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Restricted Application – the Definitive Guide

this fellow didn't file a restricted applicationMuch has been written and discussed regarding the option to file a Restricted Application for Social Security spousal benefits, but there are still many, many questions. This article is an attempt at covering all of the bases for you with regard to restricted application.

The topic of restricted application is so popular these days because it’s being eliminated as a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15). In fact, if you were born on or after January 2, 1954, the changes to the rules have eliminated the option to file a restricted application for you altogether.

So – unless you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you might as well stop reading, because restricted application is not available to you. Period.

Restricted Application Rules

Okay, if you’re continuing to read, you (or your client, if you’re an advisor) must have been born early enough to be eligible for a restricted application. There are a few rules that you must be aware of for filing a restricted application:

  1. THERE IS NO DEADLINE FOR FILING A RESTRICTED APPLICATION OTHER THAN YOUR AGE 70. In other words, the upcoming deadline of April 30, 2016 has nothing to do with restricted application eligibility.
  2. You must be at or older than Full Retirement Age (FRA) to file a restricted application.
  3. You must not have filed for your own Social Security benefit previously. This includes File & Suspend.
  4. You may have previously received Social Security benefits as a young parent of a child under age 16, or as a child yourself under age 18. These benefits do not eliminate your eligibility for a restricted application.
  5. You cannot be actively receiving disability benefits. If you previously received disability benefits that were terminated some time in the past because the disability (or your eligibility) ceased, you may still be eligible for a restricted application.
  6. Your spouse must have filed for his or her own benefits. May also have suspended benefits, if the suspense was completed before April 30, 2016. But if the suspense was after April 30, 2016 you will not be eligible for spousal benefits until the suspense is lifted.
  7. If you are divorced and the divorce was finalized more than 2 years prior, your ex-spouse must only be at or older than 62 years of age, and is not required have filed for benefits. (*This is the exception to the rule in #6.)
  8. Only one member of a married couple may file a restricted application (doesn’t include ex-spouses).

Why Would You Want to File a Restricted Application?

A restricted application allows you to receive spousal benefits while delaying your own benefit, in order to accrue the delayed retirement credits (DRCs).

For example, Jeff and Cindy are both at FRA, age 66 this year. Jeff has filed for his benefits, in the amount of $2,000 per month. Cindy’s own benefit could be $900 if she filed now, but she wants to delay her benefit until age 70, when the DRCs will have increased her benefit to $1,188 (DRCs are 8% per year of delay).

Since Jeff has already filed for his benefit, and Cindy is at FRA in 2016 (therefore having been born before January 2, 1954), Cindy is eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits. She’ll receive a spousal benefit of $1,000 (50% of Jeff’s benefit at his age 66) and then her own benefit will accrue the DRCs since she has not filed for her own benefit.

For another example, Simon is 67 years of age and his wife Patty is 63 this year. Simon’s age 66 benefit would have been $1,500, and Patty’s would be $1,000. Patty has just retired from her job, and is filing for her own Social Security benefit. She’ll receive a reduced benefit in the amount of $800 since she filed early. Simon has not filed for Social Security benefits prior to this, as he intends to delay his filing until age 70.

Since Patty has filed for her own benefit and Simon is older than FRA in 2016 (therefore having been born before January 2, 1954), he is eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits. Simon will receive $500 per month for the coming three years, and then at age 70 he will file for his own benefit, which has increased to $1,980 with the DRCs.

So you can see, there may be much to be gained by filing a restricted application in the right circumstances.

How to File a Restricted Application

In order to accomplish the filing of a restricted application, you have four options to choose from. These options are listed below:

  1. Go to and apply using the online application. When you do this, fill out the application as if you will be receiving ordinary benefits, and there’s a question on the application which asks: If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits? Answer this question “Yes”, and continue to complete the application. You have now filed a restricted application.
  2. You can file a paper application (Form SSA-1-BK is available online as well). Fill it out as if you were going to receive benefits, and then indicate in the REMARKS section “I want to restrict the scope of this application to spousal benefits only. I wish to delay filing for my own benefit to age 70.”
  3. Call 1-800-772-1213 to apply by phone. Tell the representative that you wish to file for benefits and restrict the application to spousal benefits only, and that you wish to delay filing for your own benefits to age 70 in order to earn the delay credits.
  4. Visit your local Social Security Administration office. Tell your representative that you wish to file for benefits and restrict the application to spousal benefits only, and that you wish to delay filing for your own benefits to age 70 in order to earn the delay credits.

That’s it. You don’t need to do anything else. It’s not necessary for your spouse to file & suspend (only to file), so the April 30, 2016 deadline for file & suspend doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with this.

And whoever is filing the restricted application definitely does not file & suspend – see the 3rd rule earlier in this article. File & suspend would actually derail your plan to file a restricted application.


  1. Christine N Crawford says:

    Hi Jim,

    Great article! You clearly know your stuff! I hope you can assist me here:

    I was born in 1953 and my former husband was born in 1952. We married in 1984 and divorced in 2000. I have never remarried and have never taken any social security benefits having been told that if I can wait until I turn 70, my benefit would be the higher of either my or my former husband’s benefits.

    My former husband starting taking his benefits at age 62 in the amount of $1,770 per month before taxes. This amount has been pretty consistent over the last 7 years. He said that while he was working overseas several years ago, he had to pay back some of his social security. He can’t remember when or how much that was.

    There’s a chart on showing that since he was paid 75% of his full benefit amount at his age 62, I would have received 35% of his full benefit amount ($826 per month) if I had applied for his benefits at that time but I’m unsure about this since I am 1.5 years younger than he is and was not eligible to apply at that time, I don’t think.

    I received a statement from Social Security when I was 62 showing that my benefit amount would have been $883 per month based on my own earnings.

    So, does this mean that I would have received my own benefits instead of my former husband’s had I applied at my age 62 since my own benefits would have been the higher amount? Also, if I’m reading about this restricted application correctly, is it true that had I waited until my age 66 I could have received only my divorced spouse’s benefit and delayed my own until I’m 70? Still, at my age 66, my own benefit would have been about $1,127 from my own earnings and about $885 from my former husband’s so it seems that I still would have received benefits based on my own work at my age 66. Or am I confusing two different sets of guidelines?

