Use These Social Security Loopholes to Boost Benefits

Published on

Social Security is a massive program that serves as a lifeline for millions of people. The program has several rules in place to ensure it is fair for everyone. However, owing to its massive size, the program still has a few loopholes that recipients can use to boost their benefits. In this article, we will talk about the Social Security loopholes that are still available to use.

A brief history

Prior to 2015, many well-known Social Security loopholes existed for people to use, but the Bipartisan Budget Act in 2015 closed almost all of them. The 2015 legislation was seen as a substantial adjustment to the Social Security program.

Over time, the SSA adopted several modifications to make the program even more fair and equitable. However, the phase-in is still in progress, implying that some people are still qualified to utilize Social Security loopholes to boost their overall benefits amount.

Social Security loopholes that are now closed

Two of the most popular loopholes that are now closed are file-and-suspend and restricted filing.

Restricted filing

It is a well-known fact that monthly retirement benefits increase if you delay claiming benefits until age 70. To make the most of it, married individuals used a restricted application to start receiving a spousal benefit at FRA (full retirement age), while allowing their own benefits to grow.

They were able to achieve this by filing a restricted application, which allowed them to choose the benefits they were applying for at the time of filing the benefits. This option was available to those born in 1953 or earlier (with the other spouse born around 1958 or sooner).

This loophole has essentially been closed as anyone born in 1953 or earlier is already 70 now, and Social Security benefits can’t be delayed beyond age 70.


Before 2016, a Social Security loophole allowed a married person to voluntarily suspend their benefits after reaching FRA. Though the person suspends their own benefits, they allow the spouse to continue receiving spousal benefits. This way, the couple gets one Social Security check while allowing the other benefit to grow.

However, the SSA plugged the loophole by allowing spousal benefits only if the worker’s spouse collects retirement benefits. It must be noted that the file-and-suspend strategy can also be used now, but suspending benefits will also suspend spousal benefits. The change in the law doesn’t apply to a person receiving a divorced spouse benefit.

Social Security loopholes still available

Here are the Social Security loopholes that are still available:

Getting benefits even if you never worked

Social Security rests on the premise that you contribute towards it while you are working, and Social Security takes care of you when you retire. One loophole, however, allows a person to get full benefits even if they never worked a day in their life. This loophole is connected to spousal benefits.

If you are married to a person who qualifies for benefits, then you could qualify for up to 50% of your spouse’s benefit even if you don’t qualify for benefits based on your own work record.

On the other hand, even if you qualify for benefits based on your own work record, you may still be able to claim spousal benefits. In such a case, you have the option to use the higher of the two, i.e., benefits based on your own work record or spousal benefits.

Ex-spouse can also get benefits

Even if you are divorced and don’t qualify for benefits based on your work record, you may qualify for benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record.

There are, however, a few conditions that need to be met to qualify for divorce benefits. The divorce benefit is available only if you were married for at least 10 years before you got divorced. Also, you must be unmarried and be at least age 62 to claim the divorce benefit.

You may get more benefits if your spouse passes away

Regarding spousal benefits, you get up to 50% of your spouse’s benefits. However, if your spouse passes away, you qualify for survivors’ benefits, which could be up to 100% of the deceased beneficiary’s benefits.

You get 100% of the deceased spouse benefits only if you have reached full retirement age. You qualify for 71½% to 99% of the deceased spouse benefits if you are above 60 years but below full retirement age. Further, you get 71½% if you are aged 50 through 59 and are disabled, while you qualify for 75% of benefits irrespective of age, provided you are taking care of a child under age 16.  

Survivors’ benefits are available even to surviving and dependent parents. For instance, the dependent parents of a deceased worker can get between 75% and 82.5% of the primary recipient’s benefit. Similarly, a child under 18 (under 19 if still in elementary or secondary school) can qualify for survivors’ benefits.

You can avoid deductions even if you work and receive benefits

Generally, people claim Social Security after they retire, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows you to work and collect benefits.

In such a case, however, the SSA deducts $1 from your benefit for every $2 you earn above the annual limit if you are at full retirement age. In the year you reach FRA, the SSA deducts $1 for every $3 you earn above the threshold limit. The threshold limit changes every year. Recipients can avoid these deductions by ensuring their earnings don’t exceed the threshold limit. Once you reach full retirement age, the SSA doesn’t deduct anything from your benefits even if you continue to work.