Q. I worked for 20 years as a federal employee at the Postal Service under the CSRS retirement plan. Before, during and after that period, I also worked in the private sector and paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. In addition, I served 10 years in the active military before and after my employment at the post office. When I applied for my annuity from federal service, I received a letter saying that my annuity would be reduced at age 62 whether I applied for Social Security benefits at that time or not. However, over the next three years, I continued to receive the same benefit. I am now 65 and still actively employed in the private sector. I am considering applying for Social Security benefits when I am 66. I have been unable to find anyone who can definitively tell me how the offset and windfall elimination provision will affect my annuity. I have been told by a union representative that the annuity reduction doesn’t apply to my situation, and I am totally confused. I need to know if I am going to have a bill to cover reductions that should have been made over the past three years and what my annuity and Social Security payments will be so I can plan. Calling the Office of Personnel Management has resulted in busy signals, and the Social Security representative I talked to seemed as confused and uninformed as I am. How can I find out what I am and am not entitled to?
A. If you were a pure CSRS employee, there wouldn’t be any reduction in your annuity when you apply for a Social Security benefit. If you were a CSRS Offset employee (CSRS and Social Security), then your annuity would be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while a CSRS Offset employee. In either case, because you’d be receiving an annuity in whole or part from a retirement system in which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, you would be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP would reduce that Social Security benefit if you had fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.