Survivor benefits and Social Security


Q: I am trying to help my dad find answers to a letter he received from the Social Security Administration which states that it is stopping his widower’s benefits after 13 years. He receives a government pension. He is given the option to appeal; does he have grounds, or is this a change in law that he must accept?

A: Because you haven’t given me much to go on, I’m going to have to guess that your father’s Social Security survivor benefit was affected by the government pension offset provision of law. The GPO reduces that benefit for anyone who is receiving an annuity from a retirement system in which he didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as the Civil Service Retirement System. The reduction in the Social Security survivor benefit is $2 for every $3 the retiree receives in his annuity. For more information about the GPO, see the fact sheet on the Social Security Administration’s website.


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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

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