Q: My husband recently turned 62 and applied for Social Security benefits. He is a previous Civil Service Retirement System employee, so we know that his Social Security benefit will be reduced. The problem is that he was previously married and must pay his ex-spouse a large portion of his CSRS retirement. Yet when his retirement income from CSRS was taken into account in order to offset his benefits, the Social Security Administration used his gross benefit amount and did not subtract the annuity for his former spouse. This reduced his benefits by a large portion.
Why is it that the Social Security office will use his gross amount when even the Internal Revenue Service uses his gross amount minus his former spouse’s annunity to calculate his taxes? Somehow this doesn’t seem right.
A: The windfall elimination provision reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who receives an annuity, in whole or part, from a retirement system into which he didn’t pay Social Security taxes and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. CSRS is such a retirement system. Whether he receives his entire annuity or has it reduced by electing a survivor annuity, or must pay it to someone else because of a court order, has no effect on the legal requirement that his Social Security benefit be reduced.