June 21, 2021

Social Security and You: When in doubt, file a claim | Smart Change: Personal Finance

Q: I am 62 years old. I called Social Security’s 800 number and told them I wanted to file for my Social Security benefits. I run my own business but plan to turn it over to my wife and pay myself a salary of $18,000 per year so I will be under the Social Security earnings limit and thus eligible for my monthly checks. The telephone rep I talked to told me I was not eligible for benefits and terminated the interview. Do I have any recourse?

These questions help me illustrate the point I made at the beginning of this column: You have every right to file for whatever Social Security benefits you think you might be due. So, whenever there is any doubt about your eligibility, always demand to file a claim.

By doing so, you accomplish two things. One, you will get a legal decision about your eligibility for benefits, not just one Social Security rep’s opinion (or one Social Security columnist’s opinion). And two, you will have appeal rights.

In other words, if your claim is denied and you still are not satisfied, you can ask that your claim be reviewed. You could take it all the way to the Supreme Court if you wanted to! That last comment is a little far-fetched (although feasible).

However, the basic point I am making is very valid. If a Social Security agent just says no and you later learn you were due benefits, you generally won’t be able to do anything about it but gripe — and then file a claim with no retroactivity. But if you actually file a claim the first time and it is denied, and you later are able to prove your eligibility, you will get full retroactive benefits to the date you filed the claim.

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