    I have a financial plan with a wonderful (or so I thought) large wealth management firm that serves all 50 states. My financial plan charts out my pension, a portion of my former husband’s pension, and my social security income at 70, but there’s no mention of my former husband’s social security benefits. This wealth management firm states that its fiduciary responsibility guides everything it does, that it takes a proactive approach when helping clients prepare for their future needs including Social Security benefits, and that it considers the significance of all assets available such as real estate, Social Security, and pensions. I have been paying them and relying on them to advise me for four years so I’m shocked to read that I might have been able to apply for benefits already and I was not notified about it!

    If I am eligible for this restricted application now, would I just be able to request benefits going back six months? Has anyone ever been successful in trying to obtain benefits going back further than that? Is my wealth management firm culpable for failing to advise me at a more opportune time that I could have filed a restricted application? And, if so, do I have any recourse here?

    Many thanks, Jim!

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’re right, at least from my understanding of your situation – since you were born before 1954, you should be eligible for a restricted application for spousal benefits. That benefit would be in the amount of 50% of your ex-husband’s full (non-reduced) benefit. I estimate that this benefit would be approximately $1,180. You should check into this right away, because every month that goes by is just money left on the table. You could have filed for this benefit at your age 66. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can be done about the benefits that you’ve already left behind. I doubt if your wealth management firm would take responsibility for this oversight – but I think you should definitely tell them about their omission.

      Filing the restricted application will not have an impact on your own benefit. You should still be able to file for your own benefit at age 70, which will then replace your spousal benefit.

      1. Christine N Crawford says:

        Thanks, Jim, for your speedy reply!

        So tell me, had I tried to apply for my former husband’s social security benefits when I was 62, the amount would have been $826 from his benefits, but $883 based on my own work. Would I have received the higher amount and then locked myself in to that amount for the rest of my life with no way for me to receive the highest amount based on my own work at my age 70?

        Had I waited longer than my age 62, both my former husband’s benefits would have gone up, but mine would have also, right? So, would it have made sense to have taken benefits before my age 66? I’m thinking that I would not have been able to receive any of my former husband’s benefits before the restricted application took place since my own benefits would have been higher than my former husband’s all that time. My pensions and savings are continuing to allow me to pay my bills which is why I’ve been planning to wait until I turn 70 to take benefits.

        I am asking for clarification about all of this because I am planning to contact my wealth management firm about this issue.

        Thanks so much again!

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, it is correct that if you had filed for benefits at age 62 you would have been locked in to your own benefit (since it’s the larger of the two). Deemed filing rules would have only allowed that benefit and no other filing (until your ex-husband’s death) would be available.

          At your age 66 it would have made sense to file for the spousal benefit, continuing to delay your own benefit to age 70. That’s why I said you should go ahead and file for the spousal benefit via a restricted application now.

          Best wishes to you –

  2. Kevin says:

    Social security didn’t switch to my wife’s own benefit after she turned 70 after having done the Restricted Application. She is now 70 1/2 and we just confirmed that they didn’t automatically switch to hers after utilizing her DRCs. Is she entitled to a lump sum of the 6 months she did not receive the increased benefit – does she need to complete another form to receive this?

    1. jblankenship says:

      My understanding is that she should be able to get 6 months’ worth of benefits up to her filing date. This is a matter to take up with SSA though, you should either call or visit a local office to straighten this out.

  3. Karen Robb says:

    Jim, I will be 62 in August and my husband is 66 and qualifies for the restricted application. I’ve done some analysis and found that from a life time benefit perspective it would be advantageous for us to use restricted application. So the plan would be for me to apply at 62 followed by my husband filing a restricted application and then switch to his own benefit at 70. Some months ago, before having the benefit of your excellent article and comments, I called S.S. to confirm how much benefit my husband would actually get and the rep on the phone was adamant it would be 1/2 of my reduced benefit – not half of my PIA. So it appears many S.S. reps are just not knowledgeable about restricted application. Can you refer me to any S.S. documents that I can reference when we actually start the application process? 1/2 versus 2/3 of my PIA is a big deal. Thank you so much.

    1. jblankenship says:

      It’s done within a computer program, so the SSA staff’s opinion has no bearing on it. I’m sure this is documented elsewhere, but one reference that I found is in POMS RS 00615.201 Reduced Spouse’s Benefits – B.1.a – the very first line states that the “unreduced spouse’s benefit is 50% of the NH’s unreduced PIA”.

  4. John says:

    I know someone who in 2017 filed for survivor’s benefits at (or maybe a month before) 66 (her FRA), which were much lower than hers would have been at the time, with the intention of switching to and receiving deferred benefits from her own account (which would be even 32% higher when she reaches 70. She went to the local SSA office, and they told her, good idea, of course this is how it will work out, no worries.

    It wasn’t until much later that I stumbled onto articles like yours, specifying that any such person must specifically “restrict the scope” of their application.

    1. How can she verify that this is indeed the way the SSA had characterized her application, even though she was never aware of having to use the language you specify? Beyond receiving vague, verbal assurances, I mean.

    2. If this is not the case, what happens when she turns 70 and says she wants to switch? Will she be stuck with the much lower survivor’s benefits for the rest of her life, because this is what they will say she had “chosen?”

    3. Can she do anything about this in 2020? Even if the people there have amnesia and won’t back her up, why else would she have chosen the much lower of the two benefit amounts available to her at the time, unless she had intended to file a restricted application, even though she did not know the correct wording to use. Again, she did tell them her intentions, and they told her she could expect to have happen exactly what she anticipated.

    1. jblankenship says:

      The fact that your friend is receiving the smaller amount ensures that she filed a restricted scope application. Without restricting the application’s scope, SSA automatically pays the highest possible benefit to the individual at the time of filing the application. So, since she’s receiving the smaller amount now, when she reaches age 70 (or whenever she chooses to do so) she should be able to file an application for retirement benefits based on her record, and receive the larger amount.

