Is My Wife Eligible To File For Spousal Benefits?

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Apr 3 2020 - 9:48am

Hi Larry. I am 66 years old and started drawing a reduced Social Security benefit when I turned 62. I currently receive $1,773 per month from Social Security. My wife of 26 years will turn 62 this year and would like to file for spousal benefits on my record. We live in Utah. My wife receives a benefit of $808 per month from the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System. Would she be eligible to file for Social Security spousal benefits and if so would they be substantially reduced because of her public benefit from the State of Nevada? Thank you.

Hi,

Yes, your wife could file for reduced spousal benefits at age 62, and yes, her benefit rate will likely be substantially reduced due to her public employee pension. Assuming that your wife didn't pay Social Security taxes on her government work and doesn't qualify for Social Security benefits based on her own earnings, any spousal benefits for which she'd otherwise qualify will be offset by 2/3rds of the amount of her public pension. That's because of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf).

For example, say Kay files for Social Security spousal benefits at age 62. Kay receives a monthly public pension of $810 based on her work, but she never paid Social Security taxes. Kay's husband is drawing his benefits and his primary insurance amount (PIA) is $2350. A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit if they file at full retirement age (FRA). Kay's unreduced spousal benefit rate would be calculated based on 50% of her husband's PIA, which in Kay's case amounts to $1175 (i.e. $2350/2). However, since Kay is filing at age 62, her benefit rate would be reduced for age by roughly 33% to $788. And, since Kay is receiving a pension based on her public work her benefits are reduced by 2/3rds of the amount of her public pension, or $540 (i.e. 2/3rds x $810). That leaves Kay with a net monthly spousal benefit of $248 (i.e. $788 - $540).

Note in the example above if Kay had waited until her FRA to file for unreduced spousal benefits, her monthly spousal rate after GPO offset would have been $635 (i.e. $1175 - $540). Before your wife applies for benefits, she should strongly consider using our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to determine the best strategy for maximizing her benefits.

Best, Jerry