Am I right that a divorced person who was born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, can still claim Social Security on her ex-spouse’s record and later switch to collecting a benefit on her own record? I’ve planned for a long time to collect Social Security based on my ex’s record when I’m 66, continue working while my own benefit keeps growing and then switch to it at age 70. Can I do this?


Yes. This strategy, called “filing a restricted Social Security application,” is no longer available to anyone born after Jan. 1, 1954, but it’s still an option for many older people.

In general, a person filing for Social Security is automatically applying for all the benefits he or she is eligible to receive. If you qualify for both a benefit based on your spouse’s or former spouse’s record and a benefit based on your own record, you get the larger of the two.

The restricted application is an exception to that rule. It lets you restrict your application to your spousal benefit alone, and postpone and later switch to your own benefit — but only if you meet all these conditions:

  • You were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954.
  • You’re applying for Social Security for the first time.
  • You’ve reached your full retirement age, and
  • You’re married and your spouse has already applied for Social Security
  • You’re divorced, your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you’re currently unmarried, and your ex qualifies for Social Security — i.e., is at least 62 years old or is eligible for Social Security disability — even if he or she hasn’t yet applied for it.

Some Social Security applicants qualify for options that are no longer generally available.


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