In a recent report, Social Security's Inspector General formally accused Social Security Administration staffers of reducing the benefits of thousands of widows and widowers — to the tune of $132 million and counting.
The method? Forcing, cajoling, suggesting or even just letting widows and widowers file simultaneously to receive both their survivors benefits (also known as widows benefits or widowers benefits) and their retirement benefits. Doing so, however, prevents widows and widowers from taking one Social Security benefit first and the other later, after it has grown.
Once you file for a Social Security benefit, it can no longer grow even if you aren’t effectively receiving it. Yes, that's hard to follow, but I'll explain.
The Outrageous Social Security Practice
I've written about this outrageous practice over the years in my Ask Larry column and in my book — Get What's Yours — which I co-authored with Paul Solman and Phil Moeller. Back in July, 2015, I wrote a whistleblower article for PBS NewsHour based on my contact with John McAdams, a Social Security claims authorizer. McAdams risked his job to make this Social Security fraud public after repeatedly asking his supervisors to identify people whom the system had underpaid and then reimburse them or their heirs (if the widows or widowers had died).