Survivor annuity and Social Security

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Q. My husband is retiring with the CSRS retirement program. We have agreed that he should elect a survivor benefit for me. If he dies, am I entitled to the survivor benefits without reducing my Social Security?

A. Receiving a CSRS survivor benefit would have no effect on your earned Social Security benefit.

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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.

45 Comments

  1. Gerald Nutzman on

    I have been told just the opposite by the Social Security Administration. My wife is a CSRS annuitant who elected to leave survivors benefit which is currently listed at $2245. Per month. I am retired and receive my own Social Security benefit of $1771 per month. Our retirement planning was based upon me receiving both my wife’s elected survivor benefits and my own earned Social Security for a total monthly income of $4016.

    The SSA tells me I could not receive my own earned Social Security and my wife’s CSRS survivor benefits. I would just receive the $2245 survivor benefits because it was the larger of the two. All of my earned SS benefits would be eliminated. They say you can not double dip. The loss of my own $1771 benefit would force me out of our home. I could no longer afford it.

    The information sheet the SSA provided is confusing, some sentences say I will get both while others say I only get the larger survivor benefit. I am 7 years older than my wife so it may not matter but if I do survive her I would be in the worst financial shape of my life.

    I hope you are correct and the information I received was in error. Please review your information

    • What the Social Security Administration representative told you is wrong. What I wrote was correct. You would be entitled to both your earned Social Security benefit and a CSRS survivor annuity, with no reduction in either benefit.

  2. A friend retired from the VA medical Center after 26 years. She applied for ss and received it along with her VA benefits. Then a lien was put on her house as they said she was not suppose to collect from two govt entities and they took the money out of her check until it was repaid. This caused a hardship so now she is selling her home Seems not right to me.

    • There is no law or regulation that would bar a federal retiree from collecting earned benefits from the government and the Social Security Administration. In fact, employees who worked under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are guaranteed benefits from the two systems. On the other hand, Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) retirees are subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. The same reduction would be placed on the Social Security benefit of any FERS employees who had a CSRS component in their annuities.

  3. My husband died in 2009 and I was on SSI at the time , when I start getting his SSA they took all of my SSI except for 49.00 and gave 650.00 of his SSA. Now I get 51.00 my SSI and 704.00 of his SSA. This morning I call to see if I was eligible for Survivor Annuity , but they told me no because I already get his SSA. PLEASE HELP ME TO UNDER ME UNDERSTAND

  4. My husband passed away as CSRS employee with over 30 years’ service. Would I be eligible to collect his pension as well as social security on his record (as my social security is less than his- as I understand with CSRS social security can be affected). I am reading confusing things online and am concerned that I may not be able to collect SS on his record, or SS is reduced?. Can you please help? (He is not CSRS offset.) Thank you so much.

    • You are automatically entitled to an annuity and to the larger of the two Social Security benefits. To receive them you’ll have to immediately report his death to OPM and the Social Security Administration. Your late husband’s personnel office can help you do that.

      • Thanks for the quick response, but…he passed away in 2011. Social security was notified. I’m not sure about OPM, but my agency was notified since I was still working and I changed my retirement to eliminate the survivorship benefit for him. He died Oct. 26, 2011 and I retired Nov. 30, 2011. He was self-employed so there is no personnel office to contact.

        • Sorry for any confusion. While you were still working, you could have received a spousal Social Security benefit based on his work record. However, because you were covered by a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, when you retired your Social Security spousal benefit would have been impacted by the government pension offset provision of law. The GPO reduces – and often eliminates – that benefit. For more information about the GPO, go to https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/gpo.html.

        • OK, so your husband retired as CSRS, then was self-employed until he died. If he provided a CSRS Survivor Annuity for you, you would be entitled to that. You could have contacted OPM immediately to let them know he died and filed for your Survivor Annuity. Please contact OPM as soon as possible and ask for assistance in finding out whether he left you a Survivor Annuity, and if so, how to file to get it.

