I have a government pension. Can I still get my spouse’s Social Security?


Q. Both my spouse and I have reached full retirement age. My spouse already receives Social Security, and I’m about to. I also have a pension from government employment. Can I still get half of my spouse’s Social Security benefit?
— Adding it up, maybe?

A. The simple answer is yes. However, there are certain circumstances where your spousal benefits may be reduced.

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) will reduce your spousal benefits if you receive a pension from your government employment but did not pay Social Security taxes while you worked in that job, said Jeanne Kane, a certified financial planner with JFL Total Wealth Management in Boonton.

She said your Social Security spousal benefit would be reduced by two-thirds of the amount of your government pension.

Kane offered this example. Say your pension is $900 a month. Two-thirds would be $600. Also say your Social Security spousal benefit is $1,000 per month.

You would get $400 per month in Social Security benefits.

“You could even end up getting no Social Security spousal benefit if two-thirds of your pension is more than your Social Security spousal benefit,” Kane said, noting that the GPO only affects about 1% of all spousal beneficiaries, or a little more than 715,000 people.

Kane said former employees who have a pension from a job where FICA taxes were collected are not impacted by the GPO. If you paid into the Social Security system, you are eligible for half of your spouse’s benefit, she said.

She said you can claim your Social Security spousal benefit now that you’ve reached full retirement age. But the longer you delay claiming, the higher the monthly benefit will be. You max out the benefit at age 70.

But Social Security spousal benefits don’t work that way, Kane said. There is no increase in benefit after you reach full retirement age.
You should contact Social Security directly and it can advise based on your personal records.

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This story was originally published on Dec. 27, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.