What Happens If A Person Qualifies For Social Security From Both The U.S. And Another Country?

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May 22 2019 - 2:24pm

Hi Larry!

I understand that the United States has Totalization Agreements with 26 countries to prevent scenarios where someone pays into 2 countries systems, but does not qualify for a benefit from either individually.
How about scenarios where someone qualifies for both Social Security AND the other countries version of Social Security. Is it safe to say that they can receive both, but Social Security would most likely be reduced by WEP? How about someone that receives Social Security but also qualifies for a PENSION from work OVERSEAS, where they did NOT pay into social security (Private company pension or other government pension). Does it work the same as my prior question (WEP would most likely reduce the Social Security benefit)? Also, GPO is never involved in these scenarios right?
Thanks!

Hi,

You're correct that if a person works in both the U.S. and in another country and then qualifies for Social Security benefits from both countries, they could then draw both benefits but their U.S. Social Security benefits would likely then be lower due to receipt of the foreign pension as a result of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). And, unless a WEP exception applies (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf), receipt of a pension based on a person's work in a foreign country would also trigger a WEP reduction to their U.S. Social Security retirement or disability benefits even if the pension is from a private employer.

You're also correct that receipt of a foreign pension would not cause a person's U.S. Social Security benefits to be offset due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, regardless of whether the pension is from a foreign Social Security program or from a private company based on the person's work in a foreign country. That's because foreign pensions are specifically excluded from the definition of a government pension for purposes of the GPO provision (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/02026084000).

Our software is fully programmed to handle both the WEP and GPO provisions, so anyone potentially affected by either provision should strongly consider using our software to do their Social Security planning.

Best, Jerry