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What is the difference between the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset? 

Both the WEP and the GPO, as they are frequently abbreviated, affect Social Security beneficiaries who also receive pensions from “non-covered” employment in which they did not pay Social Security taxes (generally, federal employees hired before 1984 and some state and local government workers). But these rules cover different sets of beneficiaries:

  • The Windfall Elimination Provision may apply if you receive both a non-covered pension and Social Security retirement benefits. The WEP can reduce your benefit payment by as much as half the amount of your pension. 
  • The Government Pension Offset applies if you get a government pension plus spousal or survivor benefits from Social Security. Your benefits will be reduced by up to two-thirds of your pension amount.  

Another key difference: By law, the WEP cannot wipe out your Social Security payment. But the GPO can: If the aforementioned two-thirds of your pension is greater than your spousal or survivor benefit, the benefit will not be paid.

The WEP calculator and GPO calculator at Social Security’s website can help you estimate how much these rules will cut into your benefit.

Keep in mind

These rules apply only if you are collecting a non-covered pension based on your own work and some kind of Social Security benefit. A non-covered pension earned by your spouse has no bearing on your own Social Security benefits, even if the spouse dies and you inherit the pension.

Published October 10, 2018