Q. My wife was 63 when she died and was collecting Social Security. I was 58 at the time and was informed I would be eligible for survivor benefits at the age of 60. I am a retired civil servant on a state pension and now I’m told I’m not eligible because of the pension. What’s correct?
— Retired and confused
A. Exactly who is eligible for survivor’s benefits from Social Security is very specially spelled out by the agency.
Per the Social Security Administration’s website, if you receive a federal, state or local government pension based on your own work – on which you did not pay Social Security taxes – your widow(er)’s benefit may be subject to the Government Pension Offset (GPO), said Alison Hall, a certified financial planner with Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland.
She said the Social Security benefit will be reduced by two-thirds of the pension amount.
Hall offered this example.
Say your pension is $900 per month. Two-thirds of that amount is $600, so $600 would be deducted from your widower’s benefit. If two-thirds of your pension is larger than the Social Security benefit, your benefit would be reduced to zero.
In the event a lump sum option was selected for the government pension, the monthly benefit would have been calculated and considered for the offset.
There are conditions under which you are not subject to the GPO, Hall said: If the pension you are receiving was not based on your earnings or if you paid Social Security taxes and you filed for and were entitled to the benefit prior to April 2004, or if your final day of work that the pension is based on was before July 2004, or if Social Security taxes were paid on the final five years of service.
Best to meet with someone at your local Social Security office so they can examine your specific records.
Email your questions to moc.p1540302399leHye1540302399noMJN1540302399@ksA1540302399.