Your Social Security Advisor

State Pension May Eliminate Survivor Benefit – Ask Rusty

social security-rusty-marry-girlfriend social security benefits benefit increase medicare benefits retireeDear Rusty: Please validate or negate this dreadful information: My husband and I are recently retired and living on our combined retirement plans. I was told that when my husband dies, I will NOT be allowed to draw ANY of his hard-earned Social Security income. I cannot survive on my Louisiana teacher retirement alone. We were never informed of this until we had worked hard for 40 years & retired. Can you advise me on this dreadful turn of events. Signed: Bewildered in Louisiana

Dear Bewildered: Unfortunately, I don’t have good news. If your teaching career and the associated pension were in the State of Louisiana, I’m afraid that any Social Security survivor benefit you might be eligible for from your husband will be impacted by the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – a provision of Social Security which applies to anyone with a pension from an employer who did not participate in the Social Security program. Louisiana is, unfortunately, one of 27 U.S. States whose employees may be affected by the GPO, because neither you nor the State of Louisiana contributed to the Social Security program while you were employed there. It’s unfortunate you weren’t made aware of this by your employer, but it’s well documented in the State’s “LASERS” information which you can view at this link: https://www.lsuhsc.edu/administration/hrm/benefits-retirement-nonss.aspx.

The GPO will reduce your Social Security survivor benefit by 2/3rds of the amount of your LA State pension, and if 2/3rds of your LA pension is more than your SS survivor’s benefit, the Social Security survivor benefit will be eliminated. I know it’s no solace, but you are not alone in your dismay over this provision. In fact, a bill is active in Congress to eliminate the GPO (and a sister provision known as the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP), but that bill has made little headway despite having 195 Congressional co-sponsors. The bill I’m referring to is known as the “Social Security Fairness Act”, which is House bill H.R. 1205 (there is a corresponding Senate bill S.915). You can examine it at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1205, but I must let you know that very little progress has been made on this bill since it was introduced almost two years ago. For the record, the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) has expressed support for the bill’s passage, but to no avail in a Congress which is instead debating ways to resolve Social Security’s larger financial issues which are now projected to deplete the Trust Fund by 2035. I’m afraid the only suggestion I can offer for your personal situation is to contact your Congressional Representatives and ask for their support and action on H.R. 1205 and S.915.

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected].

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PaulE
1 year ago

Good, factually correct article that should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone covered by state pension plans and counting on receiving SS benefits down the road. With over half the states in our country subject to the GPO, it would make sense for current state employees in those states to make a proactive effort to understand what they will or won’t get in the way of SS benefits well before they reach retirement age. Sadly, far too many people seem to only bother to familiarize themselves with such information when they are only a year or so away from… Read more »

PamS
9 months ago

Trying to be sure I understand how this will work. If I as a state employee had a pension of $25, 000 annually, two thirds of that would be $16, 666. If my spouse had SS of over the $16,666 annually, say $24, 000, I would only get the difference between $24000 and the $16,666? If my spouse made less than $16,666 annually from SS, I wouldn’t get anything?
Thank you for any clarification of how this works.

Linda
1 year ago

Where do we find a list of states that show the where survivor benefits go away?

Michael D. Sadler
1 year ago

Section 218 does address this….like everyone knows about Section 218.

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