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If I am getting a pension, can I still collect Social Security survivor benefits?

En español | Yes, but your survivor benefit will be reduced — possibly to nothing — if your pension is from a government job in which you did not pay into the Social Security system. 

That’s because of the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which applies to people who worked in “non-covered” government employment where Social Security taxes were not withheld from paychecks.

That group includes federal workers hired before 1984 and employees of some state and local agencies. If it includes you, Social Security reduces your survivor benefit by two-thirds of your government pension. If that two-thirds is greater than your survivor benefit, your Social Security payment is zero.  

Relatively few people are affected by the GPO; 96 percent of all workers nowadays pay into Social Security. 

Keep in mind

  • The Government Pension Offset affects only spousal and survivor benefits. If you are receiving a non-covered government pension and Social Security retirement benefits, another rule — the Windfall Elimination Provision — may apply. 
  • A pension from a job where Social Security taxes were collected, be it in the public or the private sector, will not change your Social Security benefits.

Published October 10, 2018

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