Will My Mom Be Able To Receive Any Of My Dad's Benefit As A Survivor?

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Apr 16 2020 - 8:17am

Hi Larry! My father recently passed away and I have a question about the amount my mom "might" expect to receive...

Here is the situation:
My dad died in March 2020 at age 76. He was receiving about $1880 per month in Social Security. My mother, age 75, also receives a Social Security benefit based on her own earnings. Her gross benefit is around $390 with a net of about $97 after deductions. My mom also receives approximately $2000 per month from her Ohio Teacher's Pension.
Will my mom be able to receive any of my dad's benefit as a survivor? There seems to be quite a bit of conflicting information out there about the "offset."
Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

Before any offset, It sounds like your mother would be entitled to a combined benefit equal to roughly the amount that your father was receiving. But, if your mother is receiving a teacher's pension based on her earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes, then her widow's amount would almost certainly be offset by 2/3rds of the amount of her teacher's pension due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf) .

Here's how it works. Your mother would be paid her own benefits first, then before offset she'd be eligible for a partial widow's benefit equal to the difference in her benefit rate and your father's rate.

For example, say June is receiving a monthly Social Security retirement rate of $400. June's husband's just passed away and he was receiving his unreduced Social Security retirement benefit of $1900. If June is at least full retirement age (FRA), she would then continue to be paid her benefit plus she'd be eligible for a partial widow's benefit of $1500 (i.e. $1900 - $400).

However, since June is receiving a $2100 monthly government pension based on her work that was exempt from Social Security taxes, GPO would cause June's widow's rate to be partially offset by $1400 (i.e. 2/3rds of $2100). That would leave June with only a small monthly widow's benefit of $100 (i.e. $1500 - $1400), which would be paid in addition to her own monthly benefit of $400.

Based on the amounts cited in your question, it appears as though your mother would likely only be eligible to receive a small monthly amount, if any, from your father's record. There is a one-time death benefit of $255 that's usually payable to widow(er)s, though, so your mother will likely want to at least apply for that benefit if she hasn't already done so.

Best, Jerry