Q. I paid 33 quarters into Social Security before retiring from my government job at the age of 55. I worked after to pay my 40 quarters needed to collect Social Security and I was still penalized over 70 percent of my monthly check and was told that had I paid my 40 quarters first before working for the government, that I would receive the full amount. I am very disappointed and feel my government owes myself and thousands of others a lot of back pay.

A. Whoever told you that you would receive the full amount of your Social Security benefit if you’d earned those 40 quarters before you joined the federal government was wrong. Your Social Security benefit was subject to the windfall elimination provision of law. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who is receiving an annuity from a retirement system where he or she didn’t pay Social Security taxes AND has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. For a full explanation of the WEP, go to https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.


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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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