CALSTRS Options and Social Security

Questions & AnswersCategory: WEP & GPOCALSTRS Options and Social Security
EThompson asked 2 weeks ago

My husband has found himself suddenly jobless and he is eligible to retire with a CALSTRS retirement or keep working and we are looking into options (he is 61 and work for 10& years in a SSI eligible job before becoming a teacher). I know that his SSI will be impacted if he receives any.

I have earned Social security on my own based upon my own income.

CALSTRS has an option to pay a lesser amount monthly to cover both of our lifetimes or a higher amount and cover just my husband’s lifetime. If we take the option to cover us both then would my potential SSI when I retire be impacted by the $ that I receive from CALSTRS? I am 5 years younger.

E Thompson

1 Answers
Devin Carroll answered 2 weeks ago

Hi Ethompson,

I’m pretty sure you are asking if your own Social Security benefit would be reduced if you receive a survivor benefit from your husband’s CALSTRS pension. The answer is no.

But, I understand why you’d wonder this. In one of their publications, the Social Security Administration says, "A pension based on earnings not covered by Social Security can affect the amount of your Social Security benefit." This has left many to ask the same question that you are asking.

This would certainly qualify as a pension from earnings not covered by Social Security, but it’s not from work that YOU did. That’s the qualifier. The Social Security penalties for non-covered pensions (the WEP & GPO) only apply to the individual who earned the pension.

As one may expect, the SSA does not clearly articulate this on their website. Here’s what I found.

In the SSA publication titled The Windfall Elimination Provision

"To be affected by the WEP, an individual must have worked in covered employment long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits; must have also worked in noncovered employment, meaning that Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) Social Security payroll taxes were not paid; and, importantly, must have earned a pension in that noncovered job."

In the SSA publication titled Government Pension Offset

"If you receive a retirement or disability pension from a federal, state, or local government

based on your own work [emphasis added] for which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, we may reduce your Social Security spouses or widows or widowers benefits. This fact sheet provides answers to questions you may have about the reduction."

Rest assured, the Social Security reductions only apply to the one who earned a non-covered pension. Receipt of your husband’s pension will never reduce a benefit that you earned through your work.