Do The WEP And GPO Rules Apply If I'm Not Yet Receiving A Non-Covered Pension?

Jun 24 2017 - 8:27am

Hi, I am turning 70 in Sept 2017 and have chosen to keep working because i enjoy it. I have not yet started taking my teacher STRS pension of about 4,000 per month, which i understand is subject to WEP and GPO rules. My wife will begin taking her ss at 70 in August 2017 and getting about 2,500 per month. My ss is about 1000 per month, based on about 20 years of work under ss. My questions are:
1) If i do not start my STRS pension, does WEP and GPO rules apply to my ss taken at 70?
2) If the answer is no to #1, can I first start taking ss based on my spouse's amount (for more money)and then switch to my own amount after I start taking my STRS pension? Once GPO applies to me, it will zero any spouse ss for me.
Thank you for your assistance. I get different answers from the ss staff 800 number.

Hi,

No, neither WEP nor GPO would apply until you file for your non-covered pension. And, yes, you could file for spousal benefits only first and then file for your own retirement benefits when you start drawing your non-covered pension. Your spousal rate may not be as high as you're planning on, though. Unreduced spousal benefits max out at 50% of the worker's full retirement age rate (PIA), not the worker's age 70 rate that includes delayed retirement credits (DRC).

If your non-covered government pension is around $4000, it will certainly zero out your spousal benefits once you start receiving it unless you meet an exception to GPO (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). The GPO offset rate is 2/3rds of the amount government pension, so it would likely even zero out your widower's benefits in the event that your wife dies first and you would otherwise qualify for her full benefit rate.

Social Security retirement benefits are never zeroed out by the WEP provision, though, so you should always be able to receive at least some benefits on your own record. The maximization software available on this website is programmed to handle both WEP and GPO considerations, so you may want to consider using it to make sure that you choose the optimal filing strategy.

Best, Jerry