If you’re receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you can cancel or suspend the payments if you wish to do so. For example, you may have started to receive retirement benefits before age 65 and then returned to work to find your benefits are being significantly reduced by your earnings. However, your options for cancelling or suspending your benefits are limited, and can, in some cases, incur significant costs.
Social Security pays retirement benefits to qualified workers based on their age. Full Retirement Age, or FRA, is based on your year of birth, and generally is from age 66 to 67. However, qualified workers can request a reduced benefit as early as age 62. In addition, benefits are paid beginning at any age to qualified workers who become totally and permanently disabled. Social Security also pays spousal, children's and survivors' benefits to the qualified family members of workers entitled to Social Security benefits by virtue of retirement or disability, or who die after they have earned enough work credits to qualify for Social Security.
Canceling Retirement Benefits
If you applied to start receiving your retirement benefits before your FRA, you may cancel that application at any time during the first 12 months of receiving benefits. This is called withdrawing your application, and in effect nullifies it. You can re-apply for benefits at any time afterward.
If you've received retirement benefits for 12 months or more, you cannot withdraw your application, but you still can suspend them after you reach your FRA.
Cost of Canceling Benefits
When you withdraw your application, you become liable for the repayment of any benefits you’ve received; likewise, any spousal or children’s benefits that have been paid because you received benefits also must be repaid. You are allowed to cancel your Social Security retirement benefits in this manner once in your lifetime.
Access the Request for Withdrawal of Application online and print it out. Complete the required information thoroughly, sign it, and mail it to your local Social Security office, or drop it off there. Social Security will advise you of the total benefits that must be repaid. Once your request has been approved, you have 60 days to rescind it, after which it becomes irrevocable.
Suspending Retirement Benefits
A less costly alternative to canceling Social Security benefits is suspending them. This can be done only after you’re reached your FRA, and before you reach age 70. Your benefits will resume at age 70, or earlier if you request it, in a larger amount due to delayed retirement credits. This is a strategy sometimes employed by married couples who have both reached their FRA, allowing one person to start collecting a spousal benefit while both postpone their full benefit payments in order to receive the larger benefit when they do start collecting later.
There is no formal request form to suspend benefits. You can request a suspension of benefits in writing or by phone at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting your local Social Security office.
Stopping Disability Benefits
When you receive SSDI benefits, you’re required to notify Social Security of any improvement in your condition. If Social Security determines that you are no longer disabled, it will stop your disability payments. Likewise, if you earn a substantial amount -- $1,090 or more per month in 2015 – your disability benefits will be discontinued.