Apply Only for Spousal Benefits
Spouses have “dual entitlement”. This means that a spouse who has not worked, has low earnings, or plans continue working after Full Retirement Age (FRA) can can be entitled to as much as one-half of the spouse’s retired worker’s full benefit. If you are eligible for both your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will always pay your own benefits first. If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your retirement benefit, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. For example, if your spousal benefit is $1,200 per month and the benefit on your own work record is $1,000 per month. You will receive $1,200 per month ($1,000 per month in benefits from your own work record and $200 per month on your spouse’s work record.)
If you have reached your FRA, are eligible for a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s benefit and your own retirement benefit, you may choose to receive only spouse’s benefits and continue accruing delayed retirement credits (DRCs) on your own Social Security earnings record. You then may file for benefits later and receive a higher monthly benefit based on the effect of the DRCs. (Which are generally an 8 percent increase per year).
You should apply for Social Security retirement benefits three-months before your FRA birthday. Complete the online application form. State that you want benefits to start as soon as possible without any permanent reduction to your FRA benefit. In the section of the online application titled, “When to Start Retirement Benefits” answer Yes to this question, “If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, you may choose to delay receiving your own retirement benefit and receive only the spouse’s benefit for now”.
If you make this selection, the SSA may contact you to verify details. You will receive a written confirmation of the SSA’s decision after your online Spousal Only Benefits application has been processed.
Note: If you are receiving a pension based on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes, your spouse’s benefit may be reduced. For additional information on pensions from work not covered by Social Security see http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10035.pdf