Postal retiree can get Social Security benefits

Can They Do That?

Your Money

February 01, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

I receive a pension from the Post Office. When I'm old enough to qualify for Social Security, can I collect it as well?

The short answer is yes, but with a big qualifier, according to pension-rights lawyer Victoria Quesada of Quesada & Moore in West Hempstead, N.Y.

Your Social Security benefit will be reduced if the U.S. Postal Service didn't withhold Social Security taxes from your paycheck throughout your working life, Quesada said.

That's a significant qualifier for you, because before 1984 many government employees didn't have Social Security taxes withheld, Quesada said. Those employees paid into a federal pension fund instead.

So, if your years of service preceded that cutoff year, you probably didn't have the taxes withheld and will face a reduced Social Security benefit.

The change kicked in during the 1980s because of a law Congress passed to prevent workers from making up their Social Security tax deficit by taking on second jobs toward the end of their careers. Lawmakers considered qualifying that way double-dipping.

For more information, go to the Social Security Administration's Web site at www.ssa.gov/search and fill in "windfall elimination provision."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist at Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@ tribune.com.

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