Thursday, August 9, 2012

Impact of WEP on Spousal benefits

Recently my wife applied for social security benefits. She applied under the provision that provides benefits to a spouse based on their partner's work experience. This is certainly a useful source of income and one that every married couple should take advantage of. I am not sure if it apples to common law partners but is worth checking. There are a few things that everyone should know. The spousal benefit is based on the workers full retirement age PIA (primary insurance amount). Some of the Social Security agents are not familiar with that and may try to argue that the spouse's benefits are based on the worker benefits which may have already been reduced if the worker has retired early. That is not the law. The law is clear that the spouse is entitled to half of the workers PIA amount if the pension is taken at the spouse's full retirement age. The spouse may also apply early from 62 years of age or later, but, in that situation,the spousal benefit is then reduced by the defined Social Security percentages based on the age the spouse is when she or he applies. A second impact is the Windfall Elimination Provision. If a worker has a second source of pension income from a government entity that did not contribute to Social Security then the worker's social security benefit is reduced up to a maximum amount. Check the social security website to find the impact based on your age. This situation applies for example if you are receiving a Canadian pension such as CPP as well as Social Security. However it does not apply to Canadian OAS since this old age pension falls into another category altogether. The US Social Security people are fully aware of Canadian CPP and QPP and will deduct overpayments from your social security pension if you do not make them aware of your other pension. I know it doesn't sound fair but that is the way the law works, and S.S. will find out eventually if you don't let them know and then you will owe a large amount back to them. The WEP also affects Spousal benefits from Social Security. When a worker has both pensions the worker's PIA is reduced by the Windfall Elimination Provision and that then has a direct effect on the spouse's pension. I dont understand the logic of that part of the WEP law if the spouse does not obtain extra income from the worker's other source of pension. It appears to be a double whammy to me and I plan to write to my congressman regarding this inequity. In the mean time the law applies and so I am posting this informaton so that others may know what to xpect if they encounter this situation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

US Retiree welfare plan termination

Docket 8066 is a motion by Nortel US to terminate the US retiree welfare benefits plan on Dec 31 2012. Nortel claims that they have followed all the legal requirements of section 1114 of thc code and that time has run out. The trial date is in early November and from what I have read of the various motions prior to this the court will probably grant approval. Healthcare benefits, long term care, life insurance benefits etc will cease on Dec 31 2012.