‘File-and-suspend’ Social Security strategy under fire from White House

Are high-income Americans gaming Social Security? The Obama administration wants to go after the wealthy for “aggressive” moves to “manipulate” their Social Security claiming decisions, according to the fiscal 2015 budget released by the White House earlier this month.

The target is a benefit claiming strategy known as file-and-suspend – a twist on the more straightforward strategy of delayed filing to earn a higher monthly benefit down the road. Although it’s technically available to anyone, the White House thinks the strategy is being used to unfair advantage by high-income seniors and wants to shut it down because of the added benefit cost it imposes on the Social Security program.

Any change to file-and-suspend would require congressional action, so don’t expect anything soon. But words like “aggressive” and “manipulate” are unusually strong for a federal budget document, so my Reuters column today looks at what file-and-suspend is about – how it’s used and whether it makes sense to target it for elimination.