Roughly one-third of spouses ages 70 and older are not getting the maximum Social Security payouts they are entitled to because they are not being told by the government they are eligible, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General said in a recent report.
The shortfall amounts to an average of $2,337 for the widows and widowers not receiving all the money they are eligible to receive from SSA.
SSA’s internal watchdog noted that Social Security fails to identify and notify spouses when they become eligible for increased benefits at 70 because the agency is unaware of the spouses’ eligibility for retirement benefits when they applied for spousal benefits.
“Although SSA sends notices to widows and widowers who may be eligible for higher retirement benefits at full retirement age and age 70, it does not provide notices to spouses who may be eligible for higher retirement benefits based on their own earnings,” the report said.
SSA’s laxity has led to 26,033 of the 83,436 widows and widowers eligible for maximum benefits not receiving the biggest checks they are entitled to, according to the study.
The Inspector General’s office said it asked Social Security six years ago to send out letters to spouses telling them they can get higher payouts, but the agency declined because, it said, it didn’t have enough workers for the task.