Supt Bourque Calls on State to Fund Gateway School Districts, says Chelsea Will Not Be Defined by a Standardized Score

Supt Bourque Calls on State to Fund Gateway School Districts, says Chelsea Will Not Be Defined by a Standardized Score

The Chelsea convocation on the first day that teachers return for work after the summer break has always been a venue that Supt. Mary Bourque has used to unveil plans for the district.

Hundreds of educators from the Chelsea Public Schools, led by Supt. Mary Bourque (front row), made a statement Monday morning with ‘I (heart) Chelsea’ T-Shirts that sent a message to those on Beacon Hill that Chelsea Schools need a fix to the formula that funds the schools statewide. The scene came during the annual Back to School Address and Convocation by Supt. Bourque.

On Monday, though, she used her time to unveil a hope for the state of the state’s schools – and to send a message statewide that schools like Chelsea will not be defined only by a standardized test score and a series of cuts delivered in the state budgets.

Bourque said that this will be the year they reclaim the “heart and purpose” of who the Chelsea educators are. She said last year was one of the most difficult years of her career, and she is ready to put that behind.

“Whether it was the severe budget cuts we endured for a second year in a row, the lack of action by the state on the Foundation Budget Reform recommendations, the partial funding of the Economically Disadvantaged rates, or the noise, chaos, and pervasive negative rhetoric swirling around us from all layers of leadership – yes, in my career I will look back on 2017-2018 and say it was not an easy year,” she said. “But we…rose above it all and for that I thank all of you. We rose above it all and will continue to do so this year because we know we are succeeding in putting our students on the journey of life. While others may not hold public education to the high moral value and may not make the commitment to the next generation that is needed, we in Chelsea are different. We know and deeply value our purpose for being here in education, in Chelsea schools.”

Bourque said that the state has been on a very high-pressure, high-stakes mission of academic urgency for 25 years that has labeled every school as one-size-fits-all. That has played out in the labels given districts via the MCAS test results. She said that isn’t fair and has taken the heart out of education.

While she said such standards in the MCAS are valuable and worthy, the system needs to account for different districts like Chelsea that face different challenges – such as poverty, immigration and English Language Learners.

“I contend that the unintended consequences of this 25-year system is the loss of the heart of education,” she said. “The heart of who we are as educators. As a State, we have lost our way and forgotten what is most important in education. It is time then, to rise up and take the heart and purpose back, one classroom at a time.”

The end of the speech was a rallying cry in which Bourque called on all Chelsea educators to fight for things such as revamped state financing and Foundation Budget reform and other such changes at the state level.

“We will fight for our students and for what is right,” she said. “We will rise up as a collective voice, as a force of positivity, civility, advocacy, purpose, and heart whether at the local, state, or national level. We will lead the change that needs to take place from test score accountability framework to state education finances.”

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Chelsea Schools Get Raw Deal in ‘Pothole’ Account This Year

Chelsea Schools Get Raw Deal in ‘Pothole’ Account This Year

The Chelsea Public Schools have had a life-line in the State Budget the last few years as finances have gotten more difficult.

That life-line is known as the ‘Hold Harmless’ provision, or more popularly the ‘Pothole’ account. This year, that account is little to no help for Chelsea as the district saw their funding slashed in half.

Last year, Chelsea got an additional $1.214 million from the Pothole account funding – a fund that seeks to help districts who are not getting a proper count of their low-income students due to changes three years ago in the way they are counted.

However, this year Chelsea will only get $296,000, nearly $1 million less than last year.

“The whole idea of the account is to hold us harmless for the change in the way they calculate the funding, which has taken dollars away from us,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Come to find out, it was slashed this year at a rate of about 56 percent, so we are not held harmless because that would mean you are at 100 percent. By their own admission, we aren’t held harmless at 100 percent.”

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was disappointed in the funding allotted to Chelsea for the Pothole account, and the ability not to be able to fix the funding for the long-term. That was something he had proposed in the education funding bill.

“I’m disappointed that was also not addressed within this session,” he said. “It would have been addressed with (the education) bill and it’s another reason I’m disappointed with how all of this happened.”

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Albanese Upset Over Council’s Cut

Albanese Upset Over Council’s Cut

Saying he is disappointed with the Council’s posture toward the Fire Department during last week’s successful $100,000 budget cut to his department, Chief Len Albanese said the Council missed an opportunity to help bring the Department forward.

