Q: Can you tell me if the following Social Security calculation is correct? We have visited our local Social Security office, who said, “That’s the way it is. You can appeal if you like.” We are U.S. citizens, born in the United Kingdom. Prior to coming to the U.S., my wife worked for 15 years for private companies in the United Kingdom. She has just retired at 62, and receives a United Kingdom pension equivalent to $250 per month. She has worked in the U.S. for 15 years, and would normally qualify for a monthly benefit of $547. But We have received notification from the SSA that the benefit of $547 will be reduced to $194 per month, which is a reduction of $353 based on a United Kingdom pension income of $250. Is there any way that this can be correct? If not, can you give us advice on how to best make our case on appeal?
A: “Your Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be reduced if you work for an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, the pension you get based on that work may reduce your Social Security benefits.” That’s a quote from the Social Security Administration. You can read it at http://ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html. However, another quote from the Social Security Administration suggests that you might be entitled to a better answer if you appealed. Here it is. “If you get a relatively low pension, you are protected. The reduction in your Social Security benefit cannot be more than one-half of the amount of your pension that is based on earnings after 1956 on which you did not pay Social Security taxes.”