TN 6 (10-16)

GN 02409.110 Conditions for Voluntary Suspension

A. Requesting voluntary suspension

1. Voluntary suspension of Retirement Insurance Benefit (RIB)

Any RIB applicant or beneficiary, with a reduced or unreduced benefit, may request voluntary suspension of his or her benefits to earn voluntary delayed retirement credits (VDRC). An increment month for which an individual may earn VDRC’s is any month beginning with the month of FRA and ending with the month before attainment of age 70. For the definition of VDRC, and additional information about delayed retirement credits, see RS 00615.690.

The request for voluntary suspension may be either written or oral, and we do not need a signature. A representative payee, on behalf of the beneficiary, may make this request.

NOTE: Entitlement to disability insurance benefits (DIB) prior to RIB does not preclude a NH’s ability to request voluntary suspension.

Effective January 2000, a NH could request voluntary suspension for any month starting with the first month of FRA and ending with the month before the month of attainment of age 70.

Effective December 8, 2010, RIB beneficiaries could only prospectively suspend benefits. Suspension of benefits could start no earlier than the month after SSA received the request for voluntary suspension. However, for new RIB applications, voluntary suspension of current or retroactive benefits (retroactive up to the earlier of 6 months or FRA) was possible before SSA made a determination that he or she was entitled to benefits and before SSA made a payment.

Effective April 30, 2016, for individuals who (1) attain FRA on or after April 30, 2016, and for individuals who (2) attain FRA prior to April 30, 2016 but submit their request for voluntary suspension on or after April 30, 2016:

Voluntary suspension begins no earlier than the month after the month of the request. We may accept advance requests for voluntary suspension; however, suspension cannot begin earlier than (1) the month after the month of the request; (2) FRA; and (3) the month of entitlement (MOE), for initial claims.

We can only accept advanced requests with a suspension effective date of the current operating month (COM) plus 3 months.

Example: RIB beneficiary, requests voluntary suspension prior to FRA

Charles began receiving RIB at 62. Charles attains FRA on August 2016. Charles contacts SSA on July 10, 2016 and requests that SSA suspend his benefits with the earliest possible moment.

Voluntary suspension cannot be effective prior to FRA. As Charles contacted SSA one month prior to FRA, we can place him in voluntary suspense effective with August 2016, the month he attains FRA.

Example: RIB beneficiary, requests voluntary suspension at FRA

Sarah began receiving RIB at 62. Sarah attained FRA on September 2016. Sarah contacts SSA on September 15, 2016 and requests that SSA suspend her benefits effective with FRA.

Voluntary suspension cannot be effective earlier than the month after the month of request. As Sarah requested voluntary suspension on September 15, 2016, the earliest the suspension can become effective is October 2016.

Example: DIB beneficiary, requests voluntary suspension prior to FRA

Casey began receiving DIB in August 2015. Casey attains FRA in June 2016. On May 15, 2016, Casey requests that we suspend his benefits effective with FRA.

DIB entitlement prior to RIB does not preclude Casey’s ability to request voluntary suspension. Since Casey contacted SSA one month prior to FRA, we can accept his request and place him in voluntary suspension effective with June 2016, the month he attains FRA.

2. VDRCs for number holder (NH)

Only the NH can earn VDRCs. Other beneficiaries on the record do not earn VDRCs.

a. Months eligible for VDRCs

A beneficiary may elect voluntary suspension only for months in which a full benefit is due. A beneficiary cannot earn VDRCs for months when other deductions or withholding provisions apply. For example, a beneficiary cannot use a month of prisoner suspension to earn a VDRC; nor a month when we garnish benefits due to a court order. For additional information, see RS 00615.690.

NOTE: Medicare premiums do not preclude the NH from earning VDRCs. For more information, see GN 02409.110B.4.

b. Voluntary suspension and overpayments

A beneficiary cannot earn a VDRC for any month where there is full or partial withholding to repay an overpayment. Should the beneficiary pay the existing overpayment in full, voluntary suspension can then apply.

If a beneficiary is in a period of voluntary suspension and we discover a prior overpayment, offer the beneficiary the option to repay the overpayment in full to avoid the loss of VDRCs.

NOTE: If a beneficiary forfeits the right to earn VDRCs because of collection of an overpayment, he or she will have to make a new request for voluntary suspension once the overpayment is resolved. The date of the new request will determine which voluntary suspension rules apply.

B. How voluntary suspension affects benefits

1. Voluntary suspension for a NH effective April 30, 2016

Effective April 30, 2016, individuals who (1) attain FRA on or after April 30, 2016, and individuals who (2) attain FRA prior to April 30, 2016 but submit their voluntary suspension request on or after April 30, 2016, follow the new rules for voluntary suspension set forth under Section 831(b) of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2015. For information about the voluntary suspense provisions resulting from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, see GN 02409.100.

NOTE: An individual, voluntarily suspended under the rules in effect prior to April 30, 2016, continues to fall under those rules for purposes of his or her own benefits, reinstatement of benefits, and eligibility for auxiliary or survivor benefits on another record, for that period of voluntary suspension. Furthermore, any auxiliaries on the individual’s record are unaffected by the voluntary suspension, even if they become entitled to benefits after April 30, 2016. If an individual who was previously in a period of voluntary suspension prior to April 30, 2016, later requests a second period of voluntary suspension on or after April 30, 2016, the new suspension follows the rules in effect April 30, 2016.

NOTE: If on or after April 30, 2016, we process a request for voluntary suspension that we received prior to April 30, 2016 from a NH who attained FRA prior to April 30, 2016, we will honor the NH’s request and process the voluntary suspension based on the rules in effect prior to April 30, 2016.

2. Voluntary suspension of NH’s auxiliary or survivor benefits on another record

For voluntary suspension requests that fall under the rules in effect prior to April 30, 2016:

If a dually entitled beneficiary requested to suspend his or her RIB, suspend only the RIB but continue to calculate the auxiliary or survivor’s benefits as if we were still paying the RIB.

Example: Dually entitled beneficiary, requests voluntary suspension under the rules in place prior to April 30, 2016

Leslie is receiving RIB and AUXSPO. Leslie receives $800 from her RIB and $400 from her AUXSPO, for a monthly benefit of $1,200. Leslie requests voluntary suspension June 10, 2015.

We will suspend her RIB effective with July 2015, the month after the month of the request, but continue paying her AUXSPO of $400.

Effective April 30, 2016, for (1) individuals who attain FRA on or after April 30, 2016, and for (2) individuals who attain FRA prior to April 30, 2016 but submit their request for voluntary suspension on or after April 30, 2016:

If a dually entitled beneficiary requests to suspend his or her RIB, suspend the RIB along with his or her auxiliary or survivor’s benefits.

Example: Dually entitled beneficiary, requested voluntary suspension under the new rules in place April 30, 2016

Ben is receiving RIB and AUXSPO. Ben receives $1,000 from his RIB and $500 from his AUXSPO, for a monthly benefit of $1,500. Ben requests voluntary suspension on July 18, 2016.

We will suspend both RIB and AUXSPO effective with August 2016, the month after the month of the request. Ben will not receive any benefit for the period of voluntary suspense.

3. Voluntary suspension for auxiliaries on the NH’s record

For voluntary suspension requests that fall under the rules in effect prior to April 30, 2016:

The NH’s request for voluntary suspension does not affect auxiliaries on the record; auxiliaries could continue receiving benefits while the NH is in voluntary suspense unless another suspension reason is applicable.

Example: NH with an AUXSPO on the record, requests voluntary suspension under the rules in place prior to April 30, 2016

Ted has been receiving RIB since age 62. Ted’s wife, Tracy, is collecting AUXSPO benefits from his record. Ted attains FRA in February 2015. On January 20, 2015, Ted requests that we suspend his benefits effective with his attainment of FRA.

We will suspend Ted’s RIB effective February, the month after the month of the request. Since Ted requested voluntary suspension prior to April 30, 2016, his suspension does not affect his wife Tracy’s AUXSPO benefits. Tracy will continue to receive AUXSPO benefits while Ted is in voluntary suspense.

Example: NH requests voluntary suspension under the rules in place prior to April 30, 2016, AUXSPO becomes entitled on the record after April 30, 2016

James has been receiving RIB since age 62. James attains FRA in February 2016. On January 5, 2016, James requests that his benefits be suspended effective with his attainment of FRA. Later, on August 31, 2016, his wife Pam files for AUXSPO benefits with an MOE of September 2016.

We will suspend James’s RIB effective February 2016, the month after the month of the request. Since James requested voluntary suspension prior to April 30, 2016, his suspension does not affect his wife Pam’s AUXSPO benefits, even though Pam’s benefits begin after April 30, 2016. Pam will receive her AUXSPO benefits while James is in voluntary suspense.

