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.
The reach of the Government Pension Offset is relatively limited. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), 72 percent of state and local government employees are covered by Social Security and thus not subject to the rule. The same goes for all federal employees hired since 1984, when the U.S. civil service was brought under the Social Security umbrella.
As of December 2021, the latest data available, the GPO affected about 724,000 people, including 17 percent of spousal beneficiaries and 9 percent of widows and widowers getting survivor benefits, the CRS reports. Among those covered, 71 percent had their spousal or survivor benefits eliminated by the GPO and 29 percent saw their Social Security payments reduced.
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.