Q: I recently discovered that I would probably lose part of my anticipated Social Security benefits to the WEP because I lived and worked in Canada, as a Canadian citizen, before moving to the U.S. and later becoming a U.S. citizen. If I retire at my full retirement age, I will have 25 years of substantial earnings/contributions to U.S. Social Security, and will also receive payments from the Canada Pension Plan. The latter will total just more than $500 per month. Will my wife’s Social Security benefits, based on my earnings because she did not work the requisite number of years, also be affected? Will she receive 50 percent of what I’ll receive before or after the WEP is applied to my Social Security benefit? She will not be receiving much, if anything, from the Canada Pension Plan. Secondly, I understand that some people are trying to challenge the WEP and its application to Canadians who’ve moved to the U.S., such as myself. Do you know anything of this? Is there any way for me to avoid the WEP?
A: Although your Social Security benefit would be reduced by the windfall elimination provision, your wife’s spousal benefit would not. However, the amount she would receive would depend on the age at which that benefit began. If she waited until she reached her full retirement age, she would receive 50 percent of your unreduced benefit; if earlier, a lesser amount. I’m not aware of any effort to challenge the application of the WEP to Canadians who have moved to the U.S. Absent a change in the law, the only way you could avoid the affect of WEP would be to have 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.