Will I Be Subject to WEP & GPO?

Jul 23 2016 - 12:45pm

Hello Larry,
My question concerns filing a 'restricted' spousal application on my husbands' benefits while deferring mine until age 70.
My husband began receiving his benefits at age 62. He is now 65. I will be 66 this October. and plan on filing. It is my understanding, from reading your book, that I should be able to collect half of what would have been his benefit at his FRA. and hold off on mine until age 70.
However, I worked, for a short time , in the public school system. ( I also continued to work and pay into SS at the same time) I have paid into SS for greater than 30 years. I am receiving a small pension (390.00) from PERS at the present time.
My benefit, or the restricted spousal benefit would not be affected by the WEP due to having paid into SS for 30 years.?
I want to get this straight before applying. Is there anyway that one could find the 'Rule number' to have concrete evidence ? At the time of my husbands filing. The lady at my SS office told me my benefit(s) would be zero due to the WEP. Which does not and did not make sense.
Any help would be appreciated.

Hi Ilene,

My answer is contingent on the assumption is that your PERS pension based only on earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes.

In order for you to be exempt from the windfall elimination provision (WEP), your 30 years of Social Security earnings must be at a rate considered 'substantial' under the WEP regulations. Refer to the chart in the following Social Security pamphlet to see if you had substantial earnings in at least 30 years: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf. If you have more than 20 substantial earnings years, but less than 30, the impact of WEP will be lessened but not eliminated. WEP may reduce the payment due on your account, but as long as you have 40 quarters of Social Security coverage, the benefit amount would never be reduced to zero.

WEP affects only Social Security benefits payable on your own record, not spousal or other benefits payable on someone else's record. However, if you apply for spousal benefits, they will likely be reduced due to the government pension offset (GPO) provision. See this pamphlet for more info: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf. GPO results in a reduction of spousal benefits, as well as widow's benefits and some others, by an amount equal to two-thirds of the gross amount of the non-covered pension. Therefore, if your gross PERS pension is $390, roughly $260 would be subtracted from any Social Security spousal or widow's benefits for which you may qualify.

The pamphlets above are easier to understand, but if you want to see the actual references from Social Security's operations manual, here they are: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300605360 (WEP) & https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608100 (GPO).

Bottom line, you can still file a restricted application for spousal benefits only at age 66, then switch to your own account at age 70. This may very well be your best option, but you might want to consider running the maximization software available on this website. The software is able to handle effects of the WEP and GPO provisions, so it should help you determine your best option.

Best, Jerry