Spouses Eligible for Higher Retirement Benefits

Date: 
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Report Number: 
A-09-12-21292
Report Type: 
Audit Report
Office Affiliation: 

Individuals receiving spousal benefits may have sufficient earnings to be eligible for higher retirement benefits based on their own earnings. Their retirement benefits may be further increased for any month in which they did not receive a monthly benefit after full retirement age (FRA).

Individuals who file an application for reduced retirement or spousal benefits must also file for the other benefit if they are eligible for both benefits in their first month of entitlement. This requirement is referred to as the deemed filing provision. If SSA subsequently becomes aware that a spouse receiving reduced benefits was eligible for retirement benefits when he/she filed, it must establish entitlement to retirement benefits beginning with the first month of entitlement to reduced spousal benefits.

In a 2008 audit, we found that spouses did not always receive the higher retirement benefits due them. We estimated that 13,580 spouses were eligible for $123.7 million in higher retirement benefits after they attained age 70.

In this audit, we sought to determine whether SSA had adequate controls to identify and notify spousal beneficiaries who may have been eligible for higher retirement benefits based on their own earnings.