Your Social Security Advisor

Government Pension Offset (GPO) – Ask Rusty

social security option SSA bend pensionDear Rusty:  Several years ago the husband of a friend of mine died before he collected any of his Social Security.  She applied for widow benefits from his Social Security, but she was told that because she had never paid into Social Security and because she had a pension from her employer, she was not eligible to draw survivor’s benefits on his Social Security. What has this got to do with her not getting his Social Security?  Please help us understand this.  Signed:  Helpful Friend

Dear Helpful:   It sounds as though your friend’s survivor benefits are affected by something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO).  The GPO affects people who have a pension from employment which did not contribute to Social Security, such as a State or local government agency, a school system, college or university, or even older Federal employees who were covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).  Under the GPO, Social Security reduces spousal and survivor’s benefits by $2 for every $3 received from a government pension.   This can partially, and often totally, offset the Social Security benefit a person might otherwise be entitled to.  For example, if your friend was entitled to a Social Security survivor benefit of $1,500 per month, and she is receiving a civil service pension of $3,000 per month, she would get no Social Security benefit because 2/3rds of her civil service pension ($2,000) is more than her Social Security survivor’s benefit.   This appears to be what has happened in your friend’s case.

Public service employers who don’t participate in the Social Security program usually offer employees an enhanced alternative pension program designed to replace Social Security benefits.  GPO was first enacted in 1977 in order to prevent those employees from “double dipping” by receiving both a pension from work where they did not pay into the Social Security system and Social Security (which they did not contribute to). The Government Pension Offset, as well as another Social Security rule called the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), as you can imagine, are not very popular with those affected by them.  GPO affects a non-covered worker’s  spousal and survivor benefit, while WEP affects a  non-covered worker’s Social Security retirement benefits and their spouse’s spousal benefit, but not their spouse’s  survivor benefit. Despite their unpopularity these are, nevertheless, existing laws which affect Social Security benefits for those receiving a pension from  work in  which they did not contribute to Social Security.

The trend appears to be that more and more public service employers are now participating in the Social Security program.  Even the Federal Government, which prior to 1984 didn’t participate in the Social Security program, switched to a retirement system called the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) which now requires employees to pay into Social Security and, thus, be eligible for Social Security benefits.   Federal employees covered under FERS, and public service employees with a pension from an employer who participates in Social Security, are not affected by the Government Pension Offset.

For information, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1205 and S.915) proposes to eliminate both the GPO and the WEP, and has been referred to appropriate committees in both the House and the Senate, but there is currently no estimated probability of passage.

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at [email protected].

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4 years ago

Rusty I have 25 years of teaching on the books in my state the last 5 months in which I worked in school district that paid into SS. I left to teach overseas for 7 years. Am I exempt from GPO?

4 years ago

Rusty, I’m an educator. I have 18 years of teaching where I paid SS and met the substantial earnings standard and have a total of 25 years of teaching on the books. I taught in my state for 25 years then left to teach abroad for 7 years. Question: If I go back and teach in my state for the 60 months required for the gpo exemption , will I be cleared to collect my husband’s social security and my pension. Wanted to know if the time I taught abroad will effect this 60 month rule. Thanks.

4 years ago

I have paid into SS for 42 years. Now at age 62 I am getting a job with the State of Texas and will be paying into the teachers retirement fund.
How will this affect my SS checks? I plan to work till age 67.

Barbaric Bird
4 years ago

My father-in-law was a Social Security manager. He arranged for my mother-in-law to work only 50 hours a quarter for a college professor at minimum wage. She did this for the minimum required time (i believe it was for only 40 quarters) and she never worked for a pay a quarter more. She has been collecting minimum social security, along with Government Survivor benefits for more than 20 years. Though her Social Security check is relatively small, she receives more from one month’s benefit check than she ever contributed. On the other hand, my maternal grandparents died at 61 and 64 and never received a cent from Social Security, though both worked full-time for many years.

4 years ago
Reply to  Barbaric Bird

So what you are apparently describing is your father-in-law, who worked as a SS manager, committed some sort of fraud to get his wife, your mother-in-law, significantly higher SS benefits than she would have been entitled to. Your grandparents on the other hand both died before they reached full retirement age of 65. At least one of them, the one that lived to age 64, could have filed for reduced benefits at age 62. If he or she did not, then that would explain why neither ever received any SS payments.

