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Can I collect my own government pension and Social Security on my spouse’s record?

Yes, although a Social Security rule called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) will reduce your spousal benefits if your pension is from a “non-covered” government job in which the FICA taxes that largely fund Social Security were not withheld from your paycheck. 

The GPO will also reduce survivor benefits you are collecting on the work record of a deceased spouse if you also have a non-covered pension from your own government career.

A pension from a job where Social Security taxes were collected, be it in the public or the private sector, will not change your spouse or survivor benefit.

However, if the offset rule does apply, the Social Security benefit you receive as a spouse, widow or widower is reduced by two-thirds of the amount of your government pension. For instance, if that pension pays you $1,200 a month, your spousal or survivor benefit would be reduced by $800. If the benefit is $800 or less, the GPO would reduce it to zero.

Limited impact

The reach of the GPO is relatively small. As of December 2020, it affected about 717,000 people, or 1 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

More than 70 percent of state and local government employees are covered by Social Security and thus not subject to the offset, the CRS reports. So are all federal employees hired since 1984, when the U.S. civil service was brought under the Social Security umbrella.

You'll find detailed information on the offset in the Social Security Administration's GPO fact sheet.

Keep in mind

  • The Government Pension Offset affects only your Social Security spousal or survivor benefit. If you are collecting Social Security retirement benefits and a non-covered government pension, you may be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision.
  • The GPO applies only to your government pension. If you are collecting a deceased spouse’s government pension, it does not affect your Social Security payments.

Updated August 12, 2021