What Would This Teacher Get If She's Widowed?

Feb 23 2017 - 11:45am

Couple (both 63) - he elected to rollover what would have been pension benefits, so he has no pension but would have SS benefits of approximately $2,700 a month at 66. She is a teacher and her SS benefits show now as $289 a month at 66; she would also have a teacher pension of $18,000 a year by then. If he dies at say age 68, would she get his full SS benefit (plus her own pension) or would it be reduced in some way? I'm thinking a windfall issue in here somewhere. Thanks!

Hi,

There wouldn't be a windfall issue. The windfall elimination provision (WEP) only affects benefits payable on a person's own record, and doesn't apply to survivor benefits paid on their record (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf).

The likely issue for this theoretical widow would be GPO (Government Pension Offset) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). If a person is receiving a government pension based on their own work that was exempt from Social Security taxes, GPO requires withholding of 2/3rds of the amount of their government pension from any Social Security widow's or spousal benefits for which they may qualify. So, if this teacher is receiving a non-covered government pension of $1500 per month and becomes eligible for a widow's rate of $2700 per month, the Social Security amount payable would be $1700 (i.e. $2700 - (2 x $1500/3)).

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Best, Jerry