      1. John says:

        Thank you for that; it’s a big relief that you think so, but is there some way to get this verified from them in writing? From what I’m reading, it wouldn’t be the first time the SSA people made a mistake.

        I had forgotten to add

        4. In your experience, have you ever seen someone having chosen the lower of two available amounts and later been told they can’t switch to the other one?

        I hope I’m correct that you’re implying you have never seen or heard of such a thing happening. :)

        1. jblankenship says:

          I suppose you could call SSA and ask, or visit a local office.

          If the individual is receiving a lower benefit than he/she is eligible for, simply applying for the higher benefit should suffice. I have never heard of a situation where this was not allowed.

  5. Nancy says:

    Is there anyway to undo a own benefits filing and convert to restricted spousal benefit? Seems not from your post on the restricted benefit

    1. jblankenship says:

      If there has been less than 12 months since filing for your own benefits, you can withdraw your application and pay back all of the benefits received. This will re-set your file as if you had never filed, allowing you to file a restricted application. If more than 12 months has passed, this option is not available and there is no way to “undo” the filing to allow a restricted application filing.

  6. Frank says:

    Just like kateyare’s (March 21, 2019 am) comment below , the same thing happened to us.

    We completed an online application, answered “Yes” to “If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits?” and added in the REMARKS section – “I want to restrict the scope of this application to spousal benefits only. I wish to delay filing for my own benefit to age 70.”

    Now 7 weeks later our online “restricted application” was approved for “full retirement” benefits (not spouse benefits).

    We also went into the local SSA office to have this corrected and had to “withdraw” (only allowed once in a lifetime) the online application (using form SSA-521) and complete a new “restricted” Spouse application using form SSA-2-BK.

    Three local office SSA workers told us (contrary to everything we read online on multiple websites, SSA.GOV included) that we could not file for Spouse benefits online.

    We now have to wait another month to see if this is corrected and approved for only the Spouse Benefit.

    1. jblankenship says:


      Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope this isn’t widespread!

  7. Boris Nadgor says:

    Thanks, Jim, for the article – it helps a lot. However, I cannot find anywhere the answer to one burning question. By filing a restricted application, am I mandated/obliged to delay my own SS benefits till age 70 or I can switch to my own SS benefits at any point of time between my FRA and age of 70?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You may delay as long as you want (before filing for your own benefit). There is no restriction on when you file. The delay can be as little as one month or as long as up to your age 70. You’re not required to file at age 70 even, although delaying past age 70 doesn’t gain anything for you.

  8. Peter says:

    Thank you for the helpful article. My mother is turning 70 in August and started working with her social security rep to start receiving her benefits. My father is 77 and has been receiving benefits since he was 70, I believe. The social security rep informed my mother that she had been missing out on significant $$$ every month since she was 66 by failing to file for the spousal benefit (my mother had no idea this existed). I am trying to help them understand what happened. Is there any way to retroactively file the restricted application, or is this money simply gone. Is there ANY benefit to not having filed the application, or is this just money down the drain?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately there is no way to go back and retroactively file for these benefits that far back. She might be able to go back 6 months at most from the time that she files, but that’s all I know of.

  9. kateyare says:

    I filed for benefits online February 1, and used the online retirement application, including a statement in the comments to the effect that I was filing a restricted application for benefits on my ex-spouse’s account. The application did not offer the option to choose between spousal and retirement benefits, although it did ask for all the information necessary to process either. After 7 weeks, I am being told by the local SSA office that I did not file the “right” application, and that I need to withdraw my application and start over with a new application. I was born in 1953 and all other criteria for a restricted application are met. What is the “right” application?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I would ask the local SSA office that question if I were you. As far as I know, the online application should suffice in most cases, but since they’re telling you to do something else you should ask them what form you should file.

  10. Becky says:

    Hi Jim,
    I just turned 65 and plan to wait until I’m 70 to retire so that I can earn the extra ss benefit. At what point do I need to sign up for ss to ensure I don’t sign up to early, or too late?
    I’m also confused about the Medicare sign up. I work for a company with over 100 employees and was told I did not need to sign up for A or B until I stop working. Yet someone else told me that I should sign up for A only. What is your recommendation as to when I should sign up for A and/or B.
    By the way, I purchased your Medicare book on Amazon and should be receiving it in a couple of days.
    Thank you,

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can apply for benefits up to 3 months before you expect to begin receiving the benefit. If you attempt to apply earlier than that your application will be held or disallowed as too early.

      Regarding the signup for Medicare, if your employer plan allows you to maintain it as the primary payer, then you won’t need to sign up for Medicare. Talk to your human resources staff or the healthcare plan provider to make sure that this is allowed. Many plans require you to sign up for Part A at a minimum, and then you can still maintain your current plan as the secondary payer.

      1. Becky says:

        Thank you, Jim. I appreciate your response and just have to comment that you and financialducksinarow is just awesome!

        1. jblankenship says:

          You’re welcome!

  11. Steve says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this information on a “restricted allowance”. My wife is 68 and has been collecting SS benefits since turning 62. I will turn 66 in March 2019 and would like to file a restricted allowance for spousal benefits at that time. Can you please confirm two questions for me?

    1. How far in advance can I file my application knowing I turn 66 on 3/6/2019?
    2. Is the form SSA-2-BK the correct form to use for applying for spousal benefits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You may file an application (including a restricted application) up to 3 months before your benefit is to begin. The paper form to use is SSA-2-BK for spousal benefits, or the online application. You can also call the hotline at 1-800-772-1213 to apply.

      1. Chris VC says:

        I’m still somewhat confused. In your “How to File a Restricted Application” section in item #1 you talk about filing online. In item #2 you mention form SSA-1-BK. Form SSA-1-BK is “Application For Retirement Insurance Benefits.” This does not appear to be the form for applying for spousal benefits. Form SSA-2-BK is “Application For Wife’s Or Husband’s Insurance Benefits.” If someone is applying for restricted benefits using the paper forms it appears that form SSA-2-BK is the form to use and not form SSA-1-BK.