The Council, particularly Council President Damali Vidot, called for the cut and said the Fire Department overtime budget had requested an increase. She and others felt like that number – which in the past has been described as being abused – should be doing down.

Albanese said it wasn’t fair, and he said he Council hasn’t listened to his calls for an appropriate percentage of funding and more staffing.

“I’m disappointed with the cut that was made and the comments made by Council President Vidot,” he said. “This year we made budget. I told the Council that if they properly funded the Fire Department we would do our best to live within that range, and we delivered. We require no supplemental funding to finish the year.

“I have advocated for more staffing since my first month on the job,” he continued. “We have acquired both the staffing and apparatus to make that happen. Now, we need this additional staffing to translate into more boots on the ground daily. If the recent fire on John Street is not indication enough of that, I’m not sure what is. These major fires in our densely populated neighborhoods are a significant threat to our community. We need as much help as possible in the first 10 minutes of these fires to protect our neighborhoods.”

He said the John Street fire was one where they lucked out because had other calls been going, the staffing might not have been there to respond correctly.

“We are lucky that all of our apparatus was available at the time of that alarm and not tied up on other calls,” he said. “I assure you, the devastation would have been much worse. Twenty homeless could have been 100. We cannot count on luck. We need to be prepared with a reasonable amount of protection based on the threat that we face.”

In 2016, Albanese presented to the Council that the Fire Department budget is around 6.25 percent of the overall budget, and national standard indicate it should be between 6.5-7 percent based on the call volumes.

This year, they would be 6.25 percent and that represents less percentage-wise than in 2016.

“Our overall budget represents only 6.25 percent of the overall City Budget which is actually less percentage wise than we received in 2016,” he said. “Even when you consider that we will eventually take over the new hire salaries in full, we will still be between 6.5 and 6.75 percent of total budget, well within a reasonable and acceptable range.”

For his overtime request, he said he requested a 4 percent increase to the current year’s $1.25 million overtime budget. That, he said, is because salaries increased by 4 percent and so there would be less overtime coverage.

“It’s one thing to hold the line, but to cut our entire request, plus an additional $50,000 that we had this year makes no sense,” he said. “It’s like saying thanks but no thanks.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he believes the chief can make things work despite the cut.

“I was opposed to that cut,” he said. “I think the chief can make his overtime and salaries work. He has some open positions. There are three now…Hopefully he’ll make it and if he can’t, I’ll have to come to the council in the spring and ask for more money.”

Albanese said the cut won’t stop them from carrying out their plan, but it does no one any favors.

“The $100,000 cut will not keep us from continuing on our plan to increase daily staffing, but it doesn’t help,” he said. “With the amount of information we have provided the council, I think those members who voted to support this cut missed an opportunity to show their commitment to protecting our neighborhoods. The $100,000 is literally one-half of 1 percent of the City Budget, but it can translate into having an extra firefighter searching for a trapped occupant. To me, that’s money well spent.”

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School Budget Cuts Starting to be Felt in the Community

School Budget Cuts Starting to be Felt in the Community

Closing a $3.1 million budget gap is never painless, but now in the weeks after those cuts were announced, many in the community are starting to take notice.

This week, one of the most notable cuts that is being discussed is the removal of the librarian from the Chelsea High  School (CHS) Library.

Supt. Mary Bourque said the cuts, including the librarian, were part of the School Committee’s attempt to deal with state funding discrepancies that have been dealt to the City over the last few years. She pointed out that last year, the Schools had to cut the elementary school librarian as well.

Now, the school system is left with only two librarians at the Middle School level.

Bourque said they had to prioritize teaching and learning, as well as their turnaround plan that is already in place. When making tough decisions, the librarian at CHS was a hard, but clear, choice.

“We needed to stay close, first and foremost, to the principles that would help meet the needs of our students,” she said. “We used data and we based the decision on the data. This is our third year of budget cuts. It’s illustrative of the broken state funding formula…This year we’re cutting the librarian at the high school because of the standards we stood on. We looked at the data and circulation numbers are down. Kids at the high schools are doing a lot of research online now. There were only about nine books a day being checked out for a 1,500-student body.”

Speaking up big for the CHS librarian was fellow librarian Martha Boksenbaum, who is the Children’s Librarian at the Chelsea Public Library. She said a school librarian shouldn’t be sacrificed, especially since the librarian at the elementary school was cut last year.

