By Reg Jones
Q. I am age 65 with 35 total years of Veterans Affairs Department service despite a seven-year interruption in the private sector. I am in CSRS Offset. I have been told by human resources department that my Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance contributions count toward the 30 years of substantial earnings and that the windfall elimination provision will not apply (as I have 30+ years of substantial earnings). This would mean I would receive my full Social Security and Veterans Affairs Department pension. Is this correct? Are there other elements of my retirement and pension benefits under CSRS Offset and Social Security that will be affected in any way (e.g., spouse benefits)?
A. There are two laws at work here. First, as a CSRS Offset employee, your CSRS annuity will reduced by the amount of Social Security benefit that you earned as a CSRS Offset employee. That will happen at age 62, if you are retired, or when you retire, if it’s after age 62. The amount you receive will be the same; it will just come from two different places, the Office of Personnel Management and the Social Security Administration.
Second is the windfall elimination provision. It applies to anyone who receives an annuity in whole or part from a retirement system where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as CSRS, and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. To find out what constitutes substantial earnings in any year, go to http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.
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