Question: 

At age 60, I began receiving my deceased ex-husband's Social Security. At age 61, I began work at the Navy Exchange at Oceans Naval Base in Virginia Beach, Va. At age 62, I began receiving my own Civil Service Annuity pension.

At that time, the offset began on my Social Security benefits and I disputed it because I felt that I was exempt because I had been rehired by the government after a 365-day break from when my previous government employment ended after 14 years. My claim was denied. However, I still think I should be exempt under that provision.

I am 73 and am still working at the Naval Exchange. If I retire from there, I know I can draw my own Social Security with less offset, however, my ex-husband's benefit amount is higher. I feel that I should be considered a Civil Service Offset Employee. What is your opinion?

Answer

The government pension offset (GPO) law affects spouses, widows, and widowers of government employees by reducing a government employee's Social Security spousal and survivor benefit by 2/3 of their government pension, says Marguerita Cheng, CEO at Blue Ocean Global Wealth.

"If the government pension is large enough, Social Security spousal or survivor benefits may be eliminated," she says.

Cheng gave this example:

Paul and Karen are a retired married couple. Karen receives $1,000/month or $12,000/year in Social Security benefits. Paul would be able to receive $500/month or $6,000/year as a spousal benefit if he never worked. Paul retired from the local government with a pension of $15,000/year. Two-thirds of the government pension reduces his benefit as spouse or widow dollar for dollar.

$15,000 x 2/3 = $10,000

As a spouse he is technically eligible to receive $6,000, but since his $10,000 pension is greater than the $6,000, he receives nothing. As a widower, he receives $12,000, less $10,000 offset, for a $2,000 benefit.

David Freitag, a financial planning consultant with MassMutual adds, "There are a lot of moving parts here and it will take some in-depth fact-finding to really get the correct answer." He offered this article, That Mysterious CSRS Offset, from 2007, which provides some useful information, but generally refers clients back to the Social Security Administration to work through the details.

Question: 

At age 60, I began receiving my deceased ex-husband's Social Security. At age 61, I began work at the Navy Exchange at Oceans Naval Base in Virginia Beach, Va. At age 62, I began receiving my own Civil Service Annuity pension.

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