  5. I also am reading confusing and conflicting information regarding any reduction of my own SSA benefit. I’m in the middle of planning right now and would greatly appreciate clarification.
    Scenario:
    1) My husband died while still employed (not retired) in 2014 as a 33 year full CSRS employee (not an Offset)
    2) I have been receiving his survivor annuity
    3) I have my own SSA earnings (private sector – not government)
    4) My husband had about 2 years of contributions into SSA (low $$) prior to joining the federal government

    Will my own SSA pension be reduced at all by WEP or GPO?
    Will there be any benefit at all from my husband’s small contribution into SSA?
    Thank you

    • Neither your SSA benefit nor your survivor annuity based on your late husband’s CSRS employment will be affected by the WEP or the GPO. Because he had fewer than 40 credits under Social Security, he wouldn’t have been entitled to a Social Security benefit; therefore, no Social Security survivor benefit would be payable to you.

      • Thank you. That is what I thought from all my research but I wanted to be sure.
        Would there be a company that you might recommend for guidance when it does come time to apply for SSA? I would like to be very prepared once that time comes.
        Again Thank you

  6. Theresa Welsh on

    My husband passed away after 33 years of federal service. I receive a survivor annuity. I retired from federal service early (59) instead of 60 caring for him and I am under FERS. I had to forfeit my SSA supplement and a penalty onto my basic (FERS) retirement. Now I’m 62 and I’m putting in for my SSA portion of my retirement benefit. My understanding from reading above that I am entitled to the survivor annuity from my husband’s CSRS employ and it does not affect or reduce the SSA I’m entitled to relating to my own federal employment.

    • Yes, you are entitled to a survivor annuity based on your husband’s CSRS employment. And it won’t affect your own annuity or any Social Security benefit to which you are entitled based on your own work record.

  7. I am very confused. My husband recently passed away as a CSRS retiree and he provided a full survivor annuity. Still waiting on replies from OPM regarding the amt. I am only 57 years old, he was older. He collected SS thru offset , which I understand, even though he had made his 40 quarters with soc sec. Here’s my question. I have made my 40 quarters long ago and plan to continue to work, but when I do retire in the future will my Soc Security check be offset as well? And am I just stuck with the annuity as my total income ( its higher than my social security would be, as estimated at end of 2016)….thanks for any responses….

  8. Ok….thats great news..everything I read said that even though the soc security benefits were earned by me, ( I have no government or military service) and I wasn’t claiming social security benefits under my late husband’s benefits, that my social security would be offset as well. The reason stated was “ because I was receiving a government funded annuity/pension”. I have not been to the SS office due my age, but I am trying to plan a little ahead so I can figure out what to do and when. It also said that my survivor annuity would begin to be offset when I turned age 60, regardless of any action I took at that time…….do you know anything
    about that situation?? Thanks for any replies….

    • Not sure what you have read, Marilyn, but as long as you are claiming your own SS benefits and you are not receiving CSRS pension based ON YOUR OWN WORK, you are in the clear. If it were your husband, he would be subject to the GPO – Government Pension Offset if he tried to claim spousal SS. His own SS was reduced due to the WEP – Windfall Elimination Provision, because he had a CSRS pension based on his own work AND he also worked enough time in SS to draw a benefit from them. WEP and GPO are 2 different things. You are not affected by either. Here is a link to the SS publication on GPO: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf

  9. I am a CSRS retired annuitant. My husband was a FERS retired annuitant and received Social Security.
    He passed away last year and I am receiving a FERS Supplementary Annuity until I am 60. My question is….as a CSRS annuitant, am I entitled ato Social Security Survivor Benefit at 60?

  10. Good morning, my father passed away in February. He was OPM and my mom has just recently been given survivor annuity payments. She is also receiving SSA from my father. She has no SSA or SSI of her own. Will my father’s SSA survivor benefits be cancelled because she is now receiving survivor annuity payments from OPM?

  11. My husband is looking to retire within the next year. He is CSRS Offset. We are considering a 60% Survivor annuity for me, which would amount to approximately $1,273 is a month. If he deceases, would I be also be eligible to receive half his Social Security portion (which is more than I would receive claiming my own SS) in addition to the CSRS Survivor annuity? Or is that not how it works because a CSRS Offset is comprised of pension and social security…..I’m confused.

    • The maximum survivor annuity your husband could provide for you is 55 percent of the CSRS annuity he would have received at the time of his death if he hadn’t elected a survivor annuity for you. You would also be entitled to the higher of your own Social Security benefit or his.

