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Spousal Benefits: The Importance of Knowing the Rules

With Social Security benefits playing a key role in so many retirement financial plans–and especially for married couples–being fully aware of the many rules that govern eligibility for–and calculation of– spousal benefits is critical. From the provisions for one spouse to qualify based on the other’s work record to the implications related to survivor benefits, there are at least three key fundamentals that need to be clear before application decisions are made. The Motley Fool’s Adam Levy, in a post on their website, provides some discussion on these rules and how they can impact claiming decisions. Check out his post here.

if, after reading this post, you have any questions about how these rules apply to your specific situation, know that the AMAC Foundation offers a free-to-the-public Social Security Advisory Service that can help you understand the impact of your decisions. Learn about this service and how to access it here.

The first link provided above connects readers to the full content of the posted article. The URL (internet address) for this link is valid on the posted date; cannot guarantee the duration of the link’s validity. Also, the opinions expressed in these postings are the viewpoints of the original source and are not explicitly endorsed by AMAC, Inc.; the AMAC Foundation, Inc.; or

Comments On This Topic

  1. My mother-in law just lost her husband of 55 years. She just went to local Social Security Office here in Fresno, CA .
    She is 76 years old and was attempting to apply for her deceased husband’s widows benefit. She was told , due to her receiving her pension she earned as a Special Ed teacher for 35 years , she was not eligible to receive any widow’s benefit. Her spouse was 76 years old and received $ 1,675.00 per month from his social security benefits
    The gross amount she receives for her monthly pension is $ 3,100.00 gross. Is this accurate ?

    The Social Security office did authorize the $ 255.00 death benefits, however, did not approve the monthly widows benefit. Is this accurate ? Can we appeal ? Should we engage a lawyer ? This does not sound accurate to me .
    Thank You and I look forward to your response back.

    • Note: Questioner also sent an email with additional information about teacher’s pension from state of KY:
      Hi Rod and Sheri,
      It’s unfortunate that some folks find out about a few Social Security benefit offset regulations that have been in place for many years regarding the receipt of some certain types of Social Security benefits.
      It would appear, based on the information from your email, that your mother’s employment with the State of Kentucky was never covered under the Social Security system. In other words, there were no Social Security or FICA taxes being withheld during those 35 years of employment. She must be receiving a pension from a state that had its own pension plan. If this is the case, your mother would fall under one of SSA’s federal regulations that applies an offset against any Social Security benefit applied for including survivor benefits. The regulation known as Government Pension Offset (GPO) applies two-thirds of your mother’s KY pension, which is an amount of $2230 based on her gross monthly pension of $3345.90, dollar for dollar against the Social Security widow’s benefit she would be applying for. If the widow’s benefit is less than $2230 per month, her pension is completely offset and nothing is payable by Social Security. This is what I gather happened and what the SSA representative may have attempted to explain. There is no legal action that one can take to reverse this regulation. Many years have gone by with many bills introduced in Congress to either eliminate or adjust this offset. Nothing has ever gone through since it’s inception in 1983 legislature. If you believe that her widow’s benefit is higher than $2230, she should be applying for benefits regardless what any SSA employee tells her. If she doesn’t qualify, she’ll receive a formal letter of denial, but if she does qualify for even a small benefit each month, it might be worth the application process.
      Below is a link to this GPO regulation for your information.
      I hope this answers your questions and provides some guidance. Please don’t hesitate to contact us again or call our office at 1-888-750-2622 and mention this email.
      Kenneth Baron
      National Social Security Advisor
      The AMAC Foundation

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