I learned something while visiting with a SS rep. This may be old news around here, but I don't recall seeing it before.
I filed and suspended at age 66, intending to defer to 70. Since then, some things have changed and I've been considering starting sooner.
The rep told me I could start any time by simply calling the office (since I'm already on record as filing). Furthermore, I could pick my start date, all the way back to my NRA, if I want. If I did that, they would "reinstate" my benefit, and give me a lump sum check for the missed payments. Of course the benefits would not include the deferred retirement credits past the date of reinstatement, and there is no interest adjustment.
Since I was on the fence, that little bit of do-over potential pushed me to continue deferring.
This could be relevant for the typical "when to start" debate. One of the frustrating issues with deferring is the possibility that your health deteriorates and you wish you had started sooner. It seems that if you defer than get bad news in the narrow band of NRA to age 70, you could almost put yourself back into the start-at-NRA world.
I looked for some thing on the SSA.gov site to verify the rep's explanation. This is the closest I could get:
If you change your mind and want the payments to start before age 70, just tell us when you want your benefits reinstated (orally or in writing). Your request may include benefits for any months when your payments were suspended.
I found a magazine article that's clearer:
How to Get Social Security In a Lump Sum (Without Taking Any Lumps) - TIME
A more flexible approach is to tell the agency that you want to “file and suspend” your benefits. This way, your benefits will still rise each month until you begin taking them. But it creates a nice insurance policy for you. At any time after turning 66 and before your benefits begin automatically at 70, you can ask Social Security to issue you a lump-sum payment for all the benefits you would have received had you begun taking them at age 66.
Without the file-and-suspend in place, if you had an emergency that required you to start benefits, you could not get all the foregone payments reinstated. The best you could do is file retroactively and get a maximum of six months benefits.