My husband pasted away recently. He was an active letter...

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband pasted away recently. He was an active letter carrier. Because he was under CSRS retirement, I do get an annuity each month and will for the rest of my life because we were married 30+ years. When I filed his death with SS they indicated that when I turned of age for SS that I would lost most of his CSRS if I took my SS -- Is that the way it is? He worked for them 30 years -- I have worked and paid SS for 40+ years. Why am I penalized because of his job?

Expert Answers

Mary Koffend is the president of Accountable Aging Care Management (AACM), an eldercare consulting and care management firm that works with elder clients and their families to find the best care providers and services to meet their needs.

It is understandable that you feel that you are being penalized. The loss of benefits that you were expecting can be upsetting. There can be confusion and different expectations when dealing with CSRS and Social Security benefits.

The Social Security system uses the same payment methodology for spouses that both pay into the Social Security system as well as when one spouse pays in Social Security and the other spouse pays into a different system. If you and your husband had both only paid into the Social Security system and he passed away, you would qualify for Social Security widow's benefits. At the time you were eligible for your Social Security retirement benefits, you would not receive both payments, but the one which is greater. When the person who died was receiving a government pension, the same process is at work.

Let's look at an example. If the Social Security widow's payment you were receiving was $2350 and your own retirement payment was to be $2200. The net payment to you both before and after your own retirement eligibility would be $2350. This process would apply to your circumstances as well. If you are receiving a CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System) payment as a widow of $3500 monthly and qualify for your own Social Security retirement payment of $2200, you would only receive the CSRS payment of $3500.

Social Security has a fact sheet that hopefully will provide even more information. The fact sheet is available at this link: