Social Security Changes of 2015
The Bipartisan Budget Reconciliation Act of 2015 made two significant changes to the mix of Social Security options we have for collecting benefits. Both of these apply only to married individuals.
Prior to this change married individuals could file a Restricted Application. This means they could file for Spousal benefits without taking their own personal benefits. This was only available after reaching Full Retirement Age (FRA). Before that age beginning Spousal benefits means you were deemed to have elected to start your own personal benefits as well.
The impact of this change is that for anyone born after January 1, 1954, whether or not you have reached FRA no longer matters. For those in this group filing for Spousal benefits means you are deemed to have elected to take your own personal benefits as well. Effectively the Restricted Application is going away.
The other change is that effective April 29, 2016, in order to collect Spousal benefits your spouse must be receiving Social Security benefits as well. The exception to this is if your spouse Filed and Suspended by the April 29, 2016, effective date. (“File and Suspend” is a process of filing for your own benefits and then immediately suspending benefits so that you do not receive monthly payments. But you were still “in the system” and that previously allowed for your spouse to file for Spousal benefits based on your earnings history.)
Some media reported that File and Suspend went away, but this is not correct. What changed is one of the most popular reasons to File and Suspend went away. The option is still available, and there are still situations where it can be useful.