“One might argue that if there isn’t a School Librarian, students can just go to the Public Library instead,” she wrote in a letter to the Record this week. “In reality a School Librarian does things the Public Library cannot possibly do. School Librarians are part of the school; they know the teachers, the teachers know them and they work together on a daily basis so School Librarians can make sure students have what they need to complete their assignments.

“Students in Chelsea deserve more than this,” she continued. “While school funding is tight and hard decisions have to be made, this is a sacrifice Chelsea High students should not have to make.”

Bourque said she did a survey and found that most schools in the area were down to one librarian districtwide. That was true in Revere, Saugus and Malden. In Winthrop, there is no librarian in the schools.

In Chelsea, they left the two middle school librarians because they also teach classes, where the elementary and high school librarians did not teach.

“Librarians are the support services for students and are necessary, but when you have to decide whether to increase class sizes by keeping the librarian or keeping class sizes at 30 and cut support services like librarians, that the choice,” she said. “We can’t cut the teachers in the classrooms.”

The school librarian was only a small part of the cuts made to the School Budget.

Other cuts included:

  • Three administrative positions.
  • 10 instructor positions.
  • Two whole-class paraprofessionals.
  • 10 one-on-one paraprofessionals.
  • Discontinuation of the 5th to 8th grades Citizens Schools at the Brown Middle and Wright Middle Schools.
  • Mandatory Connect Digital Lead Teacher Platform.
  • Reduction in the extraordinary maintenance and technology budget.

Of all of those, Bourque said they needed to be careful about pushing off the maintenance and technology budget.

“You can only do that so many years in a row before it comes back to bite you,” she said. “We have to be careful in doing that.”

Meanwhile, Bourque said the cuts are a call for the community to unite in lobbying the entire legislature to support Senate Bill 2325, which was proposed by Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz. Bourque said that bill contains all of the fixes to make sure cuts like this wouldn’t have to happen for a fourth year in a row.

“It behooves us all to be on the same path with our advocacy,” she said.

House Budget contains pothole account to help schools like Chelsea

The House Budget passed last week by the state House of Representatives has some encouraging news regarding school financing – and word from Beacon Hill is that the funding changes will outlast any vetoes from Gov. Charlie Baker.

The House put in a $12.5 million “Pothole Account” to help districts hurt by the change in ‘Economically Disadvantaged’ definitions a few years ago. Last year, there was no such funding, but this year it looks like that money will make it through.

The money would be allocated to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and they would be charged with disbursing it to the affected district.

Supt. Mary Bourque said the pothole account in the House Budget is good news, but she hopes that there are some changes.

“First of all, $12.5 million will go fast,” she said. “I have asked Sen. Sal DiDomenico to petition that DESE isn’t in charge of disbursing that account…We need to get it passed first, but second I would like to see that DESE isn’t in charge of that money.”

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Chelsea Delegation Announce Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Law

Chelsea Delegation Announce Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Law

Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) recently announced that the landmark criminal justice reform package crafted by the Massachusetts Legislature has been signed into law. The Senator had previously joined his legislative colleagues in overwhelmingly voting to pass this sweeping piece of legislation, and last week the Governor signed the bill into law. An Act relative to criminal justice reform will lead to a more equitable system by supporting our youngest and most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety.

The legislation contains provisions to provide better care for vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, and implements policies to strengthen protections for public safety and witness protection. The Legislature also passed the accompanying Act implementing the joint recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review (H.4012), which is designed to complement the comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. The CSG bill allows individuals to earn early release by participating in recidivism-reduction programs.

For the first time in the history of Massachusetts, this legislation establishes a process for expunging criminal records. Courts will now be able to expunge certain juvenile and young adult (18-21) records, and records in cases of fraud or where an offense is no longer a crime.

The Legislature has a longstanding legacy of supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children, particularly those facing trauma and adversity. Accordingly, this bill raises the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to twelve and decriminalizes a first offense misdemeanor if the punishment is a fine or imprisonment for not more than six months. The legislation establishes a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Commission, which will make the state eligible for additional federal funding, and a Childhood Trauma Task Force to study and recommend gender responsive and trauma-informed approaches to treatment of youths in the juvenile justice system. The bill also extends Good Samaritan protections to alcohol incapacitation for individuals under 21.

