Retirement Benefits and Disability Benefits

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What exactly are disability benefits? Disability benefits are paid to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. There are two earnings tests before qualifying: a recent work test, based on the your age at the time you became disabled, and a duration of work test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security rules and regulations.

If approved:

  1. Amount is based on your average lifetime earnings.
  2. If denied, can appeal.
  3. After two years of receiving benefits you will automatically qualify for Medicare coverage, regardless of age.
  4. At Full Retirement Age, your disability benefit will automatically convert to Social Security or Retirement benefits.

Roy and I do not assist people in applying for Disability Benefits, but if they do come to us when they are drawing we can assist with their rollover to Social Security benefits. Most software programs do not handle Disability issues, but we subscribe to a group of consultants that assist us in these matters. We do not handle Medicare, Disability, or sell financial products…..we only assist with Social Security. This was an intentional decision on our part – Social Security is too complicated to try and consult in more than this area.

If you are drawing Disability benefits certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work record: your spouse if over age 62, natural children, adopted children, in some cases grandchildren and stepchildren, an adult child who was permanently disabled before age 22, or your spouse who is caring for your child younger than age 16. Be careful here…..many exceptions to the rules!

In some cases a divorced spouse may qualify, if they were married for ten years, is at least 62 years of age and currently single. The money paid to a divorced spouse does not reduce or affect the other benefit or any benefits due to your current spouse or children. All these qualifications are subject to the extensive rules and regulations of the SSA.

Persons collecting Disability payments can at Full Retirement Age, suspend their benefits, and allow them to increase with Delayed Retirement Credits until a later age (up to age 70). But, because he/she was on Disability they cannot collect any benefits during the suspension.

If someone dies prior to his/her Disability benefit converting to Social Security benefits, the surviving spouse is still entitled to Survivor Benefits. At what age they should take this benefit, depends on many variables and should be reviewed.

With the passage of the Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2015, new rules and regulations were set in place. Make sure that you have researched all possible scenarios before filing……remember, basically a permanent decision.

Roy and Diane Thompson are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a former CPA of 40 years. Their guidance and direction will make a difference for you and your family. You may contact Pillars LLC on our website at or email at or simply give us a call at 601-954-0699. We are located in Corinth, MS but assist clients throughout the United States.

Recap of United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Meeting

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William Meyer, Founder and CEO of Social Security Solutions recently testified before this committee and we felt it worthy of summarizing for our readers. The purpose of the hearing was to examine the Government Accountability Office’s recent review of the extent to which Americans understand Social Security rules affecting their retirement benefits and the information the Social Security Administration provides applicants about claiming retirement benefits. We will recap in bullet points his testimony:

  1. It is important to note that every service our firm provides the Social Security Administration could provide.
  2. The rules are very complicated, and resources such as the SSA Program Operations Manual (used by employees) are not intuitive.
  3. Currently the Social Security Administration is providing neither the “right” nor “enough” information for someone to make an informed decision.
  4. No cumulative lifetime benefits are provided. This would better equip an individual in making the decision to file early or later.
  5. Additionally, all benefits a person is entitled to are not included in a person’s statement. It excludes spousal benefits and survivor benefits. Putting all benefits together and showing trade-offs between claiming strategies changes claiming behavior as more individuals better understand the merits of one strategy over another as they compare and evaluate their options.
  6. Currently, Social Security Administration rules do not allow agents to give advice on how to claim benefits. The policy states an agent can only give information, but no guidance. Note that claiming Social Security is the largest financial decision 99% of Americans make in their lifetimes. Americans are making an irrevocable decision with limited information, and no one at the Social Security Administration is allowed to help them explore their options.
  7. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in their June 2016 report, the Social Security Administration’s core operating budget has been reduced by 10% over the past six years, at a time when the numbers of American’s needing services are at an all-time high. This has left the Administration with too few resources to deliver essential services.
  8. My research shows that we can make someone’s retirement last between 2 to 10 years longer by maximizing Social Security. Choosing how and when to begin Social Security benefits is a huge decision and is the cornerstone for retirement security. The Social Security Administration could make some simple changes to help more Americans live better in retirement.

And readers, this is why we founded Pillars, LLC, to assist Americans with this decision. We are truly passionate about teaching, reaching and assisting individuals in making this basically permanent decision. There are currently six, licensed National Social Security Advisors in the Mississippi area – 3 in Biloxi, one in Ridgeland and 2 in Corinth that are trained and seasoned to assist you with this decision.

You may contact Pillars LLC on our website at or email at or simply give us a call at 601-954-0699.

The Do-Over

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We get phone calls, probably every week, from readers that feel the made a mistake on their Social Security benefit or claiming decision. Why is this? Maybe they have a job opportunity that would put their earnings over the Earnings Limitations maximum, maybe they read something that triggered the thought process, maybe they attended a Social Security (Pillars) seminar, maybe they really didn’t need the additional income, maybe they filed the wrong way for the wrong benefit, or maybe a friend gave them bad advice……whatever, the situation, there is an option available to you.

