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Social Security Q&A

So You Plan to Pay Back Social Security and Reapply at Your Older Age for Higher Benefits?

You better read this Social Security Q&A column before you get too far along with this plan!

June 3, 2014 – There is a question below in this week’s Social Security Q&A you should read. There is an idea for boosting a retirees Social Security benefit that still gets kicked around, although it has not been allowed for several years, as Oscar Garcia, Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration, points out in answering a senior’s question. There is also a question from a divorced widow – an area where Social Security can often be confusing.


I plan to wait until my full retirement age of 66 to begin my Social Security retirement.  If I decide at the age of 70 to pay back all the benefits I have received, will the Social Security Administration allow me re-apply for my benefit at the higher rate?


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The pay-back scenario you described is not possible.  It used to be that a person could do this, but the rules were changed several years ago. The pay-back strategy is called a "withdrawal" of your benefit application.  While there is still a possibility of withdrawing benefits, it has to be done within 12 months of when the benefits started. This ensures that the person who is withdrawing the application is doing so for a valid reason, such as a return to work.  You can read more about this at


My ex-husband recently passed away. We were married for over 30 years. Am I able to collect on his social security when I am 60 at a reduced rate and then collect my retirement benefit when I am 66 or even later if I choose to wait?


Yes, you can apply for reduced benefits as a divorced widow at age 60, and then you can delay your own Social Security retirement until age 66 in order to receive 100% of your own benefit. You can even wait as far as age 70 to claim your own retirement benefit. 

Each month after age 66 that you delay your own benefit, you will receive 2/3 of 1% added to your full benefit amount. This adds up to 8% for every 12 months, which is a possibility of another 32% on top of your full amount if you wait up to age 70. 

In the meantime, you would have the divorced widow’s benefit that you started receiving at age 60.  Once you start your own retirement benefit, the divorced widow’s benefit is no longer payable.

There is something else to consider. The annual work limit will apply to you until you reach full retirement age. Therefore, if you are working at age 60, your earnings will be a factor in whether or not you can receive the divorced widow’s benefit. The work limit applies to a person who receives survivors benefits just the same as it would for someone who is receiving retirement benefits.   Here is the link that explains the work limit,

 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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