Can you explain why me Dad didn't get Social Security?

My mom’s visiting, and she told me something today that really surprised me that I’d never heard before.

My dad died in 1999 at the age of 93. He was an American citizen his whole life. He was briefly in the military (Lt in the Navy, honorably discharged) and he worked almost exclusively for the US Govt (primarily the State Dept.) for his entire professional life–40 or so years.

And he was not eligible for Social Security.

He never received a single SS check. He never received a statement or annual balance the way I do, for example. And when he died and my Mom went to report it to the SS Administration, they claimed that he was not “in the system”.

How can this be possible? Even if the US Govt didn’t withhold SS from his paycheck, isn’t any US citizen eligible for something after 65? He worked out of the country for almost his entire life, but he never changed citizenship and he was a US resident from 1972 on.

SS was first implemented in August 1935, when he was 29. Might this have something to do with it? May he not been part of some initial enrollment that meant he was never “in the system”? Why would SS claim he wasn’t in their beneficiary system? He did have a SS number.

He was born in AZ in 1906, six years before it became a state of the union (1912). Is there a remote possibility this might have represented a weird glitch in his eligibility?

My mom says that a colleague of his (same profession, employer, and similar professional history) who was also a neighbor also never collected SS because he wasn’t “eligible”, so she took it on faith that they weren’t an isolated incident and there was something about my Dad’s job or circumstances that kept him out of SS benefits.

I’ll try to answer any follow-up questions you might have, but I find the whole thing thoroughly bizarre. Can any Dopers shed some light on the In’s & Out’s of the SS system that might clarify this?

Thanks. :slight_smile:

Civil Service Retirement, Railroad Retirement, and probably others operated as a substitute for SS.

Sounds like your dad would have been covered under Civil Service.

Civil Service retirement is/was being phased out. There are still plenty of workers that will retire under it, but new federal employees have not been under it for over a decade.

Many government employees in the past were not eligible for Social Security payments. They were supposedly covered under separate government pension system(s). Here is the full explanation of it. He probably did get payment of some sort but it just wasn’t through Social Security.

I should’ve known The Great Doper Masses would come through!

My Mom turns 65 this year, and since she’s never worked in the US (“homemaker”) and since my Dad never collected any SS, she wasn’t sure if this would effect her eligibility at all.

I’ve encouraged her to just ask since I would think she’s eligible if if she never “payed into” the system. Am I right?

This is precisely on target. My wife’s Federal career spanned 1969-1992; it was around 1984 when civilian Federal employees moved from a plan instead of Social Security to one supplementing it. I believe the first was Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the latter Federal Emmployees Retirement System (FERS), but I may have them reversed. Barb elected to remain in the older system to avoid losing her payments into it, which she would have forfeited if she’d switched - and despite working almost all her adult life does not have enough quarters to draw Social Security in her own right.

If she never paid into social security she does not qualify but she should qualify under your dad’s pension. My mother did.

Federal employees of our parents age never contributed to social security. They put ten percent of their pay into their own pension system.

Even today there are certain classes of workers that do not pay into Social Security, and thus cannot expect to get SS benefits when they retire (unless they paid SS taxes from other employment during their lives).

For example, public schoolteachers in some states, for example California, have a separate retirement system outside of Social Security.

Same in Ohio. My mom worked for the local school system (not as a teacher, but as a secretary) for 25 years until last year, and never paid in to SS but did pay in to the State Employees Retirement System, so she will get a pension from then instead of SS.

Since she had private sector jobs before working for the school, she HAS paid in to SS and according to the worksheet the SSA sends out every year or so, the amount she has paid in is about $5000 short of the amount needed to be able to collect. So basically unless she earns another $5000 in her lifetime (possible, see Wal Mart), she will never see any of the money she paid in to SS.

I work for a city in California and we also pay into PERS, the state retirement system, instead of into SS. In addition to the basic PERS, we can also set up 457 retirement accounts. And we do pay into medicare.

A number of city workers who retire go to work for firms that pay into SS for additional years in order to top off their elegibility and collect both. They usually only do that if they had quarters from before working for the city.

This is the reason my mom is sticking with her job in special education even though it’s gotten more physical while she’s gotten less capable of physical work.

Your dad died in 1999 at the age of 93 and your mother just turned 65 this year?

Even then, she likely won’t, or not much: there is a law that prevents people from “double dipping” and receiving payments from two systems. I believe your SS is reduced by the amount of your pension. I know several people who contributed the max to SS for over 10 years and then became teachers and will now receive little if any of that money. It’s an annoying law: private pensions don’t interfere with SS, so it’s not at all clear to me why public pensions should, provided a person paid into both.

It depends on the public pension- I have contributed to SS for the entire time I have been a public employee and will receive the same benefits as if I had the same earning record with a private employer. If the people you know contributed the max for 10 years and never contributed again the averaging is going to lower their benefit - SS takes (I think) the highest 40 years of SS covered earnings and averages them to calculate the benefit. Those people will have 30 years of $0 covered earnings included in their average.

The law is different if you actively pay into both the whole time, but if you pay into SS for 15 years and then a public plan for 25, your SS benefits (and those of your dependents) are reduced beyond what they would have been if you had worked 15 years and then quit: it’s not just an averaging effect, it’s an active reduction because you have a public pension. Thisgives some details.

Years ago, there was a loophole where if you retired from a system that paid into both SS and a public pension, you didn’t get this reduction. This lead to a bizarre cottage industry where the handful of systems that did that would, in return for a fee, hire you for a few days so that you could retire from there. That loophole was closes in 2006 or so.

LOL–I figured someone might do the math.

Yes, my Dad was 40 years & 2 months older than my Mom. She lives off his pension modestly but comfortably–I remember that he had two options when he retired: Have a full pension until his death, or have a smaller pension in his lifetime and my Mom would have a larger percentage for her lifetime after he was gone. Given the age disparity, the latter was a no-brainer.

This has all been very interesting–thanks so much for the responses! Now if Dopers could only confirm if my dad was actually a spy (something my Mom had always wondered about/casually suspected, despite his civil engineering degrees and accomplishments). :slight_smile:

My father was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before he was eligible to retire from the air force, as a civilian. He had massive amounts of annual and sick leave, and between the leave and working enough during treatment, he held out until he was eligible for full, and not early retirement. He also took the same choice (no-brainer when you’re dying of cancer) and my mother got the larger annuity.

She worked as a nurse, so she was eligible for social security on her own right.

I worked for social security for a couple of years and then taught for 15. In Illinois teachers don’t pay into social security, and by teaching for so long I cannot draw based on my early earnings. Just like social security, I put in a percentage and my employer put in a percentage. Unfortunately for me my employer was the state of Illinois and they decided to skip putting their share in for many years resulting in the pension crisis we now have. I don’t think any other employers can just call social security and tell them they’ve decided not to pay their share for a while so they can use the money somewhere else.

I think you better check your facts. The people at Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) say you can in fact get both SS and state pension. They even put it in their forcasting module.

You have to work X many years (ten?) before you’re vested and eligible for social security in your own right (rather than your spouse’s). I’m 34 and have only been vested for a few years despite working part time since 18 and full-time since 22 - the year I did Americorps*Vista doesn’t count etc - so… maybe she’ll be eligible because of your dad, but not because of herself.

If anyone can, it’s them Dopers! Start a new thread, and you may hear some stories from a doper that happened to be his handler!

… Or his counterpart in the KGB:

“Da, I am knowink ArchiveDad… ve vould drink wodka in basement tavern when we could be givink CIA goons the slip…”