        Please note: the most current paper version of these two forms do NOT contain the question “If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits?”

        Thus, the paper forms do not appear to have a specific entry / item to allow the designation that the application is a restricted application.

        Your item #1 indicates that filing a restricted application online is done by filling out an online application as if you were applying for your OWN retirement benefits and that only the question “If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits?” converts the own application to a restricted spouse application. Is that correct? This sounds kind of strange.

        Have any readers had success using this approach to setting up a restricted application?

        If you can, please confirm and comment on this. – Thank you.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Form SSA-2-BK is the proper form for applying for spousal benefits, restricted or otherwise. However, the method I described (using SSA-1-BK with the remarks) is also acceptable, as I understand it. In reality, SSA has made a significant effort to push all applications to the online version, that is the preferred method. The recommendation is to use the online application whenever possible, or call the hotline and apply over the phone.

          There is only one online application for retirement benefits – and if you’re restricting benefits to spousal only, you must answer the question about delaying receipt of your own retirement benefits appropriately. All persons who have successfully filed an online application restricted to spousal benefits have used this method, strange as you may find the process.

        2. Steve says:

          Hi Chris, I am turning 66 in March and applied on-line in November, which is the maximim lead time that you can apply for future retirement benefits. I followed Jim’s advice and under the remarks section, I stated that I wanted to restrict my application to spousal benefits only. The application was accepted and my spousal benefit is processing. Because I elected to have my benefit begin after my full retirement age, social security told me that I will receive my confirmation (award notice letter) one month before my benefit begins. Hope this helps answer your questions/concerns.

          1. Chris VC says:

            Steve – Thanks for the reply. Please post a follow-up when you can and tell us how your spousal benefit confirmation (award notice letter) went. Hopefully, Soc Sec Admin followed through with no hiccups.

      2. Stanley Prime says:

        Jim, thanks for all this great information on a Restricted Application. I do not remember seeing your answer to this question.
        1. If I do a restricted application on my wifes benefits, and receive half of her FRB until I reach the age of 70 and then file for my own benifits. Will she then after I file start receiving half my benifits at FRA, which would have been at age 66?
        2. Also in our case my wife Marie has started taking reduced benifits, (age 63) at $2000. a month. My beneifits at FRA, age 66 July 2019 is $2660. for a combinded total of $4660. If I do a restricted application, Marie will get $2000. now, I will get $1250. half Maries $2500. at FRA. Then when I turn 70, and file for my benefits it will be $3550. for me and Marie would then receive half my FRA $1330. for a combined total of $4880.
        3.Does this make sence, and in our case is it worth doing?

        Thanks Stan P.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Since your FRA benefit is $2,660 and your wife’s unreduced FRA benefit is $2,500, she is not eligible for a spousal benefit. To take a spousal benefit she’d be reducing her overall benefit (from the current $2,000 to $1,330), so that would make no sense at all.

          You can do the restricted application if you were born before 1954. You’ll receive $1,250 and your wife will continue with her $2,000 benefit, for a total of $3,250 per month. Then when you reach age 70 and file for your own benefit, you will receive $3,550 (per your calculation) and your wife will continue to receive $2,000, for a household total of $5,550.

  12. Pat Hunter says:

    My husband receives $1640 in ss benefits which he started receiving at FRA. Our disabled child is receiving half of my husband’s ss benefits ($820). I will be turning 66 in Oct and want to file a restricted application on my husband’s benefits as well. I realize there is a maximum amount (FMB) that can be claimed on one persons PIA. How do I determine that amount? Is it worth filing a restricted application if our adult child will receive significantly less? I want to wait until age 70 to claim my benefit since I am the larger earner. Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      When you begin receiving Spousal Benefits, there will likely be an increase in the household benefit received, even though your disabled child’s portion is likely to reduce. Social Security will need to calculate the maximum benefit amount for you – but in general your total household benefit received should go up when you file.

    2. Pat says:

      Thank you so much. Your advice is so valuable.

      1. jblankenship says:

        Happy to know that it’s been useful to you!

  13. Bill Schultz says:

    Great article! I am 67, retired, and have “filed and suspended” before the deadline back in 2106. My wife will be 65 in June and may elect to take her benefit then even though reduced by 8%. Eventually she’ll swap over to 1/2 my benefit since that will be more than her benefit. From the article I think I would have to cancel or rescind my “file and suspend” before I could file a restricted application and get 50% of her benefit – is that correct? . . . or am I already locked out since I have filed and suspended?


    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately you will not be allowed to file a restricted application for spousal benefits since you have filed and suspended. The good news is that your wife will be eligible for spousal benefits – but possibly mixed in as bad news is that she won’t be able to wait to “swap over” to 1/2 of your benefit as you described. If she files for her own benefit at age 65, she’ll automatically also file for spousal benefits at that time. So she’ll receive the spousal benefit (assuming it’s more than her own) reduced by filing early.

      Your only option at this point is to file whenever you choose to – or rather unsuspend – as late as age 70.

  14. Chris L. says:

    I thought I read something that said the use of this “restricted” application is over after 2019. I am going to be 65 in Sept. (born in 1953), my wife is two years younger (born in Oct. 1955) and will reach her PIA in 2021. So I understand that I can not file a restricted application until she reaches her PIA so I can collect 1/2 of her SS until I reach 70. Is this allowed?

    1. jblankenship says:

      There are many misunderstandings in so few sentences.

      Restricted application is not “over” in 2019. 2019 is the year when people who were born in 1953 will reach age 66, the earliest age when you can use the restricted application. But restricted applications are still available in later years – effectively by 2023 it won’t likely make sense for anyone to use the restricted application strategy because by then all of those eligible will be age 70 or older.

      You do not have to wait until your wife reaches Full Retirement Age to file a restricted application. However, you do have to wait until she files for her own benefit. If she filed now at age 64, you would be eligible to file a restricted application, to collect 50% of the amount that she would receive at her FRA. Understand that her own benefit would be reduced by approximately 15% (depends on when she files).

