A:

Government Pension Offsets (GPO) apply to government workers at any level who are not covered by Social Security. Any federal, state or local employee who works for a governmental institution in any capacity and is eligible to receive a separate retirement pension from his or her employer is subject to this offset. The offset will reduce by two-thirds the amount of spousal and/or survivor benefits that the surviving spouse or beneficiary would have been entitled to if he or she were eligible for Social Security.

Example
Rob is a retired educator and receives a pension of $900 per month. His pension was outside the Social Security system. His wife worked for a private corporation throughout her career and had been retired for 10 years before she died. Rob's survivor benefits that he is entitled to from her Social Security will be reduced by $600 per month, two-thirds of the amount of his private pension. Therefore, if he were to otherwise receive $800 of survivor's benefits he would only get $200 per month.
Most of the people that are subject to the GPO will lose all of their survivor's benefits. This can leave many surviving spouses in dire straits financially, and some members of Congress are trying to repeal this provision for this reason.

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