Federal law changes in 2015 eliminated the popular "file and suspend" claiming strategy for social security benefits. The new deemed filing rule assumes that when you file either for your own social security retirement benefit or for a spousal benefit, you are deemed to have filed for both and will receive the greater of the two.
There are exceptions to the deemed filing rule based on your age, whether you are applying for survivor benefits, and specific situations regarding spousal benefits. These exceptions provide flexibility, allowing you to claim a social security benefit and avoid being deemed to have filed for all eligible benefits simultaneously.
- Age: The deemed filing rule applies to you only if you were born in 1954 or later.
- Survivor benefits: The deemed filing rule does not apply to survivor benefits. If you are a widow or widower who is not currently receiving social security retirement benefits, you have the option of taking a survivor benefit and then switching to a retirement benefit based on your work record, or vice versa.
- Spousal benefits: The deemed filing rule does not apply if you provide care to a child younger than 16 and receive social security spousal benefits. An exception can also be made if you are entitled to social security disability benefits and receive a spousal benefit.
If you qualify for one of the above exceptions, you may be able to use a restricted application strategy prior to filing for social security retirement benefits. A restricted application allows you to claim social security spousal benefits or survivor benefits and restrict the filing of your own social security retirement benefit without being deemed to have filed for both. By delaying your own retirement benefit beyond your full retirement age, you can take advantage of delayed retirement credits, which may increase your retirement benefit up to an additional 8 percent per year. Once you turn 70 and the delayed retirement credits stop accruing, you can file for your own social security retirement benefit.