Thank you for your prompt response to our "Filing an Appeal" question. Your response brought up more questions. You said to contact our congressional representatives and we neglected to say we already had contacted our congressman and a senator. The congressman's office said they were looking into it, but no further response after a year. The senator's office never responded at all. Several lawyers have never responded either. In your response you directed us to the social security website's document about the "Appeals Process". Our "Request for Reconsideration" was filed in less than 30 days and Social Security told us they received our appeal when we called about it in August 2015. But that's the last we heard from Social Security, except from our multiple contacts with them by phone and at the local office, in which they essentially said the appeal is in process. According to the "Appeals Process" document, we've never made it past the first step in the 4 step process. We've never received anything in writing about the appeal from Social Security nor had a hearing, so we don't know how it would have made it to the Appeals Council. Have you ever heard of them skipping steps in the appeals process?
The Social Security GPO document says that if my wife paid into Social Security during her last 60 months of government service, which she did, then her benefits won't be reduced. But with clear evidence in her work history displayed when she logs into their website, and on her Social Security statements she did pay into Social Security for her last 20 years of working for the county. Is there a "gotcha" we've missed in all this? It appears to us to be clear GPO doesn't apply to her spousal benefits, so we don't understand Social Security's original ruling nor why this has taken so long to resolve, with no contact from Social Security about this since the appeal was filed.
Well, that's disappointing. In my experience it rarely took more than about 6 months to receive a determination on a reconsideration request, but Social Security may have built up more of a backlog in recent years due to underfunding of the agency. The lack of any meaningful help you've received from your congressman and senator is also disappointing, particularly since they are the people responsible for determining Social Security's budget.
I can't think of anything further that you could do to expedite the reconsideration decision. As far as possible gotchas, all I can tell you is that there is an exception to GPO if the work and earnings on which the pension is based were subject to Social Security taxes for at least the last 5 years that the person worked under the plan. In fact, for pensions based on work that ended prior to 2004 this exception applied even if the earnings were only covered on the last day of work under the plan (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608102).