This legislation reflects a balanced, modern approach to sentencing. It eliminates mandatory and statutory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent drug offenses. Additionally, it creates the nation’s strongest law for Carfentanil trafficking and strengthens the existing Fentanyl trafficking law, bolstering the Legislature’s multi-tiered approach to the opioid epidemic. The legislation also strengthens penalties for repeat offenders convicted of operating under the influence (OUI).

 The new law requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues in order to combat the opioid epidemic and provide healthcare parity. It also expands diversion programs to the Juvenile Court and removes the existing age restriction on diversion in the District Court.

 Following reforms in 2010 and 2012, this legislation again updates the Commonwealth’s criminal offender record information (CORI) system to help individuals secure gainful employment and housing, enacting the following policies:

  • Reduces the wait time to seal a conviction from ten years to seven years for a felony, and from five years to three years for a misdemeanor.
  • Allows a conviction for resisting arrest to be sealed.
  • Expands the ability of an applicant with a sealed record to be able to answer “no record” on housing and professional license applications.
  • Establishes protections for businesses and landlords who shall be presumed to have no notice or ability to know about criminal records that have been sealed or expunged.

 This legislation updates the Commonwealth’s bail system and enhances judicial discretion by requiring a judge to take a person’s financial resources into account when determining bail. It also raises the threshold for larceny to qualify as a felony from $250 to $1,000. It also creates the crime of solicitation that is tied to the severity of the underlying crime.

Additional policy changes include: reduction of fees imposed on defendants; decriminalization of minor offenses; enhanced limits on solitary confinement; improvement of prison conditions; and release of prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk.

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Council President Endorses Pressley,Capuano Touts Fundraising

Council President Endorses Pressley,Capuano Touts Fundraising

The U.S. Congressional race has heated up this week as both candidates, incumbent Congressman Michael Capuano and challenger Ayanna Pressley, have touted their fundraising efforts, and one local Chelsea official gives the first endorsement – but for the challenger.

City Council President Damali Vidot announced Wednesday that she would be backing and supporting Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in her Congressional run. The shot across the bow comes in territory that has firmly been in the Capuano camp for many years, but perhaps could be a key battleground community in the race.

As has become a common criticism of Capuano, Vidot said it’s not enough to simply vote against attacks.

“Attacks on our community are nothing new, but, in light of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, we need a new generation of leaders who are willing to intentionally advocate for solutions that address our most challenging issues,” said Vidot. “For that, and so many other reasons, I emphatically support Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy for the 7th Congressional District… Leadership like Ayanna’s is what our country is missing at this critical moment in history. It is not enough for our elected officials to vote against the attacks on our communities. We need representatives that will lead with us, for us, and alongside us to help build the communities we deserve.”

Vidot said Pressley’s advocacy on DACA and TPS recipients within the immigration debate in Boston, as well as her leadership for women and people of color, were reasons for her endorsement.

Meanwhile, in a press release battle of fundraising prowess, Capuano got the upper hand on Pressley this week, noting he has raised more money and has more money in his campaign fund. That coming shortly after Pressley sent out a news release about her “surprising” fundraising efforts.

On Tuesday morning, Pressley put out a news release saying the campaign had raised $364,368 in the first two months of the race.

“I am humbled by the outpouring of love and encouragement I have received from so many individuals who share our vision for our district, our Commonwealth, and our country,” said Pressley. “I am also deeply moved by those who tell me that they are contributing or volunteering for the first time ever, and have chosen this unique and challenging moment in our nation’s history to stand alongside our campaign and fight for a better future.”
A few hours later, the Capuano campaign put out a similar press release showing far greater fundraising in the first quarter of the year.

Capuano touted raising more than $500,000 in the first quarter and having $1.1 million in cash at the moment.

“I am truly grateful for the support I am receiving in this campaign,” said Capuano. “We face real challenges from a Trump presidency threatening working families, seniors, women, immigrants, and young people all across our district. I’m on the front lines of these fights and will keep standing up to Donald Trump to keep making a difference for the people who count on me to protect and advance their interests.”

Campaign Manager Sam Raymond said campaign volunteers gathering nomination signatures across the district are finding enthusiastic supporters. “During caucuses and in coffee shops, at farmer’s markets and community meetings – our volunteers are finding and growing the strong support Mike has throughout the district because his record of strong advocacy and real results on issues that impact their lives is substantial,” he said.

“From protecting vital programs like Social Security and Medicare, to advancing legislation that supports job creation and economic growth, Mike is standing up to President Trump and his dangerous policies and he’s making a difference. The people of our district know it,” Raymond added.

