If you earned a government pension from a job not subject to Social Security tax withholding ("noncovered employment") and are also eligible for Social Security benefits through a job where Social Security taxes were withheld, two provisions might reduce your benefits: the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the government pension offset (GPO).
The WEP affects how a worker's Social Security benefit is calculated. If you're subject to the WEP, your benefit is calculated using a modified formula, possibly resulting in a benefit reduction. The amount of the reduction depends on the year you turn 62 and the number of years in which you had substantial earnings and paid into Social Security (no reduction applies to those with 30 years or more of substantial earnings). The reduction cannot be more than one-half of your pension from noncovered employment. Spousal and dependent benefits may also be reduced, but not survivor benefits.
The GPO may affect spousal or survivor benefits if the spouse or survivor earned a government pension from noncovered employment. In this case, the GPO may reduce Social Security benefits by up to two-thirds of the amount of the pension.
For example, if you receive a $900 monthly government pension and are eligible for a $1,000 monthly Social Security spousal benefit, you would receive only $400 per month from Social Security [$1,000 minus $600 (2/3 times $900) equals $400]. You would still receive your $900 pension, so your combined benefit would be $1,300.
Not all government employees are subject to these provisions. For example, federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System are exempt because they pay Social Security taxes on earnings. However, public-sector employees in some states do not pay Social Security taxes, and thus could be subject to the WEP. The GPO affects pensions from noncovered federal, state, or local government employment.
Rules and calculations for the WEP and the GPO are complex. Visit the Social Security website, ssa.gov, for more information.