Is It True That I Should Be Eligible For Benefits From My Deceased Husband's Record?

Aug 9 2019 - 5:32pm

I worked for the Federal government for almost 33 years and was in the old retirement system, CSRS. I had also worked in the SS system for my 40 quarters - thus earning a SS benefit. SS decided that because I had an annuity from the gov't, any SS I earned would be decreased by 2/3. When I retired in 2011, I applied for SS. I inquired about benefits under my deceased husband's acct, and was told because we were not married the "required 10 year" - I wasn't eligible under his benefits. I AGAIN specified that he had PASSED AWAY after being married only 9 years - but was told by the agent that it didn't matter, Recently, I've heard that I actually MIGHT have been eligible for his benefits as the reason for the marriage ending was his death. Is this true? And after all these years - can this be rectified? I'm not asking that SS go back 8 years to determine what's what - just that IF I'm actually eligible, is it possible to begin receiving the correct benefit? Thank you for your help - even if it turns out that the SS agent that processed my claim was correct.

Hi,

As far as your own Social Security retirement benefits are concerned, the reduction in your benefit rate caused by your CSRS pension is not 2/3rds of your CSRS pension amount. Instead, Social Security uses a different, less generous, benefit calculation formula to compute the retirement benefit rate payable. The following Social Security publication outlines that calculation method, which is part of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP): https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.

Assuming that you were still married to your husband when he passed away you only need to have been married for 9 months, not 10 years, in order to meet the duration of marriage requirement for widow's benefits. However, any widow's benefits that you would otherwise qualify for would be offset by 2/3rds of the gross amount of your CSRS pension. That could either reduce your widow's benefit amount to zero or allow you to draw a partial widow's benefit depending on the comparative amounts of your widow's rate and your CSRS pension amount. If you were still married when your husband died, then you may want to consider re-contacting Social Security to insist on filing a claim for widow's benefits. The worst that could result from doing that would be that you'd be notified by Social Security that you can't be paid any widow's benefits due to the Government Pension Offset Provision (GPO) (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf).

If it turns out that you are eligible for even a small amount of widow's benefits, then you may want to explain to Social Security that you tried to file in the past but were talked out of filing by one of their employees. If Social Security establishes that you were dissuaded from filing sooner due to misinformation that you received from an employee, they should establish an earlier deemed filing date that might allow you to be paid back pay (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204008).

Best, Jerry