CSRS confusion


Q: For years I have seen $0 applied in the ‘earnings’ column on my annual Social Security statement because I am a CSRS employee. CSRS wages are not considered as ‘earnings’ under Social Security and do not earn any Social Security benefit. However, I did worked a number of year in the private sector before I began my civil service employment, so I am now eligible for a small Social Security benefit based on that record alone.

Since I am 62, I would like to begin to get that reduced Social Security benefit check, even though I still working as civil service employee. Will my CSRS wages still show up as $0 on their ‘earnings’ test so these current CSRS wages don’t affect my Social Security benefit? I hope that is the correct answer and all of my CSRS wages will remain non counted like they have been in the past. Please advise if this will be the case.

A: If you were to apply for a Social Security benefit while still working, any earnings you had from wages or self-employment would reduce your Social Security benefit by $1 for every $2 you earned above the annual limit. In 2010, the limit is $14,160. If you were to apply for it after you retired, the earnings limit would still apply to any earnings, but not your annuity. Further, you’d be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces (but doesn’t eliminate) the Social Security benefit of anyone who receives an annuity from a retirement system, such as CSRS, where he or she didn’t pay Social Security taxes.


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

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