Effective April 30, 2016, for (1) individuals who attain FRA on or after April 30, 2016; and for (2) individuals who attain FRA prior to April 30, 2016 but submit their request for voluntary suspension on or after April 30, 2016:

No auxiliary benefits (except divorced spouse’s benefits) may be paid on the record of a NH who requests voluntary suspension.

NOTE: A spouse who is under FRA is eligible for an adjustment of the reduction factor (ARF) for any months during which his or her spousal benefits were suspended due to the NH’s suspension that was requested on or after April 30, 2016. For additional information about ARFs, see RS 00615.482.

Example: NH with an AUXSPO on the record, requests voluntary suspension under the new rules in place April 30, 2016

Hank has been receiving RIB since age 62. Hank’s wife, Marie, is collecting AUXSPO benefits from his record. Hank attains FRA in June 2016. On May 12, 2016, Hank requests that we suspend his benefits effective with his attainment of FRA, June 2016.

We will suspend Hank’s benefits effective June 2016, the month after the month of the request. Since Hank attained FRA after April 30, 2016, his suspension will affect his wife Marie’s AUXSPO benefits; Marie’s AUXSPO benefits will be in suspense for the period of Hank’s voluntary suspension.

Example: NH requests voluntary suspension under the new rules in place April 30, 2016, AUXSPO later becomes entitled on the record

Kayla has been receiving benefits since her attainment of FRA, February 2016. On August 8, 2016, Kayla requests voluntary suspension to begin September 2016. Kayla’s husband, Lucas, files for AUXSPO benefits on November 10, 2016 with an MOE of December 2016.

We will suspend Kayla’s benefits effective September 2016, the month after the month of the request. Since Kayla requested voluntary suspension after April 30, 2016, her suspension will affect Lucas’s AUXSPO benefits; when Lucas comes on the record in December 2016, his benefits will be in suspense and will remain in suspense for the period of Kayla’s voluntary suspension.

Example: RIB beneficiary with a dually entitled spouse and child on the record, requested voluntary suspension under the new rules in place April 30, 2016

Alex has been receiving RIB since age 62. Alex attains FRA August 2016. Alex’s wife, Elizabeth, is dually entitled on Alex’s record and on her own RIB record. Their son, Philip, is entitled to auxiliary benefits on both of their records; however, Philip’s higher benefits are payable from Alex’s record and he is technically entitled on Elizabeth’s record.

On June 15, 2016, Alex requests voluntary suspension of his benefits effective with his attainment of FRA, August 2016.

Since Alex attained FRA after April 30, 2016, his suspense will affect his wife and child’s benefits; Elizabeth and Philip’s auxiliary benefits on Alex’s record will be in suspense for the period of Alex’s voluntary suspension. Furthermore, when Philip’s auxiliary benefit from his father’s record is suspended, his auxiliary benefit from his mother’s record (which was previously technical entitlement only) will begin paying out benefits.

4. Voluntary suspension and Medicare eligibility

The NH or auxiliary must pay any Medicare premiums due during the period of voluntary suspension. This applies to premiums for Part B, C, and D; Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) premiums payable by individuals with higher incomes; and premium increases due to late enrollment to Part B. We do not deduct Medicare premiums from the suspended benefit or honor any request to adjust the premiums against future benefits payable. The beneficiary will be billed and is expected to pay the premiums by direct remittance. For more information regarding the billing of Medicare premiums, see HI 01001.045.

NOTE: In order to qualify for variable SMI, the beneficiary must receive a cash benefit for November and December (amongst other criteria). If a beneficiary were in voluntary suspense during the month of November or December, he or she would not qualify for variable SMI. For more information, see HI 01001.004C.2.

5. Voluntary suspension and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility

Voluntary suspension of benefits will cause ineligibility for SSI for the NH in concurrent (Title II and Title XVI) cases, based on the SSI requirement to file for all possible benefits. A beneficiary who is concurrently entitled to both Title II and Title XVI benefits will in effect be voluntarily giving up both benefits when he or she requests voluntary suspension of his or her RIB. For more information regarding the requirements to file for other program benefits, see SI 00510.001.

NOTE This provision only applies to the NH’s SSI eligibility; auxiliaries on the NH’s record may remain eligible for receipt of their SSI benefits.

