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home | Social Security | Does Social Security Wrongly Withhol . . .

Does Social Security Wrongly Withhold Payment From Beneficiaries When They Die?

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From the Mailbag: I began SS on August 1, 2009, received payment the 3rd week of September, 2009. Consequently, when the day arrives that my final benefit check must be returned, say for example April 15, 2010 it appears to me that I continue to be one check short; yet this final April check must be returned. Am I the only one who finds this puzzling or rather being shorted?

Answer: Although at first glance it seems as if everyone is being "shorted" by one Social Security payment, this isn't actually the case. What can cause the confusion is that Social Security never pays for a partial month. You must live through a complete month to be eligible for a Social Security payment for that month.

Your monthly Social Security check or automatic deposit always covers the previous full calendar month. So, your payment for August would arrive in September, just as you stated.

Because you must be alive past midnight on the last day of any month to receive your benefit for that month, you will always lose the payment for the month in which you die (which will arrive the following month). This is the payment that Social Security will take back if they were not notified of a death in time to stop the payment. Because the wheels of government grind slowly, it is rare (read "never" or "hardly ever") that a Social Security check is stopped in time to avoid payment for the month in which a death occurred. This is why "you," or in actuality your estate/survivors, have to give back that last payment for the month in which you passed away.