Will My Husband's UN Pension Prevent Him From Receiving Spousal Benefits?

May 18 2019 - 6:05pm

My husband receives a pension from the United Nations Joint Staff Pension fund. He was not a citizen while employed at UN and did not contribute to social security. Is he entitled to claim spousal benefits based on my social security record? We pay taxes on the taxable portion of his UN pension. The local social security office told us that his pension is considered a government pension. I've been reading online that it is considered a foreign pension and therefore he can claim spousal benefits. Who's right?

Hi,

For purposes of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, a government pension is defined as a pension payable based on a person's work for a U.S. government agency (i.e.. federal, state, county or local) (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608100). As far as I know, UN employees aren't employed by a U.S. government agency, so I would think that UN employee pensions would not count as government pensions for purposes of the GPO provision. Therefore, if your husband qualifies for spousal benefits on your record then I don't believe that any GPO offset would apply to those benefits. I'm not familiar with UN employee pension plans, though, so I can't be 100% sure.

If your husband applies for spousal benefits and his benefits are offset due to his UN pension, he may want to file an appeal of the determination unless Social Security provides him with an adequate explanation of why GPO is applicable (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf).

Best, Jerry