The Social Security Administration has an extremely bizarre view on “entitlements.” By its very definition, an entitlement is your earned right; it is yours–you are entitled to it. Unfortunately, the SSA does not agree. You are only entitled to it if THEY say you are. And their decision is final.
Let’s consider the case of Ted and Alice. Ted was a good provider. He earned in excess of $100,000 per year. Ted married Alice when he was 21 and she was 20, before he even landed his high-paying job. The first few years were a struggle, and both of them had to work. Then Ted got his high-paying job, and Alice’s income went to pay the income tax. They decided that they would come out ahead if Alice quit working and stayed home to care for their child. All went well for the next 25 years. Then Ted died of a heart attack. At that point in time, he was entitled to $3200 per month upon retirement, and Alice was entitled to half of that, or $1600, for a total of $4800 per month. If he had worked for another 20 years, until his full retirement age, it would have been considerably more.
For the entire 25 years of their marriage, Ted and Alice filed joint income tax returns. When Ted died, the amount credited to him should have automatically been credited to Alice. If they had formed a legal “Partnership,” that would have happened. Oh, that’s right, they did–it’s called “marriage.” Of course the SSA does not see it that way. They say that Alice is entitled to a “survivor’s benefit” of $1600. But now things get curioser and curioser. Widowed at 46, Alice got remarried at 48, immediately un-earning the $1600. Nobody told her she had to wait until she was 60 to get remarried if she wanted to keep her “entitlement.” It’s just another government “gotcha.”