May 9, 2018 | by Chris Stein, CFP®, Finance Instructor at Colorado State University
Social Security Didn’t Tell Him

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We received the following email this week…

“I have a dear friend who at age 60 lost his wife. She was on SS disability while she was sick. When she passed away he went to SS (in DE) to get the $250 for funeral expenses. He sold his home and moved to Maine, then turned 62 and went to Maine SS office where he was asked why he was not collecting SS for survivor benefit, he said no one told me.  They said that mistake cost him around 19K. He will not fight for this money on his own, does he have a right to appeal?”

In all likelihood, there is nothing he can do unless he has documentation where they erroneously told him he was NOT eligible for survivor benefits at the time he went into the office.  It is my understanding that the Social Security offices are under no legal obligation to proactively tell you about benefits for which you are eligible now or in the future.  They are allowed to answer any questions you have, so if he asked them and they incorrectly denied him benefits then an appeal may fix the issue.

This is actually one of the more concerning deficiencies of the Social Security system.  There are way too many people who have benefits available, but they do not know about them or how to claim them.  Even when people know of the benefits there is no guarantee the person you speak to at the SS office will understand them and agree.  This is why it is critical to understand what you and your loved ones are eligible to receive and don’t take the first rejection if you have done your homework and know you are eligible.  The main purpose for this blog is to empower people to make the best SS decisions they can and to benefit as the system intended.  The challenge is that the system isn’t designed to be all that friendly.

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