Is The Information I Received Correct?

Aug 12 2016 - 10:45am

I am 81 years old and have been receiving federal retirement benefits since I retired in 1995. I was told I cannot receive a portion of my deceased husband's retirement benefits since I receive my own federal retirement check. I worked a short time in the private sector and receive $92.00 a month Social Security from my own eligibility. My first husband, to whom I was married for over 25 years, died recently. Because of my own federal retirement check, I expect that I cannot receive any of his payments either. He was 78 years old and was already collecting social security.

I have a friend who is receiving a retirement check from social security from working in the private sector for many years. She is also receiving a monthly check from her deceased husband's federal retirement check.

Is the information I have received correct? Will you explain this to me. I will really appreciate you looking into this.

Hi,

Yes, in all likelihood what you were told is correct. Under the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, if you receive a government pension from work that was exempt from Social Security taxes, an amount equal to 2/3rds of the gross amount of your monthly government pension is withheld from any Social Security spousal, divorced spousal, widow's or surviving divorced wife's benefits for which you may qualify. So, if 2/3rds of your government pension is more than the amount potentially payable from either of your deceased husbands' Social Security records, you would not be able to receive any widow's benefits.

Your friends situation doesn't fall under this provision. Social Security retirement benefits are not affected by the receipt of a civil service survivor pension.

There are exceptions to GPO, as explained in Social Security's pamphlet (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). If you think you may meet an exception to GPO, or if you think that 2/3rds of your government pension would be less than the amount payable to you from one of your deceased husbands' accounts, you should file an application with Social Security. It won't cost anything to apply, and that way you will receive a formal determination of your eligibility.

Best, Jerry