Ask Larry

Will My Divorced Spousal Benefits Be Exempt From WEP?

I have earned Social Security credits. As I cannot apply just for Divorced Spouse then it appears at FRA (December of this year) I will have apply based on my record and I will also apply for Divorced Spouse as I meet all the criteria to receive that. I am also drawing a pension in Belgium. Will I have to pay WEP on my benefits? Will the divorced spouse benefits be exempt from WEP? Or will all of it be exempt from WEP? Thanks Larry!

Hi. Yes, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) only applies to Social Security retirement and disability (SSDI) benefits. It does not apply to spousal, divorced spousal or survivor benefits. There is a separate provision called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision that can affect spousal, divorced spousal and survivor benefits, but GPO only applies if a person receives a pension based on their work for a governmental agency in the U.S. Therefore, your Belgian pension won't affect your divorced spousal benefits.

Your Belgian pension may cause you to get a lower Social Security retirement benefit rate due to WEP, but any such reduction would likely be offset in your case if you qualify for divorced spousal benefits. For example, let's say Jane is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and her regular primary insurance amount (PIA) is $800. However, because Jane is also getting a non-Social Security covered pension her PIA is reduced to $400. So, if Jane claims benefits at full retirement age (FRA), she'd get her WEP reduced PIA of $400.

Jane is also eligible for divorced spousal benefits, and her ex-spouse's PIA is $2000. If Jane claims benefits at FRA her divorced spousal rate would then be calculated by subtracting her WEP reduced PIA of $400 from 50% of her ex's PIA. That results in a divorced spousal rate of $600 (i.e. $2000/2 - $400), which would then be paid in addition to Jane's own retirement benefit of $400. Thus, Jane ends up with a full 50% of her ex's PIA, even though WEP caused her retirement benefit rate to be reduced.

Best, Jerry

Jun 10 2022 - 11:56am
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