By: Vanessa Craddock, Federal Benefit Specialist
Published: February, 2023
A good way to start the New Year is to prepare yourself for several changes to old rules. Here are three reminders that may pay off if you are Medicare or Social Security eligible.
Social Security Restricted Applications for Spousal Benefits
The Social Security (SS) restricted application has been a popular strategy for married couples. This strategy lets an individual at Full Retirement Age (FRA) file for the SS benefits they are due as a spouse while delaying their own earned SS benefit for an increase of up to 8% a year from FRA to 70. Sadly it’s on its way out.
If you reached age 66 (FRA) in 2019, and filed a restricted application to collect your spousal benefit, by age 70, your earned benefit will have increased 32%! That increase is for the rest of your life. The law that provided this rule, however, was changed in 2015 to allow filing the restricted application for spousal benefits only to those born before January 2, 1954.
That group will be turning age 70 sometime this year. There is still time to file and collect your spousal benefit for the remaining months before age 70. Get that paperwork done. You may have another 11 months of benefits still waiting.
Medicare General Enrollment Periods (GEP) Have Earlier Start Dates
The rule for filing for Medicare during GEP allowed individuals to sign up January through March of each year and have Medicare benefits begin in July of the year. No longer! Beginning January 2023, individuals who sign up during GEP will have their Medicare benefits effective the following month. So if you missed filing during your Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period, you must wait until the next GEP, and now your benefits will be available the following month.
Medicare and Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
This rule is not new but unknown by some, so worth a yearly reminder. The IEP for Medicare begins 3 months before the month of your 65th birthday, and ends the 3rd month after. If you enroll timely during the IEP, you may avoid a costly penalty of a 10% increase for each year you were eligible but failed to enroll in Medicare B. The IEP rule is different however for those born the first day of the month. Your IEP actually begins a month earlier.
Your birthday is June 1. You will turn age 65. You would think your initial enrollment period would start in March and end in September. Not so. Social Security deems you have reached your birthday a day earlier. So, if born June 1, May 31st will be the date you turn 65. Medicare will use May as your birth month. Your IEP starts in February and ends in August. If you miss it, you must wait until the next GEP and delay your benefits.
Be sure to take full advantage of the benefits you have earned through years of work. It’s key to know when they begin and end. Time is ticking, don’t let them get away!
Ms. Craddock has been an instructor with NITP since the year 2000. She started her career with the Social Security Administration before moving to the US Office of Personnel Management. At OPM, she worked as a Certified Federal Benefits Specialist, trainer, course developer and manager, and supervisor of 20 employees for adjudicating retirement claims. After more than 25 years of experience in the Federal Benefits Administration, she retired and now continues her work as an instructor, providing Federal benefits training nationwide, for live events and via webinars.
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