Will My PERA Retirement Reduce My Spousal Benefits To Nothing?

Oct 23 2018 - 4:53pm

I am currently 66 and started collecting my deceased ex-spouses social security benefit at full retirement age (December 2017). He has been deceased for 9 years and we were married 30 years. It is $1,656.00 per month. I also worked for over 20 years and paid into social security, but mine was only going to be $786.00 per month. I have worked for a school district for almost 25 years and have not paid into social security but into PERA. My question is: Will my PERA retirement reduce the spousal benefits to nothing? Is there anything else that factors into this? Will Social Security go completely away when I retire next year? even though I have paid into it for over 25 years? and am currently collecting the $1,656.00. Thanks for your help. Jane

Hi Jane,

It's possible, depending on the amount of your PERA pension. Unless you meet an exception to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, your Social Security survivor benefits would be subject to offset by 2/3rds of the amount of your PERA pension (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). Therefore, if your survivor benefit rate is $1656 and you start receiving a PERA pension of at least $2484 (i.e. 1.5 x $1656), your survivor benefits would likely be offset to zero.

However, even if your survivor benefits are reduced to zero it sounds like you should be able to draw Social Security retirement benefits based on your own work record. It sounds like your Social Security retirement benefit rate would probably be reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), but WEP never reduces a persons Social Security retirement rate to zero. For more information on the WEP provision, refer to the following Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.

Our software is fully programmed to handle both the WEP and GPO provisions, so you may want to strongly consider using the software to determine the best strategy for claiming your benefits.

Best, Jerry