Social Security benefit

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Q. My husband retired under CSRS in 2015 and had his annuity reduced to provide a survivor benefit for me. He was 59 when he died in 2018. Along the way he had paid into Social Security for enough years to qualify for a Social Security benefit at age 62. I also am a federal employee, under CSRS and still working. I was told that I’d be eligible to receive some of his Social Security benefits until I retire. Is this true?

A. Yes, it is. As long as you are working, you are entitled to a Social Security survivor benefit based on your late husband’s work record. However, when you retire, it will be impacted by the government pension offset provision of law. The GPO will reduce that benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity.

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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. If I am a CSRS retiree, and I will not be eligible for SS. My husband is also a retiree receiving CSRS annuity. He currently has enough credits for SS will I be eligible to receive his SS.

    • Because you are receiving an annuity from CSRS – a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes – any spousal Social Security benefit to which you may be entitled will be subject to the Government Pension Offset provision of law. The GPO will reduce that benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity.

    • Financially, every additional month you continue working will increase your annuity by 0.166 percent. Whether that’s incentive enough to stay until you max out your annuity is a personal matter.

  2. My Social Security (SS) earnings record shows I contributed to CSRS for 5 years but took my contributions out for one of those years, leaving me with a total of 4 years in CSRS. (

    Beginning in 1988, I then made contributions to FERS for 4 or 5 years and then left federal service.
    I have about 29 years of substantial earnings in SS.

    Will the GPO or WEP reduce my SS as a recipient and/or a survivor? Since the highest paid years of federal service were while I was contributing to FERS (and Social Security) how do I calculate any reduction to my SS?

    • No, they are not the same thing. The Windfall Elimination Provision reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who is receiving an annuity from a retirement system where they didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as CSRS, and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. The Government Pension Offset applies to the spousal Social Security benefit of anyone who is receiving an annuity from a retirement system where they didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as CSRS. While the WEP will only reduce the amount of an eligible retiree’s Social Security benefit, the GPO often eliminates the spousal Social Security benefit.

        • The windfall elimination provision (WEP) applies to everyone who is receiving an annuity – in whole of part – from a retirement system where they didn’t pay Social Security taxes, regardless of their marital status. The government pension offset (GPO) only applies to someone who entitled to a spousal Social Security benefit based on their spouse’s Social Security-covered employment. If you are married, the GPO doesn’t apply to you.

    • If you work before you have reached full Social Security retirement age – which ranges between 65 and 67 depending on your year of birth – you’ll be subject to the windfall elimination provision, which will reduce your Social Security benefit if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. To see how the WEP would apply to you, go to https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.

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