May, 2023

Can a remarried widow still collect Social Security survivor benefits?

Social Security Spotlight: Disability Benefits
NARSSA | Social Security Newsletter | May 2023
May 2023 Newsletter


Hi there. Please enjoy reading our newsletter filled with news and information on Social Security, retirement, and Medicare. Please reach out at with any feedback on our newsletters. We are always happy to hear from you!


NARSSA Announcements  


We have an upcoming webinar on May 25th. Certain Social Security program rules are quite obscure and can either surprise retirees when they are affected by them or, in some cases, be a relief to discover that there is a solution to their problem. These include overpayments, the earnings test, withdrawing an application, voluntary suspension, lump-sum payments, and the widow’s limit. If you are a financial professional, your expertise in understanding the critical details about these rules will set you apart from the crowd! Register now.


Last month, NARSSA was a sponsor of the Medicarians 2023 conference in Las Vegas. Members of the NARSSA leadership team also recently attended the Kellogg Sales Training Institute in Utah.  We always have a great time connecting with new and familiar faces. Check out photos from this event and past events on our Instagram or LinkedIn pages.


Top Stories  

Source: CBS News
NARSSA co-founder and President, Martha Shedden, shares some key information regarding survivor benefits with CBS News reporter, Bo Erickson. Shedden explains that some people don’t know that they are eligible for survivor benefits at all and therefore a lot of money is missed out on. “Shedden cautioned that the longer a grieving family waits to file for benefits, the more money the children will miss out on, since retroactive payments only go back six months.” Read the story.
Source: RSSA
Did you know that your work history including any employment in foreign countries, may affect your benefits? The United States has established Totalization Agreements with numerous foreign countries. These agreements are designed to ensure that individuals who have worked both in the United States and a foreign country can combine their work credits to meet the eligibility requirements for Social Security benefits. Learn more.
Source: ThinkAdvisor
Nicole Birkett-Brunkhorst is a CFP and an RSSA and she was recently interviewed by John Manganaro at ThinkAdvisor. “She said the [RSSA] course (in addition to her extensive planning experience) has given her deeper insight into the critical considerations that go into Social Security claiming — when to claim, how to claim and what these decisions mean for a client’s lifetime benefit.” Read the full interview.


Ask Martha  

Question: This question is for my husband. His first wife died 7 years ago at age 55 and made more money than my husband. We got married 4 years ago. He is ready to retire. Can he get her Social Security benefits?
Martha’s response: Individuals who have lost a spouse may still be eligible to collect survivor benefits, but only if they remarry after age 60. If you married prior to him being 60, he is eligible to collect a spousal benefit based on your earnings record, but only if it is higher than his own retirement benefit. There are many factors for him to consider. When he applies for Social Security benefits, he will be applying for any and all benefits he is entitled to and will receive the larger amount of those…Read Martha’s full response or Ask Martha your own question.


Listen up: Social Security Podcast   

In this episode, Martha speaks with Edward Guldi, Attorney at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C..,  a distinguished New York lawyer who concentrates his practice on all aspects of workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability law for claimants. 
You can listen to Social Security Answers from the Experts on Spotify, Google, Apple or anywhere you listen to podcasts. You can even watch the live recordings on our YouTube channel. Listen here or watch on YouTube.


Social Security Spotlight: Disability Benefits

What are disability benefits? Social Security disability benefits are benefits paid to disabled workers and their dependent beneficiaries. Just like Social Security retirement benefits, FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes also cover the cost of Social Security disability benefits. FICA taxes are payroll deductions paid by you and your employer.

What are the eligibility requirements for disability benefits? To be eligible to receive disability benefits, a worker must meet two eligibility requirements: work requirements and medical requirements. More information below.

What are the work requirements to receive disability benefits? To be eligible to receive disability benefits, a worker must have enough “substantial lifetime work” in order to be insured. Substantial lifetime work means that the worker has 1.5 to 10+ years of work paying into the Social Security system (6 to 40+ work credits). Most people will need the 10+ years of work or 40+ credits, but younger workers may qualify with less work credits. In addition to substantial lifetime work, the worker must also meet the criteria for “recent work” in covered employment (paying FICA taxes) prior to onset of the disability. Recent work refers to the required recent employment paying into the system and the amount needed is based on the age of disability onset.

What are the medical requirements to receive disability benefits? The Social Security program has a very “strict” definition of disability, and it may be different from other disability programs. Even many people with common medical conditions such as cancer or psychiatric disorders will not be approved for benefits. To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the worker must be unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last a minimum of one year or result in death. To meet this definition, the medical condition must be severe enough that you cannot do the work you did before and cannot adjust to other work due to the condition.

Learn more about disability benefits and applying for them.


Case Study of the Month  

Social Security benefits are often subject to taxation, and the taxable amount isn’t always clear. In general, someone who receives most of their retirement income from Social Security will be subject to no or low taxation. For someone with a higher AGI, they will be subject to the maximum rate of 85% of Social Security income as taxable income. Those in the middle can strategize to minimize their taxation.

This is because taxation is based on the combined income (CI), which is equal to their adjusted gross income (AGI), plus tax-exempt interest, plus only 50% of the Social Security benefit. For a recent client, we decided to ensure a high proportion of income comes from Social Security (lower CI with same total income) by delaying until the maximum benefit. This couple is expecting about $42k from benefits, and receive no tax-exempt interest. Based on this knowledge and their filing status, we determined the threshold AGI of about $57k results in about 84% taxation – and with a lower AGI, they’d see lower taxation. This is valuable for planning their future income!


NARSSA Presentation at the Medicarians 2023 Conference

Last month, NARSSA was a sponsor of the Medicarians 2023 conference in Las Vegas. And our very own Martha Shedden and Thomas Drapala put on a great presentation. Watch the presentation here.


Medicare & Insurance Agents  


The unequivocal close relationship between Medicare & Social Security cannot be denied, and Social Security optimization is the cornerstone to retirement planning. Education, empathy, and a compassionate understanding of where a client is on their life journey, and addressing what they’re worried about is essential in today’s world. It requires a holistic approach that communicates to clients that you understand what is in their best interest.

Jumping the market and being able to speak with your target demographic before they reach Medicare age outside of Medicare marketing guidelines will create a sales funnel of those who are going to be claiming Social Security and Medicare for the next 15 years.

Turn Social Security prospects into Medicare clients using the RSSA® Program. The RSSA® Program is a turn-key Social Security education, technology, marketing, and support program to help your organization build a sales funnel, fill seats at events, and open the door to organic Medicare, Insurance, and Wealth Management sales opportunities.

Learn More about the RSSA® Program.


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