Death of ex-spouse and social security

Questions & AnswersCategory: Spousal BenefitsDeath of ex-spouse and social security
btingle76 asked 2 months ago

Hello and thank you for reading my question. My father recently passed away. He worked for 40 years as an attorney and retired about 5 years ago. He was married to my mother for 13 years and they divorced about 30 years ago. After that, my mother became a school teacher with the state of Ohio. She is also retired and is 70 years old. She has said she does not qualify for spousal benefits because of the regulations in the state of Ohio (STRS- State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio). I wanted to make sure she is not eligible for some benefit from being married to him for over 10 years.

1 Answers
Devin Carroll answered 2 months ago

Hi btingle76,

This answer hinges on a few important details. Did your mother remarry? If so, is she still married? Also, did she marry after age 60 or before?

Not knowing this, I’ll break the answer down into both scenarios.

YOUR MOTHER IS NOT CURRENTLY MARRIED (or was married after the age of 60)

Under normal circumstances your mother would be entitled to a survivor benefit based on her ex-spouse. However, she has a pension from work where she did not pay SS tax (Ohio STRS). That triggers a provision known as the Government Pension Offset. This provision reduces spousal or survivor benefits by an amount equal to 2/3 of the ‘Government’ pension (STRS in this case).

For example, if her STRS pension is $3,000, the Social Securty Administration would substract $2,000 from any Social Security spousal or survivor benefits before they were paid. In many cases, this reduction completely wipes out a benefit.


If your mother is currently married and that marriage occured before age 60, she is not eligible for a survivor benefit on the ex-spouse. However, she may be entitled to a spousal benefit on her current spouse. It all depends on how much of a reduction she will receive from the Government Pension Offset.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this answer. Here are a few resources that I’d recommend to make sure you have a good grasp on this.

If you want to see more information on the Government Pension Offset, see the article I wrote titled What You Should Know About The Government Pension Offset

My video, Social Security for Public Servants

My video Social Security Basics (which will help explain the spousal and survivor benefits).