SSR 62-66. RECOMPUTATION OF DECEASED WORKER'S PRIMARY INSURANCE AMOUNT
- A worker became entitled to old-age insurance benefits in the year in which he attained age 63. The amount of his benefits was based on his primary insurance amount of $72. Later in the same year, he died and his wife because entitled to survivor benefits on his earnings record. Held, recomputation of his primary insurance amount was required under section 215(f)(7)(B), increasing the worker's primary insurance amount to $84 for purposes of survivor benefits.
In August 1961, a worker, M, and his wife, W, filed application for and because entitled to old-age insurance benefits and wife's insurance benefits, respectively, on M's earnings record. M was born May 16, 1898; W was born July 26, 1898. M's primary insurance amount was $72, based on the following earnings for years after 1950: 1951 $3,435.83; 1952 $3,600; 1953 $3,600; 1954 $1,501.71; 1955 through 1961, none.
A worker's old age insurance benefit is equal to his primary insurance amount, and a wife's insurance benefit is equal to one-half the worker's primary insurance amount, except where (as in the present case) reduction is required under section 202(q) because the beneficiary has not attained age 65 in the first month for which he (or she) is entitled to such benefit. Based on M's primary insurance amount and reductions required by section 202(q), M was awarded old-age insurance benefits of $63.60 per month and W was awarded wife's insurance benefits of $30.30 per month, both effective August 1961.
In October 1961 M died, without having had any earnings in 1961. Because of his death, entitlement to both the old-age insurance benefit and the wife's insurance benefits ended with September 1961, the month before the month of death; and W became entitled, effective October 1961, to widow's insurance benefits of 82« percent of M's primary insurance amount. Also, since she was living in the same household with M when he died, she became entitled to a lump-sum death payment equal to $255 or 3 times the primary insurance amount, whichever is less.
However, the primary insurance amount on which W's survivor benefits are based is not necessarily $72. Where a man becomes entitled to old-age insurance benefits and dies before the month in which he would have attained age 65, section 215(f)(7)(B) requires that his primary insurance amount be recomputed for purposes of determining the amount of the lump sum or any other survivor benefits on his earnings record. That section further provides that in the recomputation, the primary insurance amount must be computed as if the worker had become entitled to old-age insurance benefits in the month he died, except that the year of death and subsequent years must be excluded when determining the number of his benefit computation years. This is essentially the same method that would be used in computing the primary insurance amount for survivor benefits if the man had never become entitled to old-age insurance benefits. Thus, the recomputation under section 215(f)(7)(B) ensures that, for purposes of survivor benefits, a man's primary insurance amount will be the same regardless of whether he was entitled to benefits during his lifetime. This recomputation does not apply where the worker was a woman, since under section 215(b) the computation of a primary insurance amount for a woman age 62 or over is the same for survivor benefits as for old-age insurance benefits.
Accordingly, M's primary insurance amount must be recomputed in accordance with section 215(f)(7)(B) in order to determine the amount of the widow's insurance benefits and of the lump-sum death payment to which W is entitled.
When a worker first becomes eligible for benefits after 1960, his primary insurance amount is based on his average monthly wage in his benefit computation years. The benefit computation years are a certain number of years in which the worker's earnings were highest. These years must be selected from the years after 1950 (or, under certain conditions not present here, after 1936) up to or including the year in which he becomes entitled to benefits.
For purposes of M's old-age insurance benefits, the number of benefit computation years was 7, derived in accordance with section 215 as follows: the number must be 5 less than the number of years (12) elapsing after 1950 and before the year (1963) in which M would have attained age 65. Since M had earnings in only 4 years after 1950, these 7 years had to include 3 years of no earnings. His total creditable earnings in these years were $12,142.54. This total, divided by 84 (the number of months in 7 years) gives a quotient of $144.55. This latter amount when reduced to the next lower multiple of $1, in accordance with section 215(e)(2), gave him an average monthly wage of $144. The primary insurance amount corresponding to M's average monthly wage of $144 (as determined from a table in section 215(a)) is $72.
However, in the recomputation for purposes of survivor benefits, the year of M's death and subsequent years must be excluded in determining the number of benefit computation years. Accordingly, the number of years to be used in the recomputation of 5 ;(10, the number of years elapsing after 1950 and before his death in 1961, minus 5). Since M had earnings in 4 years after 1950, only 1 year of no earnings must be used in the recomputation, as compared to 3 such years used in the original computation. M's total earnings remain the same, $12,142.54, but these earnings are now divided by 60 (the number of months in 5 years). The result is $202.38, which when reduced to the next lower multiple of $1, gives M an average monthly wage of $202.
The table in section 215(a) shows that for an average monthly wage of $202, the primary insurance amount is $84. Therefore, the amount of the widow's insurance benefit is $69.30 (82« percent of his primary insurance amount); and the amount of the lump-sum death payment is $252 (the lesser of $255 or 3 times the primary insurance amount).
Accordingly, it is held that W is entitled to widow's insurance benefits of $69.30 per month beginning October 1961 and to a lump-sum death payment of $252.