FERS transfer, Social Security and spousal benefits


Q. I am a retired federal worker who worked from 1972 to 1987 under CSRS then transferred to FERS in 1987.  I left the federal government in 1995 with enough quarters to qualify for Social Security but with much less than 30 years of substantial earnings. In 2010, at age 60, I began getting my government annuity, part based on CSRS and part on FERS. This year at age 62, I am eligible to receive Social Security benefits. As I understand it, FERS transfers are not affected by the offset program but are affected by the windfall elimination provision. How would spousal benefits be affected, and would I still be able to take the higher of the two (mine or my husband’s)? When my husband dies, do I get half of his with no offset/WEP? Finally, when I apply online, is the spousal benefit considered and the higher of the two then provided?

A. Because you transferred to FERS, you aren’t subject to the government pension offset provision of law; however, as you noted, you are subject to the windfall elimination provision if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

You will be able to receive the higher of either your own or your husband’s Social Security benefit. If your husband were to die, your benefit amount would depend on your age and on the amount your deceased husband was entitled to when he died. If he was receiving reduced benefits, your survivor benefit would be based on that amount. When you apply online, the information you provide to the Social Security Administration will allow them to calculate and give you the higher of the two benefits.


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.

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