Should I Sit Tight Or Follow Up With Social Security?

Jun 25 2019 - 1:41pm

Thank you so much for your reply to my question. It was very helpful in giving me some idea of what lies ahead. I have not heard from Social Security since the initial phone call in May asking me about my 10 years of school district service. At that time I told the agent the amount and the date that I had started to receive the Texas teacher annuity. I am anxiously awaiting some form of communication from SS. Should I sit tight until I hear or should I call or go to a local SS office to follow up? I continue to receive the full SS survivor benefit. All of this came to a head when I applied to switch to my SS benefit at age 70 which will be August. I don’t want to get into any more trouble than I already am but don’t know how to react.
Thank you,
Diane

May 22 2019 - 9:37am
I started receiving SS survivor benefits in 2014. At the time I was asked on the SS application if I was receiving a government benefit and my response was no. A year in 2015 I became illegible to buy 5 years from the Teacher Retirement System in Texas. Along with the 5 years I had available and the 5 years I bought back I began receiving $800 per month from TRS. I have been getting the SS spousal benefit and the TRS annuity now for since those years. I recently filled out an application to switch to my SS at age 70 (in 3 months) and have been made aware of the WEP/GOP. I frankly did not associate Government pension with Teacher retirement. I did not know that I should have had 2/3 of my annuity subtracted from my SS benefit. I am so frightened of what is going to happen to me now. I've figured that my debt is about $35,000. I am just waiting in fear of what the SS Administration is going to do to me. When I convert to my own benefit I only have 27 years of salary they count even though as a wife and mom I have worked for over 40 years. Should I get a lawyer? Should I just wait to be contacted? Should I go ahead and make an appointment with a SS office? thank you, Diane
Hi Diane,
I can't advise you whether or not to consult a lawyer, but you should definitely file for your own Social Security retirement benefits effective with the month you reach age 70 if your retirement benefit rate would be higher than your survivor benefit rate. It sounds like your Social Security retirement benefit amount will be affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) unless you meet one of the exceptions to WEP (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf). But, even so, if your own Social Security retirement rate after any applicable WEP adjustment would higher than your survivor rate after any offset required by the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf), then it would be advantageous to claim your Social Security retirement benefits at age 70.
I assume that you've already given Social Security the details regarding your teacher's pension, in which case they should notify you If they determine that any of your past survivor benefits should have been offset due to GPO. They would then propose to suspend your benefits for as long as it takes to recover any outstanding overpayment of benefits. You could then either a) file an appeal request if you disagree with the amount of the overpayment (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf), b) file for a waiver (forgiveness) of the overpayment if you are financially unable to repay the overpayment even in installments and you're without fault in causing the overpayment or if recovery would be unfair for some other reason (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202250002), or c) request a lower rate of recovery. Social Security will accept a lower rate of recovery as long as the full overpayment would be recovered within 3 years regardless of your financial condition. However, if recovery of the overpayment would take longer than 3 years at the proposed rate of repayment, you would need to prove that your financial circumstances wouldn't permit a larger recovery rate.
Best, Jerry

Hi Diane,

As long as you've given Social Security all of the information they requested about your teacher's pension, then you've done your part. My guess is that Social Security is now working on calculating how much of your past benefits should have been offset since you started receiving your teacher's pension. They aren't known for their speed in processing those types of actions, and there's probably nothing you could do to expedited the process. Unfortunately, though, you should expect to eventually receive a notice telling you how much they've decided that you were overpaid, and how they propose to recover the overpaid amount.

Best, Jerry