and widowers who were shortchanged on Social Security
benefits by an estimated $131.8 million won’t get any
of that money back, despite an Inspector General report
calling for action.
this year, the administration’s Office of the
Inspector General issued an audit report that determined
the Social Security Administration underpaid 9,224
people over the age of 70. In addition, as more people
in this group turn 70, the underpayment will amount to
$9.8 million annually, auditors found.
report said SSA officials agreed to "take action,
as appropriate" for 41 beneficiaries it identified
directly in the sample study and determine if it should
review the records of more than 13,000 other
beneficiaries. It also asked the administration to
review its procedures and staff training for informing
beneficiaries of their claiming options.
has since provided "nationwide training" to
field office workers about these survivor options and
changed the language in application materials, said
Darren Lutz, a Social Security spokesman.
won’t, however, change anyone’s benefits
retroactively based on the study.
reviewed the cases from the audit and determined they
were adjudicated correctly, according to the law,"
he said in an email. He declined to comment beyond the
statement or make officials available to discuss the
for comment, a spokesman for consumer advocate AARP
referenced a letter the organization sent to the Office
of Management and Budget in January urging more funding
for the Social Security Administration, saying it cannot
maintain customer service at current funding levels.
administration’s response to the audit is
"preposterous," said Laurence Kotlikoff, a
Boston University economics professor who runs a private
benefits-planning tool website and who also is an
outspoken critic of many aspects of the current federal
have been and continue to be misled on a routine basis
by what field office staff tell them," he said.
websites offer free or paid calculators that help people
determine their best option for claiming benefits.
Kotlikoff has two: www.maximizemysocialsecurity.com and
www.maxifiplanner.com. Another is
key error found in the study was the failure to make
survivors aware they have the option to take their
survivor benefit, but not the one based on their work
record, and then switch to the other at a later date.
example, a 60-year-old widow could claim her survivor
benefit now, letting the benefit based on her work
record continue to grow because it hasn’t been
claimed. At 70, she could then switch to her higher
work-based benefit, which would continue for the rest of
2016, a separate Inspector General report estimated a
group of about 25,000 survivors had been underpaid by
$224 million due to errors in calculating their claims.
When workers die before reaching age 62, their eventual
survivor benefits are supposed to be calculated based on
the year they would have reached that age, not the year
of death, a difference that typically increases the
you apply for both your survivor and work-related
benefits simultaneously and now realize you shouldn’t
have? I’d like to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.