Isn't My Brother's Wife Eligible For Some Amount Of Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Jun 20 2018 - 10:04am

My brother recently died at 68. He started receiving soc.sec. benefits at 62 in the amount of @1600 monthly.
His wife, also 68, is a retired school teacher who was never eligible for soc. sec. and draws a teacher pension in the amount of @51000 a year. Isn't she eligible for some amount of social security survivor benefits?
Thank you.

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

The answer to your question is probably not, except for a $255 one-time death benefit. It sounds like your brother's wife would also technically qualify for widow's benefits, but her teacher's pension would likely reduce her benefit rate to zero. That's due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, which can result in an offset of widow's benefits by 2/3rds of the amount of a government pension received by the widow that's based on her work and earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes. And, since 2/3rds of the amount of your sister-in-law's teachers pension apparently exceeds her Social Security widow's rate, her benefit amount would likely be reduced to zero.

For more information on GPO and it's exceptions, refer to this Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf.

Best, Jerry