If you're already receiving Social Security retirement benefits and have changed your mind, you may be able to withdraw your application and allow your benefit to keep growing.

In order to do this, however, certain conditions must be met. Here's what you need to know about withdrawing your Social Security application, and what to do if you can't withdraw yours.

Someone filling out SS application

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Can you withdraw your Social Security application?

You may be able to withdraw your application if you've been receiving Social Security retirement benefits for less than 12 months, and then reapply at a later date. So, if you've been receiving benefits for a year or longer, withdrawal is not an option.

In addition, you are limited to one withdrawal of a Social Security application in your lifetime. So, it's important to be absolutely certain before you decide to proceed. Once you request a withdrawal of your application, you have 60 days from the date your request is approved to change your mind.

If you decide to withdraw your Social Security application, you'll be required to repay all of the benefits you've received so far. This includes:

  • Retirement benefits you've received
  • Any other benefits paid based on your work record, such as spousal benefits
  • Money that was withheld from your checks, such as Medicare Part B, C, or D premiums, or any taxes you chose to have withheld

Finally, if you're already entitled to Medicare, you can also choose to withdraw your Medicare coverage, although you aren't required to. However, be aware that if you withdraw your Medicare coverage, you must repay all Medicare Part A benefits paid on your behalf, and your Part B withdrawal will be treated as a voluntary termination, which could result in higher benefits in the future.

What you need to do

The process for withdrawing your Social Security application is rather easy. Simply fill out Social Security Form SSA-521, including the reason for your withdrawal request. Anyone else who receives benefits based on your work record must also consent to the withdrawal.

Once the request for withdrawal has been processed, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will let you know the amount of benefits you'll need to repay to complete the request.

If you can't withdraw your application

If you've been collecting Social Security retirement benefits for more than 12 months, you can't withdraw your application. However, there may be another option.

Once you've reached your full retirement age, you can choose to suspend your Social Security benefits until as late as age 70 in order to allow your benefit to grow. Suspended benefits will restart automatically at age 70, or you can choose to have them reinstated at any point before that time. It's important to note that any other benefits paid on your work record (such as a spousal benefit) will be suspended as well. Also, if you're enrolled in Medicare Part B, you'll be responsible for paying your own premiums.

The bottom line is that there are two ways to get a Social Security "do-over," depending on how long you've been receiving your benefits. Both have the effect of permanently increasing your benefit once you restart, but withdrawing your application is effectively the same as never having filed at all, while suspending just allows your benefit to increase from that point on.