Can I collect Social Security with my pension?


Q. I will be collecting a government pension but not Social Security on my own as I did not pay into Social Security. My ex-wife will be collecting Social Security, so can I collect on her record? And if eligible, would my Social Security benefit be reduced because of my pension?
— Still working

A. You should set up an appointment with your local Social Security office to discuss the specifics of your history and your ex-wife’s history.

Depending on the details, you may be able to collect a reduced spousal or survivor benefit from your wife.

If you receive a pension from a federal, state or local government based on work where you did not pay into Social Security, then your spousal and survivor benefit would be reduced by two-thirds of the government pension, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

This could potentially fully or partially eliminate any benefit, she said.

“In order to collect your wife’s Social Security spousal benefit, you would have had to be married to her for at least 10 years, and not be currently married to someone else,” she said. “You could collect the survivor Social Security benefit even if you remarried so long as you are not currently married to that second spouse.”

This is called the Government Pension Offset or GPO.

D’Agostini said if you worked for an employer such as a government agency or an employer from overseas that did not withhold Social Security taxes, it will reduce your spousal benefit, but any survivor benefit would not be reduced. This is called the Windfall Elimination Provision or WEP.

So make that appointment to see what you may qualify for. You can find your local Social Security office here. 

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