By Reg Jones
Q. I am a 66-year-old CSRS employee still working. Can I draw Social Security on my wife’s Social Security? She is a 70-year-old retired FERS employee.
Q. My mother has never worked outside the home. Upon my father’s death, she will receive survivor benefits from CSRS and Social Security benefits based on his work record. I believe she will not be affected by any government pension offset because she has never worked. Is that correct?
Q. My husband worked for the government for 25 years under CSRS and receives a pension. When he retired, we applied for spousal benefits because I had no qualifying employment. He then went to work in the private sector and will complete his 30 years of substantial earnings for Social Security next year. When he retires, he will receive another pension from his private job. As we understand it, we should not be affected by the windfall elimination provision. However, we are confused by the government pension offset. Will he not be entitled to draw his full Social Security at age 66 or later? How will it affect my half of his Social Security payments? How will it affect my spousal benefit of his federal pension should he die before I do? Am I correct in understanding that the pensions are not considered earned income and should not reduce the Social Security amount?
Q. I retired in 2010 with 40 years of service, including four years of military service (1972-1976) that I did not pay back. While I am 62 and don’t qualify for Social Security yet, I recently received a notice that I now qualify for survivor benefits. Will this affect my CSRS annuity? Second, is the one-time Catch 62 check at age 62 in law or process? My concern is that if it is process, then it could easily be changed because of the budget situation to check every year after age 62 or when you start to draw Social Security if you qualify after age 62.
Q. I’m trying to understand how my retirement income will be affected by the government pension offset and windfall elimination provision.
I’m a CSRS Offset employee (55 years old) contemplating retirement in the next year with more than 32 years’ service. I also receive a monthly spousal annuity from my deceased wife’s CSRS service. I understand that when I turn 62, my own CSRS pension will be reduced by whatever Social Security amount I’m eligible for (should be more than 30 years of Social Security earnings), but I just read something indicating that my spousal annuity also might be reduced at age 62 due to the windfall elimination provision. Can you shed light on how this will unfold?
February 15th, 2012 | Government pension offset
Q: My wife began working for the post office in 1977 and retired in 2010 with 33 years of service under the CSRS Offset retirement system. During all these years Social Security was deducted from her check. She will turn 62 in October 2014, and as I understand the rules, her civil service pension will be offset a calculated amount based on the Social Security that she will be eligible to draw when she turns 62. I can understand this being the case had she not paid into Social Security. Since she paid into Social Security all those years, it doesn’t seem right that her civil service pension should be offset. If an individual worked for a non civil service company and retired, their pension is not offset by the amount of Social Security they would draw. The Social Security would be in addition to their regular pension check.
A: Your analogy doesn’t hold water. Regular CSRS employees contribute 7 percent of their salaries to the civilian retirement fund, in return for which they receive a full CSRS annuity. CSRS Offset employees contribute 0.08 percent of salary to the civilian retirement fund and 6.2 percent to Social Security, in return for which they receive the same amount of annuity benefit as their full CSRS colleagues. It just comes from two different places, the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Social Security Administration.
February 13th, 2012 | Government pension offset
Q: I retired from federal service in 2003 at age 57 under the CSRS Offset program. I am almost 66. I recently began my application for Social Security benefits and during this process “discovered” that my CSRS pension has never been adjusted for the Social Security offset which should have occurred at age 62. Is OPM going to want a retroactive repayment of the amounts I would have collected from Social Security if I had applied at age 62? How should I proceed?
A: OPM will have no choice but to seek a refund of the overpayments you received. When it does that, you’ll be told what your appeal rights are.
Q. I am 57 and a retired federal worker. I retired under the Civil Service Retirement System at the GS-13 level. I only worked a total of about three months before my federal service paying into Social Security, so I am not eligible for any Social Security benefits for myself. However, my husband, who is 60, has worked since he was 19, and has been paying into the Social Security system since then. My understanding is that I am not eligible to receive any of his Social Security benefits because my civil service pension is too high. My question: Is this still true if he dies before me and I become a widow? Will I then be able to receive some of his Social Security benefits?
A. No. The government pension offset provision of law would reduce either benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity.
