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Social Security Q&A

Suspend Social Security to Gain Extra Credits? Survivors Get Benefits at 60, Can Switch at 62

Retirees may find value in different retirement strategies: some are discussed here in Q&A by SSA specialist

Dec. 11, 2012 – Those nearing eligibility for Social Security need to apply early to be sure the benefits begin when needed, says Oscar Garcia, Public Affairs Specialist, SSA, who also offers some ideas on retirement strategies, like suspending retirement benefits and receiving delayed retirement credits.

Garcia also answers to questions about applying and about applying as an ex-wife. There is also some news about switching from survivors benefits to retirement benefits.


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I started receiving my Social Security at age 62.  I reached my full retirement age in November. I want to know if I can suspend my benefit to receive the delayed retirement credits until age 70.  I know people can get the delayed credits if they have never applied for benefits and they wait until after full retirement age.  Can I start receiving delayed retirement credits if I suspend my benefits?


Yes, you can receive delayed retirement credits if you have reached full retirement age, but are not yet age 70. You can ask us to suspend retirement benefit payments even though you are already entitled to benefits.

You may voluntarily suspend current or future retirement benefit payments up to age 70 beginning the month after the month when you made the request. This means you will start accruing the delayed retirement credits at the rate of 2/3 of 1% per month up to age 70.  

We pay Social Security benefits the month after they are due. This means if you contact us in December and request that we suspend benefits, you will still receive your December benefit payment in January. 

You do not have to sign your request to suspend benefit payments. You may ask us orally or in writing. 

You need to know about what will happen to your Medicare if you suspend your retirement benefits. If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance), you will be billed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for future Part B premiums.  These premiums cannot be deducted from your suspended retirement benefits.

If you do not pay the premiums timely, you may lose your Part B Medicare coverage.  You will have the option of automatically paying the bill from an account at your bank or financial institution.

Our representatives can help you explore your options. Give us a call at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office if you have any additional questions.


I am a widow and will be 60 years old next year.  Can I receive Social Security as a widow at age 60 and then apply for retirement benefits at 62 or later?


If a person receives widow's or widower's benefits, and will qualify for a retirement benefit that is more than their survivors benefit, he or she can switch to their own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving Social Security survivors benefits based on age is at age 60. 

If monthly benefits start before full retirement age, the amount is smaller to take into account the longer period a person receives them. Widows or widowers benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before full retirement age.

If a person receives widow's or widower's benefits, and will qualify for a retirement benefit that's more than their survivors benefit, he or she can switch to their own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The rules are complicated and vary depending on the situation, so talk to a Social Security representative about the options available.

There are disadvantages and advantages to taking survivors benefit before full retirement age. The advantage is that the survivor collects benefits for a longer period of time. Another advantage is that early survivor benefits can provide a stream of income at a time when it is needed most.  This provides a monthly income at least two years before otherwise being eligible for retirement benefits.

The disadvantage is that the survivors benefit is reduced. Each person's situation is different. Make sure you talk to a Social Security representative before you decide to retire. You can learn more at our Survivor Planner homepage:

 ● Oscar Garcia is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration. You can direct your questions to him at: SSA, 411 Richland Hills Drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78245. You can also email him at


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