      Or you could wait until she reaches FRA if she wants to wait until then to file for her own benefits, and then you could file a restricted application.

      In either case, if you file the restricted application you are delaying filing for your own benefit and can do so up to age 70 when it would be maximized.

      1. lee says:

        “If she filed now at age 64, “, she will get reduced benefits. Then when he files for his benefits supposedly at 70, she can’t get half of his benefits at full age, but a discounted benefits because she filed for hers earlier. Am I right?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, that is correct.

  15. Rick R says:

    Thanks for the great article, Mr. Blankenship and for answering questions. My wife and I have a somewhat complicated case and have important decisions to make. I turned 68 in March, 2017, am retired, and have been delaying my Social Security retirement benefit.

    My wife turned 63 in December, 2017. She has been off work on disability since June, 2017. In December, 2017, her employer released her from employment (she no longer has a job). For at least the next three months she will be receiving a long-term-disability benefit from an insurance company, and she has also applied for Social Security Disability.

    My wife is considering filing for her S.S. retirement benefit, which would be about $1,200 at this time. The disability insurance company tells us that any S.S. benefit that she receives would be subtracted from her insurance benefit. And she understands that she would no longer receive delayed retirement credits. The advantage of filing now would be that I would (I think) be able to file a restricted application and receive a spousal benefit of about $600, if I understand correctly. If I understood him correctly, a social security employee and his supervisor told us that I can’t file a restricted application, because my wife has not reached FRA. I think they are incorrect.

    It is unlikely that my wife will ever file for spousal benefit before I die, because her retirement benefit is greater than 50% of my Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) (benefit at FRA)

    So, my questions are:
    1) Do you see any flaws in my assumptions and thinking?
    2) I was born before 1954. Can I file a restricted application to receive a spousal benefit and continue to accrue DRCs, even though my wife hasn’t reached FRA (contrary to what an S.S. employee told us)?
    3) I know this decision depends on variables, such as when I die, but do you think taking my wife’s retirement benefit now (plus my filing for spousal benefit–$1,200 plus $600, if I’m correct) (retirement benefit is subtracted from insurance benefit) outweighs giving up her future DRCs?

    Thank you so much, Mr. Blankenship.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Taking your questions in order:

      1 – I do not see any flaws in your assumptions
      2 – You should be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits when your wife has filed for her own retirement benefit. This will allow you to collect the spousal benefit while continuing to delay your own benefit. The SSA employee had the facts wrong.
      3 – Early filing by the lower wage earning spouse is often beneficial due to the ability to receive the lower earner’s benefit for a longer period of time. This benefit is increased in your case by the restricted application, although at most you may receive this for something less than a year and a half. Generally speaking, this strategy is sound and may provide a larger benefit than delaying all benefits to a later age.

  16. jeff isaacson says:

    jim I called social security yesterday and inquired about my wife filing for her full benefit soon birthday in feb( age 66) $1300.00 and me filing in march (age 66)restricted application to receive spousal benefit now and receive the credits till age 70 . my benefit is at the max. she told me there was no need to file a restricted application .she appears wrong or has something changed. also thanks for your informative info the best on the web

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you want to receive the spousal benefit and delay your own benefit, you are required to file a restricted application. I don’t know why the SSA person would tell you otherwise…

  17. Geoff G says:

    Great info! Wish I had seen this earlier. My question relates to the timing of applications and whether SSA automatically “rolls back” the start date of benefits by 6 months if you are more than 6 months past your FRA. My wife is currently 66 and 8 months. I’m 67 and 2 months. She plans to file for her benefit shortly. I plan to file a RA shortly thereafter and claim spousal benefit (1/2 her PIA) and delay filing for mine until 70 in order to let it grow. As in your example, her PIA is substantially less than mine. 1) Will the SSA roll back her “start” date by 6 months automatically? If so, won’t that lessen her benefit by 6 months of DRCs? 2) Can she tell the SSA that she does not want to roll back 6 months? 3) If she does do the 6 month roll back, when I file a RA (shortly/sometime after she files) can I request a 6 month roll back as well? 4) How soon after she files can or should I file my RA? Does she have to actually start receiving benefits before I file the RA, or is just waiting a few days/weeks/months sufficient? Thanks again.


    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering your questions in order:
      1) No, it’s not automatic, and yes, filing retroactively 6 months earlier will result in fewer DRC credits applied
      2) Yes (she has to request the retroactive filing date)
      3) Yes, you should be able to retroactively file the restricted application back to her filing date (up to 6 months)
      4) Immediately upon her filing, you are eligible to file for spousal benefits – ask the SSA folks for sure if it can be done the same day or if you need to wait a day or two

      1. Geoff G says:

        Thanks. For info for others, I/we did what I described up above. An SSA called my wife after she had completed the online application process. I was allowed to listen (the SSA rep will generally only talk to the applicant) in to the discussion as well as ask a few questions on behalf of my wife. At the conclusion of her application discussion I mentioned that I intended to file a restricted application and asked when I should do that. To my delight, the rep said I could do it right then. So, we transitioned from my wife’s application to my RA and completed it right then. Very helpful and accommodating SSA rep.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Great to hear that it is working out for you.

  18. Sada says:

    What are my options if I was born in 1954 for a ssa program that is comparable to the restricted application? Can I appeal the ssa to be able to apply for a restricted application<

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately there is no program like the restricted application for anyone born after January 1, 1954.

  19. Steve H says:

    Very good article. Thank you. My wife and I are both 66. I started claiming as soon as I was eligible. She is not yet claiming. She turned 66 in March. If she files a restricted application are there provisions for retroactive payments? From what I’ve read, I see no reason for her not to file the restricted application – unless I’m missing something. Thoughts?

    1. jblankenship says:

      She should be able to file a restricted application, and she should be able to retroactively file 6 months before the filing date, as long as she was 66 by the retro filing date. SSA will have to confirm/allow this, but that’s my understanding of the retroactive filing date.

