[Question Concerning Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity]

B-219162: Jan 29, 1986

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A Navy disbursing officer asked whether a Survivor Benefit Plan annuity should be reduced under a social security offset provision contained in the plan legislation based on the Social Security Administration's (SSA) determination of the annuitant's eligible amount of the social security benefit, or a greater amount of social security that the annuitant would be entitled to if she were not also receiving a civil service annunity. GAO has held that an offset against a plan annuity is to be based on social security benefits attributable to the military service of the deceased plan participant to which the annuitant is entitled. GAO found that: (1) SSA determined that a monthly benefit of $15 was payable to the widow; (2) the social security offset against the annuity may not properly exceed that amount; (3) there was no provision in the plan requiring an offset in any greater amount due to the social security benefits that might have been payable to her were she not receiving a civil service pension in her own right; and (4) requiring a greater offset would be contrary to the beneficial purpose of the plan legislation and would impair the family income maintenance program for which it was established. Accordingly, GAO concluded that the offset may not exceed the actual amount of the monthly benefit that SSA determined to be payable to the annuitant.