Q: I retired from the Foreign Service in 1995 after 27 years of service. Prior to that, I worked for 15 years as a merchant mariner, as a miner, and in the Navy. I paid into Social Security during all of this time. My Foreign Service pension derived from the “old” Foreign Service Disability and Retirement System (FSDRS). Why is it that my Social Security benefit was reduced by two-thirds, when my covered private sector and Navy employment had no relationship with my later career as a Foreign Service Officer?
A: The law is clear. Anyone who receives a pension in whole or part from a retirement system where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes will have his Social Security benefit reduced if he has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. The underlying reason for the WEP is the fact that Social Security benefits are designed to provide a higher level of benefit to those who are the lowest wage earners. Treating those with earnings not covered by Social Security as if they were low-wage earners would create an unintended windfall.