  20. George Elkins says:

    I filled out a restricted applications using your instructions listed in this article. My wife had already filled out her application for her benefits a little earlier. Social security called me and said I should have filled out the application using my wife’s social security number and not mine. The man said he would fix it in the computer. He also said since my wife and I have been on Medicare for a year now my Medicare number would change over to my wife’s social security number and I would be getting a new medicare card. This would probably also affect my medigap policy. Does this sound right to you?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that sounds like your situation is being handled appropriately.

  21. lee says:

    In your second example in your article (about Simon and Patty): since Patty applies for her own reduced benefits at 63 rather than at 66, is she still qualified for applying for half of Simon’s benefits when Simon reaches 70? if she is, is it better for her to apply for her own benefits as early as at 62 rather than at 63 (suppose she retires at 62)?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I believe I answered this question in spirit on your other comment. Patty does not receive the full amount of the spousal benefit if she files earlier. The reduction for filing early follows her and will reduce her total future benefit.

  22. George Elkins says:

    In your article you state when filling out Form SSA-1-BK you should write in the remarks section “I wish to delay filing for my own benefit to age 70”, but on the Social Security website in section D.2 it states phrases such as plans to file in the future are not acceptable. What then should you write in the comments section?

    1. jblankenship says:

      “I am not filing for my own benefit at this time.”

  23. George Elkins says:

    I called my local Social Security office and no one there was familiar with the restricted application. After many phone calls they finally looked it up and said it was possible to do it. This left me concerned that they wouldn’t know what they were doing and very uncomfortable with trying this strategy. Any suggestions?

    1. jblankenship says:

      There’s only one Social Security Administration, it’s not like you can go to their competitor. As long as you are armed with knowledge and understanding, you should come out okay.

  24. Aubrey Howard says:


    Your articles are very helpful. How do we prevent Social Security from attempting to do a 6 month rollback of benefits when a restrictive application for my spouse is submitted online and the date that her full retirement age of 66 is reached is in August ?

    Thank you,


    1. jblankenship says:

      If it’s a restricted application, benefits can’t be rolled back since she won’t be 66 until August. A restricted application is not valid prior to Full Retirement Age.

  25. Zamboangadon says:

    Great resource here, thank you! I’m not clear on how spousal benefits are calculated. If I and my spouse, both FRA, if she files and I file a restricted application, she’d collect her FRA amount which is approximately $1,000/month. How much would I receive as a spousal benefit? Is it ~ half that or $500/month? Then, when I reach age 70 and I file on my own I will get around $3,000/mo. At that time will she continue to receive just the $1,000/month she had under her own filing, or does she “step up” to: (a) half my FRA amount, or call it $1,300, or (b) half of my age 70 amount or roughly $1,500? or (c) none of the above? I apologize if this topic has been covered but I didn’t see it. Thanks

    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering your questions in order:
      You would be eligible for half of her FRA amount, or approximately $500 (this is to assume you were born before 1954 and therefore eligible for a restricted application).

      At your age 70 when you file for your own benefit, your wife would be eligible for an increase to half of your FRA amount, as you estimate it at $1,300. So of your multiple choices, it’s a).

  26. David Sutton says:

    Jim, I truly appreciate your helpful articles. I suspect I’m being repetitive, but I’d like to be absolutely sure of my earliest restricted application filing date. One of your answers says that someone can file a restricted application up to 3 months prior to their birthdate. Is this the case even if their spouse isn’t collecting yet? I will be 66 in mid November, a month after my wife turns 62 in mid October. She will file in July so that her benefit starts November 1 (first check arrives in December). What is the earliest date I can file a restricted application for spousal benefit? Can I do it (a) after my wife files and within 3 months of my birthday, (b) November 1, (c) my birthday in mid November, (d) December 1 or (e) something else? Thanks again!

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you’re filing a restricted application it won’t be accepted if it’s too early. So my suggestion is that you start 3 months before your birthday – and either go to the local SSA office or talk to them on the phone about it. If they reject it saying that it’s too early, your wife hasn’t started receiving benefits, then you know you’ll need to wait and try again later.

      There’s no downside to starting early since you can’t file a restricted application without all of the factors in place. Just make sure that you are, in fact, filing a restricted application and you should be okay.

  27. mpike says:

    Is the benefit amount of a restricted application 50% of the spouse’s gross or net benefit? Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      A spousal benefit is at most 50% of the other spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). The PIA is the gross amount of benefit that the individual will receive if he or she files at exactly Full Retirement Age.


    I am trying to file a restricted application online and cannot find the question you indicated “If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits?” on the application. Am I in the wrong application?

    1. jblankenship says:

      It’s possible, or they may have changed the application since that option is going away. May need to phone them to do the restricted app.

      1. Stephen Dedalus says:

        This is a question about balancing the potentially increased long term SS payout, by filing a restricted application at FRA and delaying SS benefit until age 70, with the possibility that during the delay SS will be significantly changed, as a solution to pending insolvency.

        I am 2 months from FRA, and am having a hard time deciding whether to (1) file a restricted application now or (2) take FRA SS benefits. My wife, who is 7 months older than me started her benefit (much smaller than mine) at FRA. The breakeven point between these two strategies is my age 84y10m. In the second scenario, by the time I reach age 70 we would be $146K ahead. When I reach 90, scenario 1 would be $50K ahead.

        We are both healthy and have good genes. Our net worth is such that it is highly likely to outlast us. Because of investment earnings, traditional IRA Roth conversions and, eventually, RMDs, It is unlikely that our SS payments will ever escape a situation in which 85% are taxed at a rate of at least 25% (with today’s tax system). I can’t forsee a situation in which SS will be taxed less.

        The recent election has made it clear that there are growing numbers of wealth redistributionists in Washington. Considering that SS, in its present form, is approaching insolvency, I can’t avoid thinking that this may be a time when getting funds out of SS earlier may yield more in the long run than arranging the timing of payments so they are largest when we could need them the most.

