Am I Missing Something When Calculating How My Wife's Benefits Will Be Affected By WEP And GPO?

Feb 23 2020 - 8:42am

I'm having difficulty calculating my wife's SS benefit at her FRA. I will be 70 this April and will begin my SS benefit at $3581/mo. Wife has 10 years significant earnings and her FRA benefit is estimated on her SS statement will be $827/mo. However she has 16yrs teaching and will have a monthly pension of $1807/mo. We plan for her to claim spousal benefit on my claim. But when I calculate the GPO and WEP reductions, her benefit is less than $0. It seems that the combo of GPO and WEP eliminates her SS benefit whether she claims spousal or not. Am I missing something?

Hi,

I'll start by explaining that the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) can only affect benefits payable based on a person's own Social Security work history, specifically Social Security retirement or disability benefits. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision can only affect benefits payable based on someone else's Social Security work record, such as spousal or survivor benefits.

If your wife is receiving a teachers' pension based on her earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes, then GPO would likely cause any Social Security spousal benefits that she would otherwise be due to be reduced by 2/3rds of the amount of her teachers' pension. That could potentially reduce her spousal rate to zero.

However, if your wife qualifies for her own Social Security retirement benefits, those benefits would not be reduced to zero because of WEP. Although WEP can cause a person's benefit rate to be lowered, it never reduces their benefit rate to zero. And, since GPO doesn't affect a person's own Social Security retirement benefits, your wife should be able to draw at least some benefits as long as she has at least 40 quarters of Social Security coverage.

You don't mention your wife's birthdate, but if she was born after January 1 1954 she couldn't file just for spousal benefits without also being required to file for her own benefits at the same time. Either way, our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) should be able to help your wife determine her best strategy for claiming her benefits. The software is fully programmed to handle both WEP and GPO calculations.

Best, Jerry