Is A Return Of Contributions Considered As A Lump Sum In Lieu Of A Pension?

Nov 12 2018 - 12:37pm

Hi Jerry:

Thanks so much for your detailed and prompt response, I appreciate it. We'll subscribe to the software for a more detailed assessment, as you suggested.

There is one detail, however, that I need to ask as a follow-up. You noted the following:

If your wife gets either a pension based on her earnings outside of the Social Security system or some type of lump sum payment in lieu of a pension, her own Social Security retirement benefits could be subject to reduction due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf). Furthermore, due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf) any Social Security spousal or survivor benefits for which your wife may qualify could be subject to being offset by 2/3rds of the amount of her non-covered pension, or the prorated amount if she receives a lump sum in lieu of a pension.

My question is, would a return of her "contributions" to the pension system count as a lump sum benefit for this purpose? Assuming she does not obtain a pension, they will give back to her at some point the money that has been taken out of her paychecks for pension contributions, perhaps with a little interest added. Just getting your own money back doesn't seem like a benefit, but you never know how these things are considered.

Thanks again!

Hi,

What you're describing is a withdrawal of contributions, which would not be considered as a lump sum in lieu of a pension as long as the withdrawal is made prior to when your wife meets the eligibility requirements for a pension. However, a withdrawal of contributions made after meeting the eligibility requirements for a pension would be considered as a lump sum paid in lieu of a pension and would be prorated into a monthly amount for purposes of the WEP provision (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300605364). But, for GPO purposes as long as a person forfeits their rights to a pension and withdraws only their own contributions plus interest, a withdrawal would not result in an offset to their Social Security spousal or survivor benefits even if the withdrawal is made after meeting the eligibility requirements for a pension (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608400).

Best, Jerry