How to Cancel Your Social Security Claim in 4 Steps

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What if you signed up for Social Security benefits and now regret the decision? Is a “redo” possible?

Say, for example, you didn’t work during the pandemic and you applied for Social Security because you needed that income. Now you’re able to get back to work, and you want your Social Security benefits to keep growing so your retirement checks are bigger.

Can you stop taking advantage and register again later? Yes, some people – but not everyone – can do this.

We asked Russell Settle, an expert on Social Security claim strategies, how this option — known as withdraw your request for retirement from Social Security — is working, and who is eligible. Settle is a partner with Social Security Choices, a company that helps workers plan how to maximize benefits.

Settle recommends following these steps if you plan to withdraw your application.

1. Get to know the rules

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First, find out if you are eligible and how withdrawal would affect you.

Call your local Social Security office and ask what is at stake. Here are some basic rules:

  • Not everyone is eligible. “Under current law, you have 12 months once you start receiving your benefits to change your mind,” Settle says. If you are not eligible for withdrawal, another option — benefits “suspended” – might work for you.
  • It will cost you. You will have to repay the money you received from Social Security. This includes:
    • Monthly Social Security retirement checks you received
    • Health insurance premiums withheld from benefit checks
    • Money your family, including a spouse or children, received based on your Social Security application
    • Income tax withheld from your benefit checks
    • Money seized from benefit checks to make court-ordered payments for child support, alimony, or restitution to victims, or to reimburse some debts you had to the federal government
  • Only one retake is allowed. Alone a withdrawal social security is allowed in life. Before 2010, things were different. At that point, you can start, stop (paying back what you received) and start again as many times as you want. This allowed you to deal with Social Security, “essentially, (like) an interest-free loan that you could start over with a higher benefit,” Settle says.
  • Your health insurance may be affected. Social security and health insurance are closely linked. If your Medicare Part B premiums are paid from your Social Security checks, you’ll have to pay those premiums out of pocket after withdrawal. Settle recommends setting up automatic payment with your bank because you could lose Medicare Part B coverage if payments expire.
  • You could lose your SSI. Withdrawing from Social Security could disqualify you from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.

2. Download the form

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Applying isn’t difficult, Settle says. Just find the simple two-page form on the Social Security website, Form SSA-521.

Download and print the form.

3. Complete the form

Happy senior couple using computer at home
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Fill in the form. It asks you what kind of benefit you’re opting out of — Social Security, in this case — and asks if you want to continue using Medicare.

You will also be asked to give a reason for withdrawing – that you want to continue working, for example.

Print it and send it to your local social security office. “Keep a copy for sure,” advises Settle.

4. Be patient

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Now all you have to do is wait. “Social Security will contact you and ask you to pay back the money they gave you,” Settle says.

It’s hard to predict how long that might take. “With Social Security, it’s so specific to the office you’re dealing with,” Settle says. “My local office seems to be very efficient. I’ve heard horror stories about other places, though. The social security system, in general, is overburdened and underfunded, and some staff members are not well trained, in Settle’s experience.

One last thing: what if you change your mind and decide not to opt out of Social Security after all?

It is possible to cancel your request, but act quickly. Contact your local office immediately to find out how to proceed. Social Security will allow beneficiaries to cancel an approved withdrawal request without penalty only within 60 days from the date your withdrawal was approved.

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