Will GPO And WEP Affect My Social Security Benefits?

Jan 7 2017 - 6:30am

I am a teacher in Georgia and I have 30 years that some social security was taken out. SS was not taken out the past 5 years and I will be 62 in May. I am also entailed to receive half on my ex-husbands benefit which will be more than mine, if I choose. Since I have at least 30 years of work where SS was taken out, will my benefit be reduced by the GPO and Windfall Tax?

Hi,

The 30 years of covered earnings exception applies only to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and not the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision. Furthermore, your earnings in those years must be 'substantial' to count for the exception. See the following pamphlet for a list of the yearly 'substantial earnings' amounts: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.

WEP may affect the benefit rate payable on your own record, but it doesn't sound like it would have a large impact in your case. There is a WEP guarantee provision that limits the amount of benefit reduction to no more than half of the portion of your pension that's based on non-covered earnings. So, if the great majority of the work on which your pension is based was subject to Social Security taxes, any reduction to your Social Security benefit should be relatively small.

I can't tell from your description whether or not your entire teacher pension or only the non-covered portion would count for purposes of the GPO provision. The basic rule is that a person's Social Security spousal or divorced spousal benefits are reduced by 2/3rds of the amount of their non-covered government pension. And, the whole pension amount normally counts for GPO purposes unless the pension is based on a combination of government and private employment. So, unless you meet an exception to the GPO provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf), your teacher pension is likely to have a significant impact on your potential divorced spousal benefits.

Best, Jerry