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Social Security Q&A

Social Security Benefits Deducted When You Earn Too Much Can Be Recouped

This week’s Social Security Q&A explains something few beneficiaries understand

March 28, 2014 – Earning over the limit is a common problem for Social Security beneficiaries and probably few understands the actions the agency takes to help them “recoup” benefits deducted before reaching full retirement. It is explained in this week’s Social Security Q&A. It also looks at how some can get Medicare coverage before age 65.


Can you explain how I would recoup Social Security retirement benefits that I do not receive because I am still working and making over the allowable work limit?


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Let me show you “recoup” those benefits that do not get paid due to your earnings being above the annual limit. “Recouping” benefits does not involve getting a lump sum for the monies that were not payable to you due to work.  What we do is give you a credit in the form of the percentage that represents the months you were not paid due to your earnings being above the annual work limit.

This is done for any year in which you actually drew some benefits but had other months withheld due to your earnings being more than the annual limit.  Here is how it would work.

Suppose you applied for benefits at age 62 and that year we could have paid you ten months of benefits because your benefits could have started in March. However, you were still working and making over the annual limit. 

It turns out that you will make $6,000 over the limit. This means we count ½ of the $6,000 against you. So the first $3,000 in benefits cannot be paid that year.  If your monthly benefit is $1,000, then you would forfeit the first 3 months of benefits that year and only receive the remaining 7 months of benefits for the year. 

This could happen the next year and so on until full retirement age.  When you reach full retirement age, we give you back the percentage for the months that you did not receive a benefit due to the annual earnings limit. 

The percentage is 5/9 of 1% for each month. If there were a total of 12 months that you did not get benefits in that time span, then you receive a credit of 5/9 x 10, or 5.56%. 

You applied at age 62 and received 75% of your benefit all this time. Now we add the 5.56% to the 75% rate and this becomes your new benefit amount as of your full retirement age. We do this at the beginning of the year after you turn 66.  So it will not happen right away at age 66.


I am 65 and my wife is 62 and receiving spouse's benefits. When will she qualify for Medicare benefits?


Most people must wait until age 65 to qualify for Medicare benefits. Some people can get Medicare at any age, including those who have been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or more. This also includes people who have kidney failure and require dialysis or have had a kidney transplant.  A person who receives disability benefits because they suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) are also eligible for Medicare at any age. You can apply online for Medicare at

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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