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SSA Updates File & Suspend Guidance


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Recently the Social Security Administration provided some guidance regarding how the end of file & suspend will be handled, in light of the changes that were brought about by the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15).

If you’ll recall, the option to suspend your Social Security benefit (part of File & Suspend) allowed one member of a couple to establish a filing date which would then provide the other member of the couple with the eligibility to file for a spousal benefit. The first member of the couple (who suspended benefits) is allowing his or her benefit to accrue the delay credits while the second member receives benefits. This provision was eliminated 180 days after the passage of BBA15.

Below is how the Social Security Administration will handle the suspension of benefits going forward:

  • For individuals who are FRA or older, if a request for suspension of benefits has been submitted before April 30, 2016:
    • The suspension will be treated as in the past (even if it has not been processed by that date, as long as it was submitted timely). This means that auxiliary benefits (such as spousal or dependent’s benefits) can continue to be paid based upon that suspended record while it is suspended.
    • In addition, the numberholder (NH) who requests a suspension prior to April 30, 2016 can in the future ask that benefits are reinstated as of any date after the suspension request, up to the present date (this is known as a lump-sum retroactive payment).
    • During the period that the NH benefit is suspended, he or she can collect excess spousal benefits based on a spouse’s record. An excess spousal benefit is the amount of spousal benefit that is “excess”, or greater, than the NH own benefit.
  • For individuals who submit a request for suspension of benefits on or after April 30, 2016:
    • No auxiliary benefits (spousal, child’s, or other, including benefits that have been received in the past) can be paid on the NH record while the benefit is suspended – EXCEPT for ex-spouse benefits. This is a significant exception, as had the rules been applied exactly as written, a NH could control benefits to an ex-spouse. With this exception, that is not going to be the case.
    • In addition, when removing the suspension, benefits will resume in the month following the month that the request was received (or later). In other words, no lump-sum retroactive benefits will be available.
    • No excess spousal benefits can be paid to the NH while the primary benefit is suspended.

The other significant item is that the date has been set at April 30, 2016 – but it’s not as significant as it seems. Anyone born on or before April 30, 1950 (actually May 1, 1950) is considered to be FRA during the entire month of April, 2016, so even if born on May 1, 1950 the NH should be in good shape if they want to use this provision.

If you would like to see the actual message from SSA, follow this link.


  1. Mona Junkin says:

    My husband just signed up for SS this month after turning 66 last month. We plan to do the “file and suspend” method before the April 30th deadline, but were wondering if we decide to receive 1 or 2 payments before the deadline to suspend, would we have to pay back those benefits? I turn 66 next January and plan to file a “restricted spousal application” at that time, while he lets his grow until 70. Also, can we file the suspension online, or do we need to call for this? Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can request the suspension after receiving benefits (or rather your husband can) without paying anything back. He must suspend in April though, in order to allow you to file a restricted application in January.

      I don’t know if you can request the suspension online – I believe you will either need to call the hotline or visit your local office to enact the suspension.

  2. Marc Zahn says:

    From what I read, you qualify. You were born before Jan 2, 1954, you were married for 10 years or more, have been divorced for at least 2 years and have not remarried.

  3. Sandra Flint says:

    I don’t think this topic affects me but correct me if I’m wrong. Born 09-17-51, married 25 years, divorced in 2001, never remarried, filing a restricted application at full retirement age in September 2017.

    1. jblankenship says:

      It doesn’t affect you, because the new treatment of suspending benefits excludes ex-spouses. You’re in good shape based on what we’ve reviewed previously.


  4. Lynn anderson says:

    We have a different situation. I am 67
    And on social security. My husband is 62, had a serious heart attack 2/16. We don’t know how much he will be able to work but he will work some to train his replacement. Does he have to file and suspend for me to get the spousal benefit? He plans to retire Nov 1. Do we need to F&S before April 30-2016? His benefit will be larger than mine. We have applied for disability for him but haven’t’the gotten a ruling yet as Drs are not sure about what he can do. We are backwards of all the examples given. Help!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your husband cannot file and suspend before he reaches age 66 – so the file & suspend option is out for you.

      If he is eligible for disability benefits, you may be eligible to file a restricted application based on his record, delaying your own benefit to a later date. Otherwise, in order for you to receive benefits based on his record, he would have to file for his benefit – which would reduce his benefit from the “full” amount that he would receive at age 66 to approximately 75%.


  5. Marc Zahn says:

    There is still one strategy left for a few of us after BBA15 . I do believe that anyone who attained the age of 62 prior to the end of 2015 will still have the right to file for the spousal benefit at their FRA provided that the spouse has already filed for his or her benefit. This would allow you to have four more years to increase your Social Security benefit to its full amount at age 70.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Absolutely – if you qualify by virtue of having been born before 1954, it’s definitely in your favor to look into this option.


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