There is good news and bad news about the Social Security benefits for most people now with the government.

The good news is that most will be eligible for a Social Security check based on past, present or future work performed under Social Security-covered employment.

The bad news is that many people will get a much smaller Social Security check than they expected. Some could lose as much as $140 a month. The culprit is a little-known 1983 law. Most people never hear of it until it bites them in the wallet when they apply for benefits.

Nicknamed the "windfall benefits act," it prevents people who spent most of their careers contributing to the Civil Service Retirement System (instead of Social Security) from taking advantage of Social Security's so-called welfare tilt. It was designed for people who had brief careers and/or low lifetime wages under Social Security. They get a proportionally bigger benefit return than do high-income people with long service under Social Security.

The average Social Security benefit is $602 per month. That's about half the average federal civil service annuity.

The windfall law (with some exceptions) reduces part of the Social Security benefit of federal retirees who have less than 30 years of full Social Security coverage.

About 54 percent of the federal work force (people hired before 1984) are under the old CSRS pension system. They pay only the Medicare portion of Social Security. That is 1.45 percent of salary on wages up to $125,000 per year. Post-1983 hires under the Federal Employees Retirement System pay both Medicare and the OASDI (old age survivors disability insurance) parts of Social Security. The OASDI tax is 6.2 percent of the first $53,400 of annual wages.

The windfall rule doesn't apply to people under FERS (mostly those hired after 1983), to people with 30 or more years of substantial Social Security-covered service or to anyone who was retired or eligible to retire before 1986.

Tomorrow at noon on WNTR radio (1050 AM) Fran Valentine from Social Security will talk about benefits.


George Mason University historian Peter R. Henriques is scheduled to talk about George Washington at Wednesday's meeting of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. The meeting is set for 1 p.m. at Dulin United Methodist Church in Falls Church.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is scheduled to speak at the Feb. 25 luncheon of Women in Defense. The meeting is set for the Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. For details call Fritzi Serafin at 703-769-4775.

The Association of Part-Time Professionals is planning a half-day job strategy seminar Feb. 23 at the WBS Building, 1980 Gallows Rd., Vienna. For details call 703-734-7975.

Job Mart

Labor's inspector general is looking for a GM (merit pay) 13 auditor to work in its fraud-abuse program. Must have civil service status. Call Marva Baxley at 202-523-6162.

Government Printing Office has an $81,000 per year opening for someone to be its superintendent of documents. Call Laverene Blackwell at 202-275-2323.