How to reverse your Social Security claim in 4 easy steps

Andrii Zastrozhnov /

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

Let’s say you weren’t working during the pandemic and you applied for Social Security because you needed the income. Now you’re back to work and you want your Social Security benefits to keep growing so your retirement checks get bigger.

Can you stop using the benefit and sign up again later? Yes, some people – but not all – can do that.

We asked Russell Settle, an expert on Social Security claim strategies, how this option is known Withdraw your Social Security pension claim — works and who is eligible. Settle is a partner of Social Security Choices, a company that helps workers plan how to maximize their benefits.

Settle recommends following these steps if you are thinking of withdrawing your application.

1. Get to know the rules

Businessman reads documents
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First, find out if you are eligible and how a withdrawal would affect you.

Call your local social security office and ask what’s at stake. Here are some basic rules:

  • Not everyone is eligible. “With the current law, you have 12 months to change your mind once you start receiving your benefits,” says Settle. If you are not eligible for withdrawal, there is another option – “Suspend” services. – might work for you.
  • It will cost you. You must pay back the money you received from Social Security. This contains:
    • Monthly Social Security pension checks you received
    • Medicare premiums withheld from benefit assessments
    • Money received by your family, including spouse or children, as a result of your Social Security application
    • Income tax withheld from your benefits checks
    • Money seized from benefit checks to pay or repay court-ordered child support, child support, or victim’s compensation payments specific debts you owed to the federal government
  • Only one repetition is allowed. Just a withdrawal from social security is allowed for life. before 2010, things were different. At this point, you can start, stop (pay back what you received) and start again as many times as you like. This allowed you to treat Social Security “essentially (as) an interest-free loan that you could take back with a higher benefit,” says Settle.
  • Your Medicare may be affected. Social Security and Medicare are closely related. If your Medicare Part B premiums are paid out of your Social Security checks, you must pay those premiums out of pocket after they are paid. Settle recommends setting up an automatic payment with your bank because you could lose Part B Medicare coverage if the payments expire.
  • You could lose your SSI. Withdrawing from Social Security could disqualify you from disability payments for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

2. Download the form

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

Download the form and print it out.

3. Fill out the form

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

You will also be asked to provide a reason for termination, for example that you want to continue working.

Print it out and send it to your local welfare office. “Keep a copy of this, that’s for sure,” advises Settle.

4. Be patient

Worried older woman
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Now it’s just a matter of waiting. “Social Security will get in touch with you and ask you to pay back the money they gave you,” says Settle.

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

One more thing, what if you change your mind and decide you don’t want to quit Social Security after all?

It is possible to withdraw your request, but act quickly. Contact your local office immediately to learn how to proceed. Social Security allows beneficiaries to cancel an approved withdrawal request without penalty only within a 60-day window starting from the date your withdrawal was approved.

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