        Your thoughts?

        1. jblankenship says:

          I think the answer is in your question – if you don’t need the benefit, it doesn’t matter when you take it. So you should take the benefit whenever will allow you to sleep at night.

          1. Stephen Dedalus says:

            Thanks, Jim. You have given a very practical answer to me, but – for the benefit of all of us following your blog – I was hoping that you might opine on the likelihood of future changes to both SS payments and the tax system, and how those changes might affect one’s calculations about whether or not to delay SS payments past FRA and the potential value of future payments.

          2. jblankenship says:

            My opinion on these matters is worth even less than the original answer I gave you.

            My opinion is that the rules are likely to change. How exactly is unknown and guesses are futile.

            My recommendation is to work with the rules as they stand today and just know that an uncooperative mortality (dying too soon or living too long) has as much if not more impact on your plans as a change to the rules.

  29. Elizabeth says:

    My husband and I fall under the old rules. He filed and suspended at FRA (before deadline). I just filed for spousal benefits to start at my FRA. SS suggested I file a restricted application, which I did. My first check will arrive in December.

    My husband will file for enhanced benefits at age 70 in 3 years. His benefits plus 50% of his FRA (my spousal benefits) will equal more than the maximum benefits allowed to be paid out on his record. My own PIA (even at age 70) will be less than 50% of my husbands benefit.

    Wouldn’t it have been better to have my spousal benefits based on my record and his record – assuming that would mean that only his portion of my spousal benefits would be added to his enhanced benefits in figuring out the family maximum?

    Thank you for your help. Haven’t been able to find this answer anywhere.

    1. Elizabeth says:

      I think I just answered my own question after reading through your site. Family Maximum appears to be based on my husbands PIA, not his deferred credits. In that case, we will be fine – I think his PIA plus spousal benefits (50% of PIA) are under his maximum limit. Is this still correct about how family maximums are figured?

      Thanks for all your good info on this site.

      1. jblankenship says:

        You’ve got it right – the maximum doesn’t consider your husband’s full benefit, only his PIA. With a husband/wife only on the record (no children or other dependents, for example) the family maximum will never come into play.

  30. Bill Spohn says:

    My wife has been getting her SS benefits since she turned 62, she is now 70. I will turn 66 in April 2017. I would like to file the restricted application. Based on your response to Bill Cason, I can file the application 3 months before my birthdate (April 20) so I could file my restricted application on January 20, 2017 in order to receive the benefit in April 2017. Is that correct?

    1. jblankenship says:

      That should work just fine. Just make sure that they know you are filing a restricted application for spousal benefits only, and your filing date is for April when you reach FRA.

  31. John says:

    I have a question on the calculation of the spousal benefit. It appears that it is not automatically 50% of the spouse’s FRA-PIA? My spouse intends to collect at 62. I was going to apply for spousal benefits at 66. Our PIA are pretty close(2100 vs 2300). Could you address this scenario? Thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      IF 1) you were born before 1954;
      AND 2) your spouse has already filed for her benefits;
      AND 3) you have not filed for benefits previously;
      THEN upon reaching FRA (age 66) you can be eligible for a spousal benefit equal to 50% of your spouse’s PIA, provided that your spouse’s PIA has not been reduced by WEP and the spousal benefit is not subject to either GPO or the family maximum limit. (This is known as a restricted application.)

      If you were born after 1954, given that your own PIA is more than 50% of your spouse’s PIA, you would not be eligible for a spousal benefit due to deemed filing.
      If you were born before 1954 but your spouse has not already filed, you cannot receive the spousal benefit.
      If you were born before 1954 and your spouse has filed for her own benefit but you have also filed for your own benefit previously, you will not be eligible for a spousal benefit because your own PIA is more than 50% of your spouse’s PIA.

  32. Eileen G Fournier says:

    Thanks for explaining this distinction. My second husband filed and suspended at FRA in 2015 and at the same time filed for survivor benefits from his first wife who died three years earlier at age 61. We just want to make sure this has no impact on my ability to file a restricted application for a spousal benefit on his record when I reach FRA in 2017.

    Also, if my ex were to die before then, could I collect survivor benefits from his record? (We were married over ten years and I remarried after age 60 and he started receiving benefits at FRA.)

    Thanks for such clear explanations of fuzzy topics.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your ex-husband’s filing status doesn’t have any impact on you as long as he’s at least age 62 and it has been 2 or more years since your divorce. The two year limit is eliminated because he filed and suspended, however. So you should be eligible to file a restricted application when you reach FRA in 2017 since you were born before 1954.

      If your ex passes away you should be eligible for a survivor benefit based on his record since you were not married to your current spouse prior to age 60.

  33. F Davis says:

    I’d like your input regarding our situation relative to a restricted application. I will turn 66 in December 2018 and my spouse will turn 64 in October in the same year. In January 2015, I retired and received social security until the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was enacted in November at which point I exercised my one-time “do-over” in December and withdrew my application and returned the monies I had received. Our plan is for me to file a restricted application for a spousal benefit when she retires at 64 and takes her social security. I will delay filing for my own benefit until I turn 70. We are both planning to apply in January 2019. Can you see any unforeseen issues or concerns with this strategy?

    1. jblankenship says:

      That strategy should work just fine. I don’t see any problems with it.

  34. Chris says:

    My mother (divorced) won’t be 66 until March 2017 and is losing her job, my father is already 66 and drawing his SS retirement. Can she start claiming his under a restricted application before she turns 66?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Please see number 2 in the article above. A restricted application requires that you are at or older than FRA.

      1. Chris says:

        Just making sure, she spoke to the social security office yesterday and they told her she could go ahead and it would be fine. From everything I had read I was sure they were wrong.

  35. Diane Dassow says:

    Thank you for this great information. What is the effect on the spousal benefit (restricted application) if the person receiving it continues to work and have earnings? Are there limits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      No – if you have filed a restricted application you must be at or older than Full Retirement Age. From FRA on, there is no income limit while receiving Social Security benefits.


