Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

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lhl12
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Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by lhl12 »

Married couple, both in their 80's, collecting Social Security for a number of years. In 2020, husband's payment was $2,118/month and wife's payment was $763/month. (Both of these amounts are net of Medicare premium payments but I don't know the exact amounts -- trying to track them down).

Husband passed away in August. SSA sent a letter to widow saying:

"We changed your monthly benefit amount to $2,277.30 starting August 2020. We changed the amount because you are also entitled on another record.

"The new monthly benefit on your Social Security record will be $776.80. Your new monthly benefit on the other record will be $1,500.50.

"We will continue to deduct the Medicare Part B premium of $144.60 from your payments.

"You will receive $2,132.00 for August 2020 around September 23, 2020."

Aside from the fact that the new payment amount should be $2,132.70 not $2,132.00, do these numbers seem correct? I will eventually contact SSA for an explanation/reconciliation but I was first hoping to learn whether these amounts seemed at least roughly right.
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David Jay
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by David Jay »

Looks correct. I believe the reason why the amount is slightly more than his old benefit is because there is only one Medicare withholding.

BTW - the SSA officially maintains the widow(er)s "personal" benefit and provides an adder to get up to the higher earning spouse's previous benefit. That is what you are seeing:

Her personal benefit: $776.80
Adder to match his benefit: $1500.50
Total: 2277.30

Medicare deduction: $144.60
Amount of deposit: $2132 (whole dollar amount is normal)
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lhl12
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by lhl12 »

Is the idea that in a situation like this, the new benefit amount for the widow becomes roughly equivalent to the old benefit amount for the deceased husband and the old benefit amount for the widow just goes away?
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ResearchMed
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by ResearchMed »

lhl12 wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 11:44 am Is the idea that in a situation like this, the new benefit amount for the widow becomes roughly equivalent to the old benefit amount for the deceased husband and the old benefit amount for the widow just goes away?
Yes. The new survivor benefit is the late spouse's benefit, if that is more than the survivor's.

But the way they calculate it (to the same outcome) is to take the survivor benefit, and add to it any amount above and beyond that from the late spouse's benefit... up til the total of that larger benefit.
If the survivor benefit is higher, then... nothing from the late spouse's benefit.

This is a huge benefit for legal couples, as the survivor gets the equivalent of the higher benefit, regardless of how low the survivor's benefit had been, and even if survivor never worked. (But that is also a benefit while both are alive; it just bumps up at survivor status, if survivor was the lower earner.)

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David Jay
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by David Jay »

lhl12 wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 11:44 am Is the idea that in a situation like this, the new benefit amount for the widow becomes roughly equivalent to the old benefit amount for the deceased husband and the old benefit amount for the widow just goes away?
Well, as you can see, it doesn't actually "go away" according to SSA. But yes, the survivor's benefit is essentially the higher benefit of the two, regardless of which spouse passes.
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future - Niels Bohr | To get the "risk premium", you really do have to take the risk - nisiprius
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HueyLD
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by HueyLD »

When a woman has worked and paid into SS and then claims a retirement benefit, that benefit is her own and is her primary benefit. If she is also entitled to another benefit (dual entitlement), say as a wife or as a widow, that secondary benefit is an add-on. When you no longer qualify for the extra benefit, you no longer get that benefit, e.g., when her husband dies or they divorce after less than 10 years, she can no longer collect as a wife.

Also, if you are collecting benefits and paying only Part B premiums, they take your benefit, subtract the medicare premium, then round down the result to to the nearest dollar to determine what you actually get.

Using that as the basis, it seems the given numbers might be wrong.

Let’s start with her old benefit, which was $763. Since she was getting $763 after a $144.60 reduction for part B, her actual benefit was 907.60 or something close to 908 (908 - 144.6 = 763.4 rounded down to 763). Her new benefit as herself is 776.80, not 908, so clearly she was collect the wife benefit add-on.

Now look at the deceased. His before-death benefit was 2118 + 144.6 = 2262.60 or maybe 2263 (2263 - 144.6 = 2118.4, which rounds down to 2118, what he was getting).

The letter says her new benefit before rounding is her own 776.80 plus her add-on as a widow of 1500.50 for a total of 2277.30. After deducting the 144.6 to get 2132.70 and rounding down, she will net $2132.

RED FLAG: her benefit will be $2277.30, but his before death benefit was only 2263 or so.

It seems at least one of the numbers given is not correct.
earlyout
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by earlyout »

The OP did not know the Medicare deductions for the individuals. It could be that someone was paying more than the normal Medicare premium, possibly because they were a late enrollee.
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HueyLD
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Re: Correct Social Security benefit for widow?

Post by HueyLD »

earlyout wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:39 pm The OP did not know the Medicare deductions for the individuals. It could be that someone was paying more than the normal Medicare premium, possibly because they were a late enrollee.
Bingo!

It appears that the husband in OP’s example was late in enrolling in Medicare and his premium was increased by 10%, or 144.6 x 1.1 = 159.06. Now the math is good to go.
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