January 18th, 2012 | Creditable service: CSRS Creditable service: FERS CSRS annuity computation FERS annuity computation Government pension offset RETIREMENT SOCIAL SECURITY Windfall elimination provision
Q. My wife started working under the Civil Service Retirement System in July 1982 and continued to work under CSRS until August 1989. She is re-entering the government workforce. She plans to stop working in eight years when she will be 57, and will have 15 years of government service. It appears she would be eligible for deferred retirement benefits at age 62. How will her benefits be calculated?
A: It all depends. When she returns to work for the federal government, she’ll be covered by CSRS Offset (CSRS and Social Security), with the option of transferring to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS and Social Security). If she stays in CSRS Offset, her entire annuity will be calculated under the CSRS formula. When she applies for deferred annuity at age 62, her CSRS annuity would be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit she earned while covered by CSRS Offset. The dollar value would be the same but the money would come from two different sources. If she transferred to FERS when she applied for a deferred annuity at age 62, her CSRS time would be calculated under the CSRS formula and her FERS time under the FERS formula. Note: Because in both cases, she would be receiving part of her annuity from CSRS, a retirement system where she didn’t pay Social Security taxes, her Social Security benefit would be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who doesn’t have at least 30 years of coverage under Social Security.
October 13th, 2011 | Government pension offset
Q: I am a CSRS Offset annuitant. I know when I reach 62, my pension will be reduced by the amount Social Security will pay at age 62 if I apply. If I wait and apply later, will I get more from Social Security, or will my pension just be further offset? For example, if my Social Security is $200 at 62, they will take $200 out of my pension. If I wait until age 65 and for example my Social Security is $500, will they reduce my pension by $200 or $500? In other words, is there a financial benefit to waiting under CSRS offset?
A: The annuity of a CSRS Offset employee is automatically reduced at age 62, whether or not you apply for a Social Security benefit.
Q: I am getting ready to retire. I worked for the government from 1968 to 1972, then worked in the private sector and earned my 40 quarters in Social Security. I returned to work for the federal government in 1984 as a Civil Service Retirement System Offset employee. I was told that because I earned my 40 quarters from the private sector that my government annuity would not be reduced: I will get a full government annuity and a full Social Security check. Is that right?
A: By law, your CSRS annuity will be reduced at age 62 by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while covered by CSRS Offset. Whether you will be affected by the windfall elimination provision depends on how many years of substantial earnings you have under Social Security. If you have 30 or more years, there won’t be any reduction in your Social Security benefit. If not, your Social Security benefit will be reduced. You won’t be subject to the government pension offset.
Q: I had 13 years of Social Security employment (max contribution) before entering the Civil Service Retirement System Offset in 1991. I am 64 years old and considering retirement at age 66. Do CSRS Offset years count in meeting the 30-year requirement to avoid the windfall elimination provision?
A: All years of Social Security-covered employment in which you had substantial earnings count toward the 30 years needed to avoid the windfall elimination provision.
June 30th, 2011 | Government pension offset
Q: Can I be charged offsets on Social Security and CSRS?
A: Yes. Your CSRS annuity will be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while employed under CSRS Offset. Your Social Security benefit will be reduced if you have fewer that 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.
Q: I am 58 years old, and I started work for the government in 1981. I have 30 years of service as a Defense Department civilian employee and four years as an active-duty service member. I am under the Civil Service Retirement System and plan to retire at age 62 with 38 years of total service. I have not bought back any of my active-duty time. What impact will that have on my retirement annuity and what impact will that have if I decide to take another job after I retire?
A: Because you were first hired before Oct. 1, 1982, you have a choice as to whether to buy back your military time: If you don’t make the deposit, you’ll get credit for the time in determining your years of service and your annuity computation; however, if you are eligible for a Social Security benefit after you retire, those years will be subtracted and your annuity recomputed downward.
Q: My wife passed away five years ago at age 54. She had many years of working and adding to Social Security. I am recently retired under the Civil Service Retirement System. I was told that I will not be able to receive any of my wife’s contributions to Social Security. Is that true? If so, will that law ever be changed?
