Is It Correct That I Can't Get Spousal Benefits?

Mar 1 2017 - 7:30am

My husband is 71 and waited until 70 to claim SS. I am 66 and have not claimed. I was told I could claim Spousal Benefits now then at 70, decide whether to file for my own or stay on Spousal. We went to SS office that said NO because I draw a pension from my teaching career where no SS was taken out. Is this correct?

Hi,

Probably. If you receive a government (e.g. Federal, State, Local) pension based on your work that was exempt from Social Security taxes, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision requires 2/3rds of the amount of the government pension to be offset against the amount of any Social Security spousal or widow's benefits for which you may qualify. So, if 2/3rds of the amount of your teacher's pension is more than 50% of your husband's full retirement age rate (PIA), you likely can't draw any spousal benefits (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). In spite of the offset, though, you could get Medicare based on your husband's record if you don't otherwise qualify for free Part A coverage.

There is a similar provision (WEP), that can reduce the rate of Social Security retirement benefits payable on your own record, but WEP never reduces the amount payable to zero (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf). So, if you are insured for benefits on your own record, you could start drawing those benefits now, or wait until age 70 at which time the rate payable would be higher. If that's the case, you may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website to help you decide when to apply.

Best, Jerry