If you’re collecting Social Security and intend to realize the maximum benefit you have earned and have coming to you, you’ll have to die at 11:59 p.m. the last day of the month. Otherwise, money owed you by the government will be taken from you.
This disturbing fact came to our attention via one of our associates, who had the bad fortune to experience the anomaly himself.
An aunt in his care and for whom he was executor of the will died on April 28. She was a retired tax examiner for New York state and, thus, a beneficiary of the State Retirement System.
She received her benefits from Social Security and the State Retirement System through direct deposit into her checking account: from the state, on the 30th of the month; from the federal government, on the 2nd. Both checks cover the month already passed, of course; neither entity pays for time not yet spent.
Having died on the 28th, she was in store for almost all of April’s benefit — but not quite. There were two days’ worth of retirement to which she would not be entitled.
So, once notified of her death, New York state wrote to our associate that his aunt’s benefit would be withdrawn from her account and a new check would eventually be issued to cover the 28 days she was actually living (and accumulating expenses, by the way).
Social Security, on the other hand, merely informed him the April benefit would be reclaimed from her account. It said nothing about a pro-rata compensation.
The state did as promised, and, in several weeks, a check was mailed to pay for the 28 days of coverage.
When Social Security didn’t do likewise, our associate called Social Security and, for good measure, went personally to the office in Plattsburgh to make certain that what he’d been told over the phone was true: Social Security does not pay retirement benefits for partial months.
Yet, during those 28 days of her life, she was accumulating expenses, as always: There was the assisted-living facility where she lived, her phone, her cable TV and miscellaneous other expenditures.
The Social Security person on the phone and in the office both commiserated with our associate, admitting the practice violates common sense as well as common decency. Still, that’s the way things are done.
Multiply this experience by millions who die every month under Social Security coverage, and you have an enormous saving by the government — some would call it a fleecing – but a damaging loss to families trying to tie up loose ends in an estate.
The benefit was earned and should be paid. Such thievery does not become our senior citizens’ lifeline.