6. Voluntary Suspension when RIB and Widow’s Insurance Benefits (WIB) are involved

If the RIB, inclusive of VDRCs and all other possible recomputations will never exceed the WIB, there may be no reason for the claimant to elect voluntary suspension. Explain how VDRCs could affect the RIB when initially processing a claim from an individual entitled to RIB and one or more WIB benefits. The claimant can elect to file only as a WIB and delay filing for RIB to earn VDRCs up to the month prior to the month in which the individual attains the age of 70.

If a beneficiary is entitled to both RIB and WIB, he or she may have the option of withdrawing the RIB claim and continuing payment as a WIB only. This would make it possible to file for RIB in the future to take advantage of accruing VDRCs. For additional information about withdrawal of claims, see GN 00206.005.

For voluntary suspension requests that fall under the rules in effect prior to April 30, 2016:

If a dually entitled beneficiary elected to suspend his or her RIB, suspend only the RIB but continue to calculate the survivor’s benefits as if we were still paying the RIB.

Effective April 30, 2016, for (1) individuals who attain FRA on or after April 30, 2016, and for (2) individuals who attain FRA prior to April 30, 2016 but submit their request for voluntary suspension on or after April 30, 2016:

If a dually entitled beneficiary elects to suspend his or her RIB, suspend the RIB along with his or her survivor’s benefits.

7. Retroactivity of applications

For voluntary suspension requests that fall under the rules in effect prior to April 30, 2016:

Regular rules of retroactivity apply. SSA allows up to six months retroactivity; however, for applicants who file fewer than six months after FRA, SSA only pays retroactive benefits back to the month of FRA attainment. For more information, see GN 00204.030.

NOTE: Voluntary suspension of current or retroactive benefits is possible only for new RIB applications electing voluntary suspension before SSA makes a determination and before SSA makes a payment. Otherwise, voluntary suspension is possible starting no earlier than the month after SSA receives the request.

Example: Initial claim with retroactivity, voluntary suspension requested under the rules in place prior to April 30, 2016

Harold attains FRA June 2015. Harold files a RIB application on December 15, 2015. Harold requests an MOE of June 2015, which is six months retroactive, back to FRA. Additionally, Harold requests that we suspend his benefits effective with his MOE.

Since Harold requested voluntary suspension prior to April 30, 2016, we will suspend Harold’s benefits effective with his MOE. Furthermore, when Harold is ready to reinstate his benefits he can elect reinstatement effective with the current month, a future month, or any past month during the suspension period.

Effective April 30, 2016, for (1) individuals who attain FRA on or after April 30, 2016, and for (2) individuals who attain FRA prior to April 30, 2016 but submit their request for voluntary suspension on or after April 30, 2016:

Regular rules of retroactivity apply. SSA allows up to six months retroactivity; however, for applicants who file fewer than six months after FRA, SSA only pays retroactive benefits back to the month of FRA attainment. For more information, see GN 00204.030.

NOTE: Voluntary suspension cannot begin earlier than (1) the month after the month of the request; (2) FRA; and (3) the month of entitlement (MOE), for initial claims.

Example: Initial claim with retroactivity, voluntary suspension requested under the new rules in place April 30, 2016

John attains FRA February 2016. John calls SSA on May 10, 2016 to set up an appointment to file for RIB and states he wants to suspend his benefits to earn VDRCs. John’s appointment is on June 12, 2016.

John elects an MOE of February 2016 and requests that his benefits go into suspense at the earliest possible month to accrue VDRCs.

Since John requested voluntary suspension after April 30, 2016, the suspension cannot begin earlier than the month after the month of the request. The earliest moment that the suspension can begin is June 2016, the month after the May 10, 2016 request.

If left unchanged, John would receive a benefit for February through May 2016 and begin earning VDRCs June 2016 when the suspension begins.

If John wishes to earn DRCs for February through May 2016, he would need to change his MOE to June 2016, to coincide with the effective date of the suspension, thereby earning DRC’s from February through May 2016, not for suspending his benefits but for delaying his entitlement to benefits. For more information, see RS 00615.690. Increment months for purposes of earning DRC’s are months without payment either because the individual:

  1. has not filed an application, or

  2. voluntarily suspended entitlement to the benefit).


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GN 02409.110 - Conditions for Voluntary Suspension - 10/19/2016
Batch run: 10/19/2016
Rev:10/19/2016