Your Social Security Advisor

Does Social Security Ever Make Mistakes on Benefits? – Ask Rusty

file benefit social security benefitsDear Rusty: Can or does the Social Security Administration occasionally make mistakes in determining the benefits due? I’m now 72 but I retired early at age 61 and knew that my benefits would be reduced.  I’ve always wondered if my monthly benefit calculation was incorrect but did not know how to address my concerns. If it is possible, could you direct me in how to handle with the SS Administration? Signed: Skeptical of My Benefit

Dear Skeptical: Can the Social Security Administration ever make mistakes? Of course they can, and do, but not really very often considering that they are dealing with tens of millions of beneficiaries, and especially when it comes to computing benefit amounts. Since nearly all benefit computations are done by computer, the usual source of any error is almost always from using incorrect input data. The actual benefit computation formula, while complex, is very standard and well proven; if an error occurs in a basic benefit computation, it is usually because a person’s lifetime earnings record contains an error. Having said that, let’s explore why you feel your benefit may not be correct.

When you say you “retired early at age 61” I assume that means you claimed your Social Security early at age 62 (the minimum age). Since your full retirement age is age 66, that means that by claiming at age 62 your benefit was cut by 25% from what it would have been at age 66. Also, any benefit estimate you had from Social Security prior to claiming made the assumption that you would continue to earn at your current level until you reached your full retirement age. If you “retired” and stopped working and earning at age 61, the benefit you are entitled to is less than that estimate you had from Social Security at age 61.

So, how can you address your concerns? I suggest the first thing you do is get a copy of your lifetime earnings record from Social Security. You can do this by calling them and requesting it or, if you have a “My Social Security” personal account, you can obtain it online. You should verify that all of your lifetime earnings are properly reflected in Social Security’s records (SS gets your earnings data from the IRS). Note that only your earnings up to the maximum payroll tax for each year count because that’s all you paid SS FICA tax on; if your actual earnings in any year were more than the annual payroll tax cap, only the amount up to that year’s tax cap is used. Be aware that if you find an error, you will need to prove it to Social Security by showing them a copy of your W-2 or your Federal Income tax return for the year(s) in question. If your lifetime earnings record is in order, then you are almost certainly getting the correct benefit. When computing your benefit, Social Security adjusts each year of your lifetime earnings to today’s dollar value, so inflation shouldn’t be a factor either. The highest earning 35 years over your lifetime (adjusted for inflation) are used to determine your benefit amount.

If you’re still uncomfortable that you may not be getting the correct benefit, you should call Social Security directly and ask them to review your benefits to make sure you are receiving the correct amount. Social Security has all of your lifetime earnings data immediately available and can quickly determine if your benefit amount is correct based upon the earnings history shown in your record.

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website ( or email us at [email protected].

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2 years ago

When my husband first retired, he opted not to get Part B or D. (Of course, he had been getting a larger SS payment before finally getting B & D.) After he passed away, I now get my SS, plus the difference to make it up to his $ level. What I want to know is: why am I getting the amount they were paying him after taking out his Medicare, when he is obviously no longer receiving Medicare. Since I recently turned 65, I am now also paying for my own Medicare, so basically (to me), I am paying for Medicare twice…? When I questioned the local SS office, I was told, “That’s just they way they do it.” Am I wrong in thinking this is unfair?

Willie Ryan
2 years ago

Social security is robbing the American people and they get to do it legally.we should make it where everybody pays the same and save millions by doing away with social security administration.

2 years ago
Reply to  Willie Ryan

Sounds easy, but I think that most people get back more $$ from SS when they retire than what they actually put in. May not be good for some people but is the only retirement income for others

Linda Rose
2 years ago

What about the TV commercials that say you could earn more from Social Security ?

TOM Adams
2 years ago

How many months ahead of age 65 can you file for Medicare?

2 years ago
Reply to  TOM Adams

You can enroll in Medicare 3 months before the month you turn 65. If you’re collecting Social Security you’ll be automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B about 3 months before you turn 65, and your Medicare card will be be mailed to you.

Jeff Eason
2 years ago

Absolutely they do. When I became a paraplegic as a result of a car accident at age 19 and started getting SS Disability I had private insurance from my previous employer so I didn’t take part B Medicare. I had better insurance and I thought I was doing my country a favor by not billing SS for my medical. After several years I lost the private insurance and immediately started the Medicare so as not to be penalized, or so I thought. Many years later I found out that even though I had private insurance and had provided Medicare with the policy they still penalize me to this day for not having paid for part B while I had private insurance.
Long story short, if you believe that any part of the government is doing anything for your benefit you are sadly mistaken.

Catherene RB Avery
2 years ago

I get the bare minimum in social security. When i questioned them I was told that my check was computed on the last quarter i worked not on lifetime. How can i get them to correct this as i held several years of employment dating back to the 60’s and i do not believe that this is being counted either?

2 years ago

You were incorrectly informed. Your Social Security benefit is based upon your highest earning 35 years during your lifetime, adjusted for inflation.

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