Like the Windfall Elimination Provision, the Government Pension Offset reduces Social Security benefits. However, unlike the WEP, the GPO only changes Social Security “survivor benefits” that a widow(er) or ex-spouse qualifies for. Specifically, if an individual is receiving a pension earned from their days working in non-covered employment — i.e., if they meet both criteria — then the GPO will change survivor benefits.

How much is the reduction because of the Government Pension Offset? The rule is straightforward:

  • Any Social Security survivor benefits that would be paid to a widow(er) or ex-spouse will be reduced by two-thirds of the value of the widow(er) or ex-spouse’s own pension benefit (if that pension was earned while in non-covered employment).

For example, consider a former public school teacher whose husband recently died. He was receiving Social Security benefits, and she is entitled to a portion of these payments as survivor benefits. If this were a normal circumstance, then the value of those survivor benefits would be $2,000 a month. However, this retired teacher worked in a school district that did not participate in Social Security, and she is receiving a monthly pension for her time teaching that is worth $2,700 a month.

Here is how the GPO would change her survivor benefits:

Because the teacher earned a pension from non-covered employment, she cannot collect a full widower benefit from Social Security. In her case, the GPO reduces the widower benefit by two-thirds of $2,700, which is $1,800. The widow would therefore receive a Social Security survivor benefit of $200 a month (which is $2,000 minus $1,800).

Unlike the WEP, the GPO has no limit to the reduction. The GPO can eliminate the spousal or widow(er) Social Security survivor benefit outright.


Learn more about the Government Pension Offset here.