FEDweek

Two Potential Reductions in Your Social Security Benefits

Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset can affect the retirement benefits employees and retirees who are or were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

The WEP reduces — but doesn’t eliminate — the Social Security benefit of anyone who is receiving an annuity — in whole or part — from a retirement system where he or she didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as CSRS. And it only affects them if they don’t have at least 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

The term “substantial earnings” is important because the level of earnings needed to meet that standard are higher than those required to earn a Social Security credit. For example to qualify for the four quarterly Social Security credits for 2018, you’d only have to earn $5,280. For your earnings to be considered substantial, you’d have to earn $23,850.

For those with less than 30 years of substantial earnings, the reduction is phased in; the maximum reduction, for those with 20 years or less, works out to about $450 a month.

In case you’re wondering, the WEP doesn’t apply to a survivor annuity. It only applies to the Social Security benefit of someone who receives an annuity from a retirement system where he or she didn’t pay Social Security taxes. Therefore, a spouse who is entitled to a Social Security benefit on his or her own work record will get that full benefit, plus any survivor annuity benefit you provide for him or her.

The GPO reduces the spousal Social Security benefit of anyone who is receiving an annuity from a retirement system where he or she didn’t pay Social Security taxes–again, such as CSRS. The GPO reduces the Social Security benefit by $1 for every $3 in his or her CSRS annuity.

In many cases, that benefit is wiped out.