Jul 27, 2017

Bad Advice

     From Philip Moeller, writing for PBS:
William: I took Social Security benefits early in 2014 when I was 62. At the time, my daughter was 15, but Social Security did not ask me if I had a minor child. I did not realize she was eligible until I read an article. I called Social Security, and they said our family was only eligible for six months of retroactive benefits and not the 36 months I think we should receive. I was wondering if you knew how I could get help in getting these back benefits?
Phil Moeller: I would like to tell you that you can get all the past benefits you feel you deserve. Unfortunately, Social Security is not legally responsible for telling you about its rules and benefits. The burden is on you to know these rules as impossible as this may be.
You can file an online appeal, but citing the agency’s failure to tell you about benefits for your daughter is unlikely to be a compelling reason for the agency to change its decision. Having said this, I urge you and anyone else in this situation to appeal, to complain and to copy the offices of their elected representative in Washington.
What good is providing benefits if no one knows about them!
     Well, actually, William was asked. See question 17 on the retirement claim form. The same question is asked when you file online. If he listed the children and Social Security didn't follow up to take their claims, they're eligible for the back benefits. If he didn't list the children, I don't think he can blame anyone but himself.
     This is an issue I have some familiarity with since a few fathers applying for Social Security disability benefits fail to list their children. Sometimes it's a mistake; mostly it's because the fathers mistakenly think their own benefits will be reduced if the children are also paid on the account.


Anonymous said...

Is there any point in not declaring a minor child? I recognize it would not reduce his benefits, but is there any other possible negative factors? I recognize retroactivity is a legitimate administrative feature, but:

1. There was no advantage to him not declaring his minor child.
2. There is no doubt she is his minor child.
3. There is no harm to paying full benefits back to the original filing since minor children are eligible for auxiliary benefits.

The only advantage I could guess at would be some advantage that her receipt of auxiliary benefits might impact other public assistance (student loans, medical coverage, etc.). But I don't see any evidence of that. It just seems like as a matter of equity, this is wrong.

Anonymous said...

I have had men say they had no children under 19 or disabled before age 22 when they were payee for a child on SSI and have had the child actually with them. There are a lot of "NO" answers on SSA claims and I think some folks just don't listen too closely to the questions at times.
If the child question was answered correctly and no closeout notice was sent, SSA can pay retro to father's date of entitlement.
Another common thing that happens is that the parent does list a child and SSA sends a 6 month closeout notice. Frequently the notices are misunderstood and nothing is done, resulting in a loss of benefits.

Anonymous said...

Re 1232: this is only 3 years but what if it was 17 or even more in the case of a spouse? It's not uncommon for a disabled person to have kids after they become disabled but never know that their children are eligible for benefits. This may not be discovered for years or decades.
What about a retired person who decides to wait until 66 and then finds out that he or she doesn't have long to live? Wouldn't it be fair to pay them back to 62 if they hadn't earned too much in that period?

Anonymous said...

Most times I see it happen it is because they owe child support and somehow think that not mentioning the child will somehow shield them from withholding orders.

I adjudicated a case Monday where there was a DNA test and child support order back in 2005. The dad was asked twice (once when the lead was scheduled, again at the interview) if he had kids and both times he said no. It cost that kid's mother almost $30,000 in additional back benefits at $1400 a month.

And he had the unmitigated gall to complain because child support is garnishing his benefits to collect past due support.

Personally, I hope they spend the next 20 years garnishing the SOB.

Jeff Garrison said...

I have a question can a mother of a child of a father on disability file for the child

Anonymous said...

SSA kind of has the criminal law edict - Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Been doing SSD law since 2006 and still learning. And when it comes to rules about actual regular retirement Social Security, it can be even more confusing.

But considering a lot of this SS money was taken out from taxes, then the SSA should be legally required to make all efforts to pay their citizens the proper amount. It would be like if a private insurance company neglected to pay some benefits, were called on it, and then they come up with the excuse - Well you should have known our own rules better.

As I have always said, the SSA is basically just an insurance company, probably one of the biggest in the world. Their job is to pay as little as possible.

Anonymous said...


The main distinction I see between the father in the article and your first question is that he spoke with SSA and they could (and should) have informed him that his child was eligible, whereas your hypothetical is that the child is born after any direct communication with SSA would have ceased.

In regard to whether an individual who delayed retirement, but then found out they do not have long to live, is unfair or not, I do not see the unfairness. Benefits terminate at death. The individual chose to delay benefits on the gamble they would live longer then it turns out they would. Don't get me wrong, I think the ability to delay benefits is encouraging retirees to gamble with the benefits they paid for, which is why I think benefits should begin automatically with no delay allowed. But no, if the individual makes a conscious choice not to start benefits I do not believe it is unfair to hold them to their gamble.

@Jeff Garrison

Possibly, talk to a local representative about Disabled Adult Child and Child-Disability Benefits.

Anonymous said...


That father was really stupid. He could have put the child on his record (at no cost to him) and received credit for that with the court and no garnishment. I hope they take half his check!

@Jim Garrison

If the mother wasn't married, the father needs to have acknowledged the child or there needs to have been a court order that that's his child. Sometimes pushing for child support will encourage that acknowledgment.

Anonymous said...

@11:11 AM

Delaying benefits is not a gamble. I am very conservative with my money, but I intend to wait until 70. My goal is not to collect the most money from Social Security, but to maximize the probability that I will have enough money to last through the end of my life. If I die early, my savings will be plenty. But if I live a long time, they might not, and delaying Social Security helps in that situation. (Even if my goal was to collect the most from Social Security, claiming benefits early only does that if I die early, so you could say people who do so are gambling that they will have short lives.)

As far as the subject of the post, it would be fine with me if they paid the benefits to the daughter. She was entitled to them, and she shouldn't lose them because he made a mistake or lied (and she is over 18 now). (I don't know if children really should be able to get retirement benefits off a parent's work record, but that's the law.)

Anonymous said...


I was saying people who delay benefits are gambling that they will not have short lives.