Barbaric Bird
4 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

No–What my father-in-law did was perfectly legal. His wife worked the minimum amount of time to qualify for benefits in her own right. I am just pointing out that there are other rules not mentioned in the article, fair or not, For anyone who works full-time, unless you live for a long time, Social Security is not a very good deal.

Maria Rose
4 years ago

From what little I know of government/civil service/ railroad pensions, the amount received is much higher than maximum Social Security benefits. No one should expect that their income after retirement will be higher or the same level as when they were working. I asked these questions about how much would I receive at retirement at full retirement age to insure that I would not be overwhelmed and extended financially. Granted I don’t own a home or have a mortgage but I do pay rent which in some geographic areas is at same level as a mortgage payment. I also explored spousal benefits to postpone getting Social Security benefits but you can only get it if your benefits are lower than the spousal full benefits.
This argument about getting both a government benefits pension and a Social Security benefits is similar to collecting unemployment benefits if laid off after the age of 62. You can’t get both without the Social Security benefits being diminished by the amount of the other benefit.
If I had a pension from these civil jobs and it was more than what I would have gotten if I waited until 70 for maximum benefit, I would be very happy to budget myself on that, plus these civil benefits also include a medical coverage, but I don’t plan on an extravagant retirement.

4 years ago
Reply to  Maria Rose

The difference is with unemployment the employer pays to the fund. With Social Security the employee pays half of the money into the fund. I do have the ten quarters required to receive Social Security, but because I retired from the Postal Service I only receive a small portion of my Social Security. Fair? Not in my books.

4 years ago

Yes, I’ve often wondered….if I go to work for a company offering a pension at age 20 and then at age 40 leave there and go to work for another company with a pension and then retire from there at age 65 (25 years), can the second employer reduce the pension benefit because the first employer also pays me a pension? Answer; NO, they cannot. So why does the government do it?

4 years ago
Reply to  BruceM

Retired cops in Detroit lost their health care and if hired before 1986 do not get Medicare at65= They receive a pension and if they have ss it is greatly reduced. When I turn 66 I may get a third of 600. at 66 but now for my wife and myself we pay 10,000 a year for Obama care. That is with subsidies.if I received ss now at 64 after taxes and obamam care I would get a quarter on a dollar if lucky.

Irv C
4 years ago

If you pay in the required time (same for all) you’ll receive a percentage of what you paid in. If you don’t then you shouldn’t receive anything. If you think that’s wrong then Pay (fers) or Railroad to everyone also.
I paid in 51 years to SS. All I get is SS. Makes total sense.

J v
4 years ago

I paid my quarters into social security, and retired from civil service under CSRS. I have over $700.00 US dollars stolen each month from social security because of the windfall exemption. You pay into both and they still still steal from you. When will our congressmen/women quit stealing from the citizens? The money stolen is put into their pockets for their bank accounts. Need to put a stop to this and pass the bills presented for passage. I guess their to busy stealing to care to put a stop tho this.

4 years ago

I would appreciate AMAC lobbying for supprort of Senate bill 915 and House bill 1205 both of which call for the repeal of the government offset and windfall provisions of Social Security. Please, everyone, WRITE TO YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES!!! Thank you!

Robert Hambright
4 years ago

Yes, I have over 60 Social Security credits accrued prior to and after my govt. CSRS . So I currently only receive $125 / mo. Is something that might change with the 60 month exemption rule?

Pam Brauer
4 years ago

Do you know anything about the 60 months exemption rule to eliminate the Government Pension Offset ??? Supposedly, if you work the last 60 months…paying into Soc Security…and paying into the SAME RETIREMENT SYSTEM…you can get rid of the OFFSET. Do you know of anyone who has done this ??? I’d like information about this. Who do you ask about it? What paperwork do you need to fill out? What does it really mean…THE SAME RETIREMENT SYSTEM ??? Could I work in Missouri, resign, then work in Kansas…where Soc Sec is deducted? Do you have to work the LAST 60 MONTHS….full time ? Or can you just work PART TIME ? Where can I get answers ??? Thanks! PB

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