    My husband and I both turn FRA (66) this year and have nearly equal estimated social security benefits ($3150 each). We both intend to work until after 70 but my husbands income will grow faster than mine in the future. We are interested in the restricted application and have questions. What factors should we consider in deciding who takes the spousal benefit? Does the person not claiming the spousal benefit give up their ability to maximize their benefit between 66 and 70?At age 70, we would claim our individual benefits but, if one of us is at their age 66 benefit level and dies last, are we giving up benefits in the future?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Under the new rules, one spouse must be actively receiving benefits in order for the other to claim spousal benefits (in your case, via a restricted application). Since the first spouse is receiving benefits based on his or her own record, there are no delay credits accruing for that person.

      In your case, since your husband’s earnings are expected to continue increasing his benefit, it might make good sense for you to file for your own benefit at age 66, and your husband file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. Then at his age 70 he would file for his delay-credit-enhanced benefit. Your benefit would remain the same (minor increases if your earnings age 66-70 are higher than some earlier earnings) as it was at age 66 (plus any annual COLAs). If your husband dies first, you would assume his benefit as a survivor’s benefit and your own would cease.

      Alternatively you could reverse these roles and the likely outcome would be pretty close to the same. I only recommended your husband to delay benefits because you said his income would increase the most.

      The only other alternative is for both of you to delay benefits to age 70 – but then you miss out on the spousal benefit altogether.

  37. kathy says:

    Thanks so much, this is great information, have read dozens of articles on this topic this one is the best by far.

  38. Aubrey Howard says:


    A question about the online application when filing a restricted application. The application only allows a month/year selection for when you want to start receiving social security benefits. Do you put down the month/year when you turn 66 or do you put down the next month/year after you turn 66? Does it matter on which day of the month that your birthday occurs when deciding which month to start your benefits?



    1. jblankenship says:

      You’d use the month/year that you’ll reach age 66. Day of the month doesn’t matter, unless you were born on the 1st of the month, in which case the prior month is considered to be the first month that you are age 66.

  39. Paul Williams says:

    My wife retired at age 62 and has been receiving a retirement benefit of $1,076.95 per month. She was born in July 1950. I retired in June 2015 and was born in July 1949. I retired from the Federal Government and am subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision. I have over 40 quarters in the system prior to going to work for the Government. At the age of 70 my expected benefit would be $1,261.00 per month prior to any WEP reduction. If I file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, will the benefit be subject to WEP? My wife will still be able to collect her full benefit of $1,076.95 per month correct?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Spousal benefits are subject to GPO, not WEP. GPO (Government Pension Offset) hits harder in most cases: the spousal benefit will be reduced by 2/3 of the pension you’re receiving from the government job, which can completely wipe out the spousal benefit altogether.

      Your wife’s own benefit will not be affected by any of this.

  40. Tom Cannon says:

    Great information, but of course I have a little different scenario. My wife has already filed and just started receiving SS benefits. I will not be FRA for two more years. My benefit will be approximately 30% higher than hers. Do you see any way we can use File and Suspend and Restrict stategy to our advantage? Tks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      The only thing you might consider is for you to file a restricted application when you reach FRA (age 66). File & suspend is not available to you, and since your wife has already filed, neither file & suspend nor restricted application is available to her.

      1. Tom Cannon says:

        Jim, even though my wife has filed and activated her account, can’t she still suspend? Also, what would be the purpose of my filing a restricted application when I reach FRA? Would my wife then claim spousal benefits? Thanks

        1. jblankenship says:

          Sure, she could suspend, and wait as long as she wishes (up to age 70) to eventually re-file for benefits (unsuspend). What would you hope to accomplish with that action? She could also withdraw her application and pay back all benefits received to date if it’s been less than a year since she started receiving benefits. This would open up some additional options for her.

          If you filed a restricted application for spousal benefits when you reached FRA, you (YOU, not your wife) would receive spousal benefits, delaying your own benefit to some later date.

          1. Tom Cannon says:

            Jim, wouldn’t my wife be able to grow her SS benefit by 8%/yr by suspending her account now? As for me, wouldn’t my ability to file a restricted application for spousal benefits be eliminated after April 29, 2016? Thanks.

          2. jblankenship says:

            Yes, she could do that. In your original question you asked about file & suspend – and I answered that you do not have that option, because you are too young and your wife has already filed.

            Suspending after the fact is something different – and if you intend to file a restricted application and your wife intends to suspend her benefits, she must do so before April 30, 2016. Otherwise if she suspends her benefits you will not be eligible to file a restricted application until she un-suspends.

            Regarding your last question, please see #1 in the article above.

      2. Tom Cannon says:

        Jim, so my wife does nothing to her account and continues to recieve her SS benefits. When I reach FRA I file a restricted appliation for spousal benefits and receive 1/2 her benefits? Would that last until she reaches age 70? So for approximately 2 years? Then I would either suspend my account or begin recieving benefits at 16% higher than what was avaliable at FRA? Thanks.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, you can file a restricted application when you reach FRA, based on the fact that your wife has already filed and you were born before 1954.

          You can receive the spousal benefit by itself (restricted application) until as late as your age 70, at which point your own benefit will be maximized (the maximum delay delay credits have been earned). After you’ve filed the restricted application you could file for your own benefit at any time thereafter, earning 8% for each year of delay. In other words, you aren’t required to wait until age 70, nor are you required to file when your wife reaches her age 70.

  41. Bill Cason says:

    Thanks so much for writing this up. It is the perfect compliment to your previous post about the File and Spend process — Everything You Need to Know About File & Suspend and the April 30 Deadline.

    I have already filed and speeded — all is good there.. My wife turns 66 in late July of this year. The question in my mind is “WHEN” should she file her restricted application to insure her FRA is in effect for earning the delayed credits until age 70? My concern is a premature filing could ruin the strategy and a too late filing will leave money on the table.

    Much thanks again for the great work.


    1. jblankenship says:

      She should file the restricted application effective in the month she reaches FRA. She can file this application up to 3 months prior to her birthdate.

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