Unraveling the mysteries of Social Security WEP and GPO

Some U.S. workers who have paid into the Social Security system are in for a rude awakening when the checks start coming: Their benefits could be chopped up to $413 per month.

That is the maximum potential cut for 2015 stemming from the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a little-understood rule that was signed into law in 1983 to prevent double-dipping from both Social Security and public sector pensions. A sister rule called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) can result in even sharper cuts to spousal and survivor benefits.

WEP affected about 1.5 million Social Security beneficiaries in 2012, and another 568,000 were hit by the GPO, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Most of those affected are teachers and employees of state and local government.

These two provisions often come as big news to retirees. Until 2005, no law required that affected employees be informed by their employers. Even now, the law only requires employers to inform new workers of the possible impact on Social Security benefits earned in other jobs. The Social Security Administration’s statement of benefits has included a description of the possible impact of WEP and GPO since 2007; for workers who are affected, the statement includes a link is included to an online tool where the impact on the individual can be calculated. People who have worked only in jobs not covered by Social Security get a letter indicating that they are not eligible.

But there’s still plenty of confusion about the two provisions. “I hear from a lot of people who are surprised by it and don’t understand it,” says Jim Blankenship, a financial planner who specializes in Social Security benefits. Learn more at Reuters Money.


  1. Joyce Farrell says:

    Hi Mark. Can you clarify something? In your article on the Windfall provision, you quote Jim Blankenship, “So if you have 25 years, try to work another five…That’s money in your pocket.” Is that accurate if you are over 62? Can you work until 67 to get enough years? My impression is that the windfall penalty is calculated based on the the number of Social Security years you have at age 62 whether or not you start to collect benefits at that age. Which is true? Thanks so much.

  2. Mark Miller says:

    Joyce, there’s no upper limit on the age that you can be to earn “substantial years” to reduce or eliminate WEP.

  3. Dear sir or ma’am: I heard there was a bill in congress that would eliminate some of the WEP effect on a person’s social security?

  4. Mark Miller says:

    That’s correct. Social Security Fairness Act, S. 1651, introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Repeals the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which reduces the Social Security benefits of workers and spouses/widow(er)s who receive pensions from a federal, state, or local government for employment not covered by Social Security. See: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1651?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22%5C%22s1651%5C%22%22%5D%7D

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