CSRS and spousal Social Security benefits


Q: I understand that because I am a Civil Service Retirement System retiree, if my spouse should die I cannot get any of his Social Security. At one time I heard there was a law Congress was trying to pass to reverse this. Can you please explain this to me and let me know if there is anything being done about this law?

A: Because you will be receiving an annuity from a retirement system in which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, you will be subject to the government pension offset provision of law. The GPO will reduce any spousal Social Security benefit to which you may be entitled by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity. While bills have been introduced in Congress to modify or eliminate the GPO, they haven’t gone anywhere.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.


  1. Tired of being screwed by my country regarding reduced Social Security which I earned 40 quarters before entering into federal employment. Who in hell does the government think they are? Penalizing citizens who gave their all while working under CSRS. Upon retiring they make a decision to take away portions of their rightfully due Social Security to help those who are to lazy to work or are illegals from other countries and receive benefit that even some of Americans cannot get in my country. Then to add insult when their spouse passes away they do the same thing cutting Social Security also rightfully earned so you get screwed once again. Does the government think our bills go away when we lose a spouse. Shame on my government.

    The Congress has no problem giving themselves large raises all the time and have the best health care. They high on us O so wrong. Also they only work about 160 days a year. I am also sick that they travel on my dime. Use my money for impeachments and have the gaul to keep doing the same thing over and over. When bills are introduced they try to halt the bill by trying to hide hidden agendas which only hurts and delays in some much needed items to keep our country running.

    This must stop and I believe there should be term limits for those in congress. Half of these so called congress are absent or sleeping on the job. This is unacceptable.

    I believe that Social Security is just a way to put more Americans in poverty, while they all live a lavish lives, totally unacceptable. Get rid of penalties associated with this unfair stupid self serving law they passed. I believe there is H.B 141 that addresses the elimination of the unfair act. Probably will keep putting it on bottom of the pile as all bills that will help AMERICAN CITIZENS.

    I am not happy with this entire situation. I believe we are headed for socialism if they can take what is rightfully earned, what will they take next. Soo sad for our next generation.

    I know this is falling on deaf ears as it dose nothing for Congress.

    • I agree whole heartedly! I worked in the Private Sector and had enough periods to earn Social Security, then worked for the federal government. They nabbed me with a hefty reduction of my social security, and it’s highly, highly unfair! Because I didn’t sit in my butt but worked since I was 17 years old, I should not be penalized. That sucks to put it bluntly!!!

      • The following words from the Social Security Administration explain why the windfall elimination was enacted.

        “Social Security benefits replace a percentage of a worker’s pre-retirement earnings. The formula used to compute Social Security benefits includes factors that ensure that lower-paid workers get a higher percentage return than their more well-to-do counterparts. For example, lower-paid workers could conceivably get a Social Security benefit that equals up to 90 percent of their pre-retirement earnings. Highly paid workers receive rates of return that are considerably less. (The average is about 42 percent.)

        “Before the law was changed in 1983, employees who spent time in jobs not covered by Social Security had their benefits computed as if they were long-term, low-wage workers. Thus they received the advantage of the higher percentage of Social Security benefits in addition to their other pension. The modified formula eliminates this windfall.”

        It’s unlikely that the WEP will be modified or repealed.

    • If you marry after retirement, you can elect to provide a survivor annuity for your new spouse. To pay for that benefit, there would be two reductions in your annuity. The first would depend on whether you provide a full survivor annuity or a partial one. The second would be a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to you for each month since you retired, plus 6 percent interest. That reduction is determined by dividing the amount of the deposit by an actuarial factor for your your age on the date your annuity is reduced to provide the survivor benefit.

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