      • Thank you for your response. I understand that a full survivor annuity amounts to 55% of my husband’s CSRS annunity, which if I chose to take would leave me monthly payments of approximately $2122 in our case. However, I am considering only taking 60% of a full survivor annuity (the $2122) which results in a monthly payment of $1273. My concern was if I would also receive half of his Social Security portion of the offset in addition to the chosen lower percentage Survivor annuity.Glad to hear this is the case.

  12. Anna Jeanette Paz on

    I divorced in 2007 and sent in the paper work to remove my ex-spouse from my FERS/annuity. All the required original documents where sent to OPM at that time to remove him from my health Ins and annuity. He was removed from my insurance but (unknown to me) was continued on my annuity. When I became aware of this error, new required documents had been sent on several occasions and never processed correctly. The last time was on 8/2/2018. My Ex-spouse is now disceased and OPM continues to take money from my benefits to cover him. What can I do to finally get this resolved and my money returned to me.

  13. I have a friend who has just been widowed for the second time. Her second husband (of some 9 years) was a retiree receiving benefits from OPM. He died this week. She doesn’t know yet if he elected for a survivor annuity or not. Her first husband died when he was 59, before he was eligible for even early retirement. The first husband was not a federal employee. My friend was not old enough to draw widow’s benefits on her first husband’s SSA before she married her second husband.

    Now that her second husband has passed away, I suspect it is in my friend’s best interests to apply for a widow’s benefit on her first late husband’s SSA … but if there IS a survivor annuity on the second husband’s FERS benefits, would she be able to claim BOTH the widow’s/survivor’s benefit on the first husband’s SSA AND the widow’s benefit on the second husband’s OPM?

    Thank you for any insight.

    • If she married her second husband while he was still a federal employee, she would be entitled to a survivor annuity. If he was a retiree, he would have had the option of electing a survivor annuity for her. To find out if she is eligible for a survivor annuity, she’ll need to call OPM’s Retirement Information Office at 1-888-767-6738. She’ll need to provide them with her late husband’s full name, date of birth and death, CSA (Civil Service Annuitant) number and his Social Security number.

  14. Yes, thank you so much …but if it turns out she DOES qualify for a survivor’s annuity through OPM on the second husband’s (retired letter carrier) benefits, will she be able to claim both that AND widow’s benefits on the first husband’s social security account?

  15. My wife is 65 years old. She worked for Civil Service (CSRS) from 1972 until 1978 (both non-deduction and deduction service) when she took a refund of her retirement contributions which she never redeposited. She reentered civil service in 1979 until 1982 (both non-deduction and deduction service). She did not take a refund for this period of service. She recently learned from OPM that she has had eligibility for deferred retirement since age 62. She is preparing her application. Her high 3 is about $13,500. She intends to take a reduction in annuity rather than redeposit her previously refunded service or make a deposit for her non-deductible service. Next year, she will apply for a SS spousal benefit which, based on my SS retirement, will be about $1400 per month. She understands that her receipt of both CSRS retirement pay and the SS spousal benefit may be subject to the Government Pension Offset (GPO). How will her reduced OPM retirement annuity with no redeposit of refunded service and no deposit for non-deduction service be evaluated by SS in determining the amount of GPO?

  16. My husband and I were married for 32 years, divorced for 5 years, and remarried for nearly 2 years before he passed away from a heart attack. I was sent papers to fill out for survivor spousal support but after sending them in I was told that since my name wasn’t on the annuity papers.We didn’t know if they needed to be. I don’t remember putting his name on mine.
    The papers were vague but it seems that I can inquire further. Am I entitled for spousal benefits from OPM?

  17. I have a relative who is a CSRS Offset retiree who currently receives both a small CSRS annuity and a social security (SS) annuity. Her ex-husband recently died and since she never remarried, she is now receiving a larger SS annuity (as a surviving ex-spouse). She is considering marrying a CSRS retiree who currently receives a full annuity with no survivor benefits. My understanding is that if they marry, she will continue to receive her current CSRS and SS survivor annuities, and – – if he elects to provide survivor benefits – – she will be eligible to receive his CSRS survivor benefits after they have been married for at least 9 months. If he dies first, will she still continue to receive her CSRS and SS survivor annuities, in addition to his CSRS survivor annuity?

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