The Pressley campaign touted its grass-roots efforts on the ground, including in places like Chelsea

They indicated a strong presence at 30 Massachusetts Democratic Party caucuses in every city and town across the district. This past weekend, the campaign’s first “Day of Action” brought out over 40 volunteers who participated in signature gathering efforts in Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Boston, they said.

The campaign said it has activated more than 300 volunteers across the district, including Councillor Vidot.

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Police Briefs 03-15-2018

Police Briefs 03-15-2018

SPELLING BEE BANDIT SENTENCED

A Chelsea man, dubbed the “Spelling Bee Bandit,” was sentenced March 7 in federal court in Boston for four bank robberies.

Jason S. Englen, 34, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to 84 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In November 2017, Englen pleaded guilty to four counts of bank robbery.

On Oct. 31, 2016, a man, later identified as Englen, entered a branch of TD Bank in Arlington, approached a teller and presented a note written on a deposit slip indicating a robbery and demanding cash. On the note, the word “robbery” was misspelled. The teller handed Englen money from the drawer and Englen fled the bank leaving the demand note behind.

Over the next few weeks, three additional banks were robbed in the same fashion: a branch of TD Bank in Reading on November 5, a branch of Salem Five in Burlington on November 7, and a branch of TD Bank in Peabody on November 13. Based on the similarity of the robberies and the physical description of the robber, law enforcement, seeking help from the public, identified Englen, who was already in state custody on unrelated charges, as the bank robber. On Dec. 12, 2016, Englen was arrested by federal authorities and charged.

SALVADORAN SENTENCED FOR ILLEGAL RE-ENTRY

A Salvadoran national was sentenced March 8 in federal court in Boston for illegally reentering the United States after deportation.

Gerardo Alberto Perez-Fuentes, 22, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to six months in prison and one year of supervised release. Perez-Fuentes will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. In December 2017, Perez-Fuentes pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful reentry of a deported alien.

Perez-Fuentes was previously deported on Sept. 4, 2015, and on Oct. 8, 2015. On Sept. 6, 2017, law enforcement in Chelsea encountered Perez-Fuentes and determined him to be illegally present in the United States.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Sullivan Jacobus of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.

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Brazilian National Sentenced for Scheme to Launder $20 Million in Proceeds from the Telexfree Fraud

Brazilian National Sentenced for Scheme to Launder $20 Million in Proceeds from the Telexfree Fraud

A Brazilian national was sentenced Feb. 8 in federal court in Boston for conspiring to launder approximately $20 million in proceeds from the TelexFree pyramid scheme – a scheme that affected hundreds of Chelsea residents.

Authorities reported finding the money hidden in a mattress.

Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to 33 months in prison and one year of supervised release. In October 2017, Rocha pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering.

In April 2014, a search warrant was executed at the headquarters of TelexFree Inc., a massive pyramid scheme based in Marlborough that caused billions of dollars in losses to nearly two million victims worldwide. Later that same day, Carlos Wanzeler, one of the founders of the company, fled first to Canada and then to Brazil, his native country. In his haste to flee the United States, however, Wanzeler left millions of dollars hidden in the greater Boston area.

In mid-2015, an intermediary working on Wanzeler’s behalf contacted an associate for help transferring the money from the United States to Brazil. The associate, who later cooperated with federal authorities, arranged with Wanzeler’s representative in Brazil to launder cash through Hong Kong, convert it to Brazilian Reals, and then transfer it to Brazilian accounts. In January 2017, Rocha, working as a courier for Wanzeler’s representative in Brazil, flew from Brazil to New York City. Rocha later met the cooperating witness in Hudson, Mass., where Rocha gave him a suitcase containing $2.2 million of Wanzeler’s hidden TelexFree money, intending that the cooperating witness help launder the cash out of the United States. After the meeting, agents followed Rocha to an apartment in Westborough, Mass., and he was later arrested. A search of the apartment resulted in the seizure of approximately $20 million in cash found hidden in a mattress box spring.

Wanzeler and TelexFree co-founder James Merrill were indicted in July 2014 on charges that they operated TelexFree as a massive pyramid scheme. Merrill pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced in  HYPERLINK “https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/former-president-telexfree-sentenced-billion-dollar-pyramid-scheme” March 2017 to six years in prison. Wanzeler remains a fugitive.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. U.S. Attorney Lelling and Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil J. Gallagher Jr. of the Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.