A: Any Social Security survivor benefit you are entitled to based on your late wife’s work record will be impacted by the government pension offset. The GPO will reduce that benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity. While bills have been introduced in Congress to modify or eliminate the GPO, they have never gotten off the ground.
Q: I requested retirement calculations for mid-2014 and recently learned that after I left the government in September 1984, the retirement money I withdrew would have to be repaid in order to receive the benefits for that money. I withdrew $3,700; repayment with accumulated interest would be more than $22,000. I returned to the government in March 1987 under the Civil Service Retirement System Offset program. I thought I read that if a person who receives money under CSRS can also receive full Social Security benefits (no windfall) if that person has enough credits with Social Security (approximately 30 years). Is this true?
A: Yes, if you have at least 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. For more information about the Windfall Elimination Provision and what constitutes “substantial earnings,” visit the Social Security Administration’s WEP page here and click on “How does it work?”
Q: Please explain what CSRS Offset is.
A: Civil Service Retirement System Offset employees are those who are covered by both CSRS and Social Security. In general, there are two categories of employees who are covered by CSRS Offset. First, those who had a break in service that exceeded one year and ended after 1983 and had at least five years of creditable service as of January 1, 1987. Second, employees who were hired before Jan. 1, 1984, acquired CSRS interim coverage between 1984 and 1987, and had at least five years of creditable civilian service by Jan. 1, 1987.
If a CSRS Offset employee retires before reaching age 62, at age 62 his annuity is reduced by the amount of Social Security benefit he earned while employed under CSRS Offset. If he retires at or after age 62, the offset occurs on the day he retires. Note: The reduction is automatic and occurs whether or not he applies for a Social Security benefit.
Q: I’m currently an employee under the Civil Service Retirement System drawing a monthly payment from Social Security under my ex-husband’s benefits. I’ve called and visited the local Social Security office and can’t seem to get a straight answer: I understand that I can’t draw Social Security in my own right because I am a CSRS employee, but will I continue to be able to receive Social Security from my ex-husband’s (now deceased) Social Security account?
A: You might be able to receive survivor Social Security benefit while you are still working. To find out what the eligibility requirements are and the amount you would get, visit the Social Security Administration website. However, when you retire, you will be subject to the government pension offset, which will reduce any survivor benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity. For more information, read SSA Publication No. 05-10007.
March 9th, 2011 | Government pension offset
Q: On Oct. 31, 2007, I reached mandatory retirement age of 57 and retired as a FERS law enforcement officer with more than 33 years experience. I have a blended retirement of both CSRS and FERS. For whatever reason, I did not receive my lump sum vacation pay of $25,742 until early January 2008. Just recently, I received notice from OPM that because I exceeded the Social Security earnings limit of $13,560 for 2008, I was overpaid in the supplemental security portion of my pension. I did not have any other earned income for 2008. Since I could not have controlled when I got my vacation-leave payout, I do not feel my annuity should be reduced. OPM is requesting repayment of $4,392, and it cancelled my FERS annuity supplement of $366 per month beginning March 1. I feel this is unfair. My situation could be duplicated by anyone in my circumstances that retires late in a calendar year and receives lump sum vacation pay in the next year. A nonauthoritative person told me that a lump sum leave payout is taxable but not counted in determining Social Security income limits. Is this true, or do you have another suggestion?
A: OPM has made a mistake. According to the Social Security Administration, “If you work for someone else, only your wages count toward Social Security’s earnings limits. If you are self-employed, we count only your net earnings from self-employment. We do not count income such as other government benefits, investment earnings, interest, pensions, annuities and capital gains.
“If you work for wages, income counts when it is earned, not when it is paid. If you have income that you earned in one year, but the payment was made in the following year, it should not be counted as earnings for the year you receive it. Some examples are accumulated sick or vacation pay and bonuses.” You can download a copy of the official document at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html.
Q: I am 62 years old, and my Federal Employees Retirement System disability retirement benefit has been recalculated to a regular annuity. I am still on Social Security disability. Will Social Security offset the amount that I will be getting in my annuity?
A: No, it won’t.