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The Protective Filing Statement


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When planning for your Social Security benefits, there is an additional tactic that you may never have heard of: the Protective Filing Statement. This statement is a way to apply for benefits without actually applying.


At any time after you reach age 62 (for retirement benefits), you can file the Protective Filing Statement (PFS) which will “protect” the date of acceptance as your application date, whenever you choose to apply in the future. And when you do apply, the PFS date will be considered your filing date – and you’ll get retroactive benefits back to that date, as long as you’ve applied within the closeout window. For retirement benefits, the closeout window is 6 months. For SSI, it’s only 60 days, and can be as much as 12 months for SSDI.

Protected filing is probably most important for SSI and SSDI, because you may wish to file for benefits before you’re approved in order to receive back-payments once approved. It can be useful for retirement benefits as well, although after FRA you are allowed up to a 6-month retroactive date, but no earlier than your FRA date. We’re only covering protected filing for retirement benefits in this article.

For retirement benefits, after the PFS is filed, the SSA will issue a notice indicating that you must file within six months. This doesn’t mean that you have to file within six months, it just means that, in order to retroactively file as of your protected date, your actual application must have been filed no later than six months after the protected date.

How does this work in practice? Let say that you reach age 62 in February this year. You’re actually eligible for benefits in March, since you weren’t 62 for the entire month of February… so you file a PFS in March. You’re not ready to collect benefits, but you want to protect your date. Then in July your company “reorganizes” (we all know that really just means layoffs). Instead of seeking other work, you decide to just go ahead and retire. When you file your application for Social Security benefits in August, your actual filing date can be retroactive to March, since you filed a PFS.

If your income for the year was low enough, you might go ahead and take the retroactive benefits – but the key here is that without the PFS you would forego those benefits altogether. It’s for this purpose that it makes sense to file a PFS from time to time if you’re delaying receipt of benefits sometime after age 62.

How to do it

There’s nothing magical about the PFS – it’s simply a statement you’ve made to the SSA indicating that you’re intending to file at some point in the future. You don’t have to set a date when you actually file and stick to it, you just need to indicate that you’re intending to file. Here are the requirements:

  • Must be in writing
  • Must indicate an intention to claim in the future
  • Must be signed by the applicant
  • Must be submitted to your local district office

And that’s it. A few words of caution are in order: Keep a date-stamped copy of your PFS. If you hand-deliver the statement (recommended) to the district office, ask the representative to photocopy the statement and date-stamp your copy. Occasionally these get lost, and without a copy of your statement, it will be impossible to prove that you submitted it.

If mailing the statement, make a copy beforehand, and then send the statement by registered or certified mail. This way you’ll have evidence of delivery.

It’s also important to note the six month limit for the PFS (for retirement benefits). After six months has passed, the PFS is no longer in effect, and if you apply at that stage, unless you’ve filed a subsequent PFS, the date of your application is your filing date, with no retroactivity unless you’re over FRA.


  1. Giselle Usher says:

    A little known fact for SSI beneficiaries it is mandatory to file at 62 (early and lose out on FRA) if you have enough credits for retirement. I turned 62 in April of 2020 during the Covid shutdown. I received a vague non official letter from SSA in Oct 2020 asking to provide more information which I thought was scam. I never knew about the early filing requirements and back in 2008 was told I didn’t have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. After yrs of research I found in POMS that when one is approved for SSI (Title XVI) it is an automatic filing for retirement (Title II) if the application was adjudicated correctly. Since I already had enough retirement credits earned by 2008 and didn’t work at anytime after being approved for SSI that should’ve created a PFD according to POMS. Of course I never received any notice in all those years I had no idea what this ambiguous letter I got 5 months after my 62nd birthday was about. I did call as requested twice very reluctantly and was only told to go to OIG website for fraud letters. I was slapped with an overpayment for all SSI income I received between Mar-Dec 2020 for not having filed for retirement at 62. I was reinstated to SSI in Jan 2021 after filing for retirement because my reduced retirement benefits weren’t enough ($669) so they supplement the difference $353 in SSI minus 10% to pay the overpayment . Fighting this for 3 years, submitted a 561 and BK 632, had a CDR and an informal conference over the phone where I wasn’t allowed to present my case or review my file while my SSI continues to be garnished. All I have to do is prove no fault but I was instructed to make it no more than 5 sentences!!!! I can prove it siting POMS, Covid closures, misinformation, inability to reach SSA, case law, class action lawsuit settlement Amin v Kiijakzi, and recently the congressional hearings re: overpayment clawbacks approximately 1,189,642. people on SSI and another 986,912. OASDI per year and only 12% if SSI have known enough to file for a waiver. This is a travesty.

    1. Usher Giselle says:

      Because filing for Title XVI is also a filing for Title II per POMS GN 00204.030 SI 00601.015 i SI 02305.110 E. it creates a protective filing date. I’m hoping to get my retirement benefits retroactive in order to pay for the SSI “overpayment” which was technically not an overpayment it just came from the different means tested SSA fund. What do you think?

    2. jblankenship says:

      That’s quite a story, and quite a mess. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice to offer you, I think you’re much better schooled in the nuances of your particular situation than I could ever be.

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re taking absolutely the correct steps by researching within POMS and case law to support your position.

      Best wishes to you.

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