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Alleged MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Re-Entry of Deported Alien

Alleged MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Re-Entry of Deported Alien

An alleged member of MS-13 pleaded guilty Jan. 11 in federal court in Boston to an immigration charge.

Elenilson Gonzalez-Gonzalez, a/k/a “Siniestro,” 31, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful reentry of a deported alien.  U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for April 5, 2018.

Following a lengthy investigation, Gonzalez-Gonzalez was one of 61 defendants named in a superseding indictment targeting the activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of the transnational criminal organization, La Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13.

Gonzalez-Gonzalez is the 27th defendant to plead guilty in this case.

In December 2015, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement encountered Gonzalez-Gonzalez near Deer Island National Park in Winthrop. Further investigation revealed that in May 2012, Gonzalez-Gonzalez had been apprehended by U.S. Customers and Border Patrol agents illegally entering the United States near Mission, Texas.

At that time, Gonzalez-Gonzalez admitted that he was a Salvadoran national who had entered the country illegally and was attempting to make his way to the Boston area. He was subsequently removed from the United States in 2012 on an expedited basis. Gonzalez-Gonzalez later re-entered the United States and was charged with illegal reentry after deportation.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than two years in prison, one year of supervised release, and up to a fine of $250,000. Gonzalez-Gonzalez will also be subject to deportation upon the completion of his federal sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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Social Security Matters – When Should I Apply for Social Security?

Social Security Matters – When Should I Apply for Social Security?

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: I will be turning 62 in 2018; birth date 9/24/1955. My husband is 77 and receiving Social Security.  Longevity runs in my family. I have been self-employed all my life. I am still working and my husband collects a pension, Social Security and RMD from a traditional IRA, so there is no need for additional monies under my current circumstances. When should I start taking Social Security?   Signed:  Thinking about Retirement

Dear Thinking: The question of when to take Social Security normally gets an answer of “It depends on your health, your family history of longevity, and your need for the money”.  You’ve already addressed those items so I’ll focus on your main question – when should you start taking Social Security?

Even though you’ll be eligible to collect Social Security when you turn 62, if you do so you will only get 74.17% of the retirement benefit you would be entitled to at your full retirement age (FRA). Whenever you apply, you will be deemed to be filing not only for your own retirement benefit but also any spousal benefit you may be entitled to from your husband’s work record. Similar to your SS retirement benefit, your spousal benefit would also be reduced because you took it early; instead of being 50% of your husband’s benefit at your FRA, you would only get 35% at age 62 (if that is larger than your own retirement benefit). The point I’m making is that by claiming SS early, any benefit you’re entitled to will be reduced from what you would get at your full retirement age.

Just as you are penalized for claiming before your full retirement age, you are rewarded for waiting beyond it to claim Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, for each year you wait beyond your full retirement age, your retirement benefit will be 8% higher than it would be at your FRA. That will continue up until you are 70 years old when your retirement benefit will be 30.67% higher than it would have been at your FRA. You stop earning additional credit at age 70, so there’s no reason to wait beyond that to apply. Let’s use an easy example to illustrate: If your FRA retirement benefit is $1000, by applying at age 62 you would only get $741 per month instead of $1000. But if you wait until you are 70 to claim benefits, you would get $1306 per month, nearly twice what you would get by applying at age 62.

There are two other factors you should incorporate into your thinking:

1) At your FRA, you will be entitled to ½ of your husband’s benefit at his FRA.  If your spousal benefit at your FRA is substantially more than your own retirement benefit, then applying at your FRA may be a good strategy, as opposed to waiting and earning delayed retirement credits.

 2) Once you have reached your FRA you will be entitled to 100% of your husband’s benefit amount if he should predecease you. If your eventual survivor’s benefit would be more than your own FRA benefit amount, you might be better served by claiming your retirement benefit earlier than age 70.

As you can see, most of the answer to your question depends upon whether your benefits as a spouse or a survivor will be more than your benefit based upon your own work record. If not, then waiting beyond your FRA up to age 70 will yield you the maximum retirement benefit. But if your spouse and/or survivor’s benefit will be more than your own retirement benefits, then applying at your full retirement age may be the best strategy. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you go to www.ssa.gov and set up your personal “My Social Security” account which will give you access to your currently estimated retirement benefit. Comparing that to your potential spousal and survivor benefits should give you the answer you’re seeking.

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at info@amacfoundation.org.

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