Q. I started work at 16 during the summer to help pay for college.
From 1966 to 1974, I made very low incomes but contributed to Social Security. Then I worked for the Forest Service and became a CSRS employee for five years. I resigned and got a refund on my retirement because I did not think I would work there again. But because I had five years in, the Forest Service says I still have a vested interest in CSRS and will pay me $202/month for that vested service when I retire.
Between 1990 and 1999, I stayed home with my children and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher — once again, low wages that contributed to Social Security. That means I have only about 11 years of substantial earnings toward Social Security. The windfall elimination provision states that my Social Security benefits cannot be reduced more than half of my pension. What pension? The $202 I get from CSRS, the $901 combined pension from the government or the $647 from Social Security? Can’t government brochures be more specific?
A. If you took a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you effectively voided your entitlement to an annuity. The Forest Service may not have been aware that you did that. However, it makes no difference because the Forest Service has no say in the matter. Retirement benefits are the sole responsibility of OPM.
Assuming you aren’t going to receive an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, the WEP won’t apply to you.