 60 and older now hold student loan debt — three […]
- Many employers provide back-up elder care
Hundreds of New York employers provide back-up elder care, designed to help employees stay at work when an unexpected problem arises with elder care. Employees who have registered for back-up elder care can call a care organization when they face an unexpected interruption in elder care. Within hours, the organization will send a home health […]
- How your life insurance policy can pay for long-term care expenses
A number of companies, such as Life Care Funding, will purchase a senior’s life insurance policy from him or her. In exchange, the company provides a portion of the face value of the policy to individuals facing high long-term care costs. These “life settlement” companies purchase the policy from the policyholder, then continue to pay […]
- Study supports doctor-led approach to end-of-life care planning
The end of a person’s life is a time of intense transition and difficult choices. Although nothing can fully prepare an individual or a family for the gravity of the decisions that need to be made, end-of-life care planning can help ensure that a dying individual’s wishes about his or her care are followed. Traditionally, […]