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Totalization benefits advice

I worked in France for over a decade when I was out of university and returned to the U.S. where I'm a citizen. I am now approaching retirement and understand that I can have credit for the work I did in France applied to my U.S. social security.

However, I was told that this can work to my disadvantage in that I can receive less of my U.S. social security benefits when everything is worked out.

Has anyone out there gone through the same totalization process with France?

Many thanks1

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Below is a link to a lengthy document regarding the US-French Totalization Agreement.

http://www.ssa.gov/international/Agreement_Pamphlets/france.html

In particular, you may want to note the following :

If you qualify for Social Security benefits from both the United States and France and you didn’t need the agreement to qualify for either benefit, the amount of your U.S. benefit may be reduced. This is a result of a provision in U.S. law which can affect the way your benefit is figured if you also receive a pension based on work that was not covered by U.S. Social Security. For more information, call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, and get the publication, Windfall Elimination Provision (Publication No. 05-10045). If you are outside the United States, you may write to us at the address in "For More Information" section.

http://www.ssa.gov/international/Agreement_Pamphlets/france.html#wep

Thanks for the link.

I'm not sure how to interpret:

If you qualify for Social Security benefits from both the United States and France and you didn’t need the agreement to qualify for either benefit, the amount of your U.S. benefit may be reduced.

Can someone please explain this to me like I'm a first grader? Thanks a lot!

I'm in a similar position (though a few years away from retirement yet).

I believe it means that if you worked in both countries but you worked less than 30 years in America AND still qualify for the top U.S. Social Security benefit plus more from France, then you'll be subject to something called Windfall Profits Elimination.

So, in my case, I worked 8 years in France and so far about 28 in America. If I were to stop working now, I'd get 8 years worth of French Social Security PLUS almost full U.S. Social Security minus about 10 percent.

I think the application of the Windfall Elimination Provision is a little more complicated than that.

As I understand it, a U.S. Social Security pension may be reduced if the recipient also receives certain other pensions unrelated to employment covered by U.S. Social Security.

But in the case of a French pension based on a U.S. citizen's work in France covered by the French Social Security system for say, 10 years, the French social benefits administration would of necessity (under bilateral treaty) have taken the recipients U.S. work history into consideration (this is called "totalization") to determine eligibility - that is, sufficient quarters or "work credits" to qualify for the French pension.

So the French pension would depend in that respect on the U.S. Social Security work history and be exempt from the Windfall Elimination Provision. I believe there is U.S. case law to this effect. If I'm wrong, I hope someone will correct me,

Yes, I'd agree with this -- it's likely more complicated.

Previously I'd only seen WEP in the context of someone who worked for BOTH a domestic government agency (not covered by Social Security) and a "normal" domestic job covered by Social Security.

But it looks like WEP can also apply to someone who pays some Social Security in the US, but also gets a pension from overseas