Could My SS Check Be Offset By Two Thirds Instead Of One Half Of The Amount Of My Civil Service Pension?

Jul 23 2018 - 1:23pm

I was married to my husband a few days less than 9 months when he died. We both worked for the Postal Service - this was in 1986. I retired on disability from the Postal Service only - not SS in 1989. In 2001 when I became 62 was told I was eligible for his social security and mine too since I was married to him at the time of his death but WHEN the about was figured the lady at SS office said I would draw more on mine. It was offset by two-thirds of my meager disability pension from the Postal Service. I did know a spouse's SS could be offset but I draw my own and too I have read in the SS MANUAL that then it could not be offset more than half of your own pension. I didn't get my husband's pension from the postal service because of the 9 month limitation and it being made to his children before our marriage. Am I right - could my SS check be offset by two thirds instead of one half like it says or should it have been offset at all?

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

If you're drawing Social Security benefits based only on your own work record, then no, your SS check could not be offset by 2/3rds of the amount of your civil service pension. When a person receives a pension based on their work and earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes such as is the case of some government workers, it they also qualify for Social Security (SS) retirement or disability benefits then their SS rate may be reduced as a result of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). When WEP applies, SS benefits are computed using a different less generous benefit calculation formula than the one used for people who don't receive such non-covered pensions. However, there is a WEP guarantee provision that limits the amount of the reduction to the person's SS benefits to no more than 1/2 of their non-covered pension amount (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf).

I don't have enough facts about your case to know whether or not WEP should apply in your case, or whether or not it's been properly calculated if it does. You could check with Social Security to try to get a better explanation of how your benefit rate is calculated, or you could use our Social Security benefit calculation software to see if your benefit rate appears to be correct.

With regard to possible Social Security benefits on your husband's record, if you were married to him for less than 9 full months before his death then you could only qualify for widow's benefits if his death was accidental or if you meet one of the exceptions to the duration of marriage requirement listed in item F of the following section of Social Security's handbook: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.04/handbook-0401.html. However, if you do meet the requirements for widow's benefits you could only receive benefits if your benefit rate as a widow would be higher than your own Social Security retirement benefit rate. Furthermore, it sounds like if you did qualify for widow's benefits your benefit amount would likely be subject to at least a partial offset due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf).

Best, Jerry