Government Pension Offset on Benefits for the Spouse of a Disabled Worker

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The wife or husband of a disabled worker can sometimes receive Social Security benefits based on his or her spouse's prior earnings. But if you receive both a federal, state, or local government pension and a spouse's benefit or surviving spouse's benefit from Social Security, your Social Security benefit will be reduced. In other words, if your husband or wife is disabled and entitled to SSDI benefits (or was, before death), and you receive benefits based on your spouse's earnings record, you cannot also receive your entire pension. This is usually only true for pensions based on work where you didn't pay Social Security taxes.

Spouse's Social Security benefits are called auxiliary benefits (or survivors benefits when the insured worker has died), and were created to provide a safety net for nonworking spouses who were financially dependent on their spouse's paycheck. But if the spouse is already receiving a federal, state, or local pension, the spouse's benefit becomes less necessary to the spouse, and so the Social Security benefits are reduced. The same is true if the spouse is receiving Social Security benefits on her own record – she can't also collect a full spouse's benefit based on her husband's record.

Reduction of Social Security Benefits

When you receive a pension and Social Security benefits based on a spouse, ex-spouse, or deceased's spouse's records, your Social Security benefits will be reduced by two-thirds of the amount of your government pension. For example, if you are eligible to receive a pension of $1,200 per month and Social Security benefits of $900 per month, two-thirds of your pension, of $800, will be deducted from your Social Security benefit, leaving you with a monthly Social Security check of only $100.

If instead of receiving a monthly government pension check, you receive a lump sum payment, the reduction will be calculated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as if you were getting monthly benefit payments from your government pension.

Exceptions to the Government Pension Offset

Your spouse's benefit through Social Security will not be reduced if you:

  • paid Social Security taxes on your government work for at least five years
  • receive a pension that wasn't based on your earnings during your government work.

There are several other situations in which your government pension might not offset your Social Security benefits, having to do with whether you initially filed for benefits before 2004 or how long you paid Social Security taxes into the system. For details, you can call the SSA and speak to a representative.

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