People file for benefits early for a number of reasons. Perhaps, they initially believed they would get more in cumulative benefits by claiming early. If you are within the first year of claiming your benefit (not the first year and one day, only the first year) you can file what is called the Withdrawal of Application. To put this creative fix in action, the benefit recipients simply complete a form, pay back all of the benefits they have received (including any spousal or other family benefits) and start again later at a higher monthly rate. It is just like you never started benefits. For most this is not feasible….to pay back all the money, including auxiliary benefits off their benefit, is not an option. Even though we have only had a handful of clients exercise this option, we wanted our readers to know that it is available if needed.

And so this is why how to file, when to file, what benefit to file for are extremely important. This is basically a permanent decision that must be given thorough examination and professional review. The Social Security office will answer your questions about your benefit, but not how to utilize claiming strategies. In fact some people do not realize that the Social Security office staff does not know if you are married or divorced until you tell them. Their job is to offer information on YOUR BENEFIT individually. We review your situation collectively, including all the claiming strategies that apply, and provide you with many options. Your report is customized for you and your unique set of circumstances. This is not a ONE SIZE FITS ALL process.

Just looking out for our readers. Trust us….this is a BIG DEAL!! Contact us at 601-954-0699 or or visit our website at Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a retired CPA . Call us if your business would be interested in a seminar…..great way to assist your employees with accurate information.

Software and Social Security

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Social Security is more complicated than before the passage of the Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2015. We know, as this is what we do each day. There are not just three choices as stated on your Social Security statement, there are literally thousands of different options and ways to file for your benefit. Unfortunately, many advisors and consumers have fallen into the myriad of misinformation traps that exist around Social Security planning.

People tell us their financial planning software includes an option called Social Security. These cost effective software programs have logic flaws and gaps that can be detrimental to making the best decision for you and your family. And worse than that, the free options are about as good as their cost…..FREE!! One well-known tool defaults to age 85 or 95 – for life expectancy and that is it. It cannot be changed, so if your client does not fall into these categories, all the best advice you are receiving is WRONG. The software choice must include all 2,728 rules and regulations, plus the thousands of exceptions to the rules to be effective. We searched, researched, tried and used many different software programs until we settled on the one we use for our clients.

Considering that lifetime Social Security benefits for most of our married clients is well over a million dollars, you want the best advice you can get before making this basically permanent decision. This means considering every option and analyzing the tradeoffs. Pillars’ customized reports are tailored to each individual set of circumstances, and every case is unique. You can’t fool the computer per se, but you can create (with some software programs) situations for your clients that take into consideration their wishes, dreams and desires for retirement.

Many software programs are not capable of calculating benefits for best use of the Survivor benefit, Disability clients, Spousal Benefit, Family Benefit maximums, and the list goes on. We are just cautioning our readers……don’t be fooled by what you see on the Internet… are the one that will suffer with a bad decision.

By Laurence Kotlikoff, PBS Newshour

“Unfortunately, Social Security has some very nasty “gotcha” provisions, so if you take the wrong benefits at the wrong time, you can end up getting a smaller benefit forever.”

“Getting this right on your own, is neigh impossible”

“Social Security’s online benefit calculators either don’t handle or don’t adequately handle spousal, divorcee, widow, widower, children, and Restricted options.”

Just looking out for our readers. Trust us….this is a BIG DEAL!! Contact us at 601-954-0699 or or visit our website at Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a retired CPA .




Voluntary Suspension of Benefits

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There is quite a bit of confusion out there about what is still available to consumers wanting professional advice about how to improve their Social Security Benefits. What you read on the internet is confusing at best. This article will try and balance some of that confusion with fact vs. fiction.

Yes, the claiming strategy “File and Suspend” is gone. Although this was a powerful tool to use, a much higher percentage of our clients utilize the claiming strategy “Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits” to improve their income stream position. Why is that? Usually because of circumstances, most people we are advising need at least one of the parties to receive benefits to supplement what they have saved or have available for retirement through pensions or other sources.

Now, under the new rules created by the Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2015, those turning age 62 by December 31, 2015, can still SUSPEND your benefit but that comes with new rules. These rules are as follows:

  1. If you SUSPEND, all auxiliary benefits will suspend along with your request. Auxiliary benefits are spousal benefits, family benefits, and no contingency fund provisions.
  2. Your benefit will improve by 8% per year while suspended. You can unsuspend at any time, but allowing it to suspend until age 70 will provide you with a 132% increase over your full retirement age benefit.
  3. This increased payment will also be passed along to your surviving spouse as a widow or widower’s payment.
  4. If you took Social Security early, you can SUSPEND any or all payments from Full Retirement Age to age 70 to erase part of the payment reduction for early filing.

Do not confuse this information with Restricted Application as they are two different strategies.

The decision when to file any claiming strategy is very important. Sometimes what appears logical at the time, does not work out that way on paper. That is why when people call us with questions, we are hesitant to answer the questions on the phone without having their available benefit numbers and information about their situation in hand. Sometimes we even get fooled, but we have the Cadillac software to assist us. Professional advice is recommended for this lifetime benefit choice.

Contact us at 601-954-0699 or or visit our website at Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a retired CPA – we have your back on this one!