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.

12 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.

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