Social Security Q&A: Can’t I Escape the Windfall Elimination Provision by Switching States?

Social Security Q&A

Laurence Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University who has been answering questions and writing columns about Social Security each week for the past two years on PBS NEWSHOUR’s website. OpenRetirement has asked Professor Kotlikoff to post a Q&A each day from those columns. He has also developed software, called Maximize My Social Security, to help retirees secure the highest lifetime Social Security benefits. You can find the software here: www.maximizemysocialsecurity.com


Question: My question regards the Windfall Tax Act. I’m a retired city employee receiving a minimal pension. It is my understanding that Social Security will slash my retirement considerably. I also understand that this particular act is only valid in certain states. Massachusetts being one. Will this ever be repealed? I also know that New Hams​p​hire is not part of this act. If I moved to New Hampshire, would this alleviate this problem?

Answer: You are mistaken. Receiving a noncovered pension — a pension from work anywhere in the U.S. that was not covered by Social Security (so that no Social Security payroll taxes were deducted) – will trigger the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) when it comes to your own benefits or your family members collecting benefits based on your covered work record. If you are now or were married and then divorced after being married for 10 or more years, your noncovered pension will also trigger the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which will reduce your spousal, divorced spousal, widow, and divorced widow ​​benefit that you are eligible to receive based on your current o​r ​ex-spouse’s work record. The ​WEP​ will not impact your ​husband’s or ex-husband’s widower ​benefit should you​ pass away. Careful software can calculate the exact impact of the WEP and GPO on your own benefits and those of your family members.


When it comes to personal finance, economics and our software care about one thing—your living standard. All questions in personal finance boil down to your living standard. Your decision about when and how to take Social Security can affect your living standard throughout your retirement.

I am a professor of economics and I’ve spent a good part of my academic career studying personal financial behavior. Here’s why my colleagues and I developed Maximize My Social Security. Deciding, on your own, which Social Security benefits to take and in which month to take them is incredibly difficult. Most households face millions of options. You can easily lose tens of thousands of dollars making the wrong choices.

My company’s software, Maximize My Social Security, can help you avoid costly mistakes and instead discover your maximized lifetime household benefits.

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