Would Making A Few Extra Dollars Negate A GPO Exception?

Jun 15 2018 - 9:09am

Dear Larry,

I'm a 68 year old retired teacher who paid into a state pension that didn't pay into social security for 12 years, and then I worked for a school for 6 years that did pay into social security. I was collecting a WEP-reduced social security for several years, and when my ex-husband of 24 years had passed away, I tried to file for spousal survivor benefits.

I went to the local SSA office with my paperwork, and after speaking with several different representatives, was told by one who spoke to their supervisor that I did not qualify because I got paid for 3 days for temporary part time work at a private company right a month after I filed for my social security benefits right before I turned 65. I was only paid $190 for the work.

I was told my the rep that I would not qualify for spousal survivor benefits because of GPO, and that I shouldn't have made that extra $190. Everything I read on the social security website mentions nothing about this scenario, and this reason given to me seems strange. Would making a few extra dollars negate a WEP exemption for someone who worked and paid into social security for their last 60 months of government service?

Thanks for all the advice you've given! I learned a lot!


The only way that the work you refer to could affect Government Pension Offset (GPO) applicability would be if the work you performed was covered under your government pension plan. Otherwise, the work would have nothing to do with whether or not GPO applies in your case.

If the 6 years you worked at the school where you paid Social Security taxes is factored into the calculation of your government pension, and if it was the last work that you performed under the pension plan then I would think that your government pension would be exempt from causing GPO offset. For detailed information on that exception, you may want to refer to the following section of Social Security's operations manual: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608107.

Also, even if Social Security tells you that you wouldn't be eligible for any survivor benefits due to GPO, you may want to file for benefits anyway. That would force Social Security to look at the full circumstances of your case and make a formal determination. And, even if their decision is unfavorable you would then have appeal rights. Furthermore, filing for survivor benefits wouldn't have any adverse affect on your own Social Security retirement benefits.

Best, Jerry