Why a full Social Security benefit isn’t always guaranteed

August 5, 2021

Question: R.K. from Hamilton: I’ve been a teacher for almost 30 years and I’m starting to think about retirement. I’ve also had some side jobs through the years. Will I be able to claim Social Security and my teacher’s pension?

A: The short is answer is yes. But assuming you’re a teacher in Ohio, you might not be able to claim your full Social Security benefit. And the reason why has to do with something called the ‘Windfall Elimination Provision’ (WEP).

Here’s the gist. As an Ohio public employee with a pension, you’re in what’s called a ‘non-covered’ job in the eyes of the Social Security Administration since you don’t pay into Social Security. Because of this, any Social Security benefits from work for which you did pay Social Security taxes could be reduced (though not completely eliminated). WEP essentially tweaks how your Social Security benefit is calculated, though there are some circumstances in which WEP does not apply (the most common being you have 30 or more years of ‘substantial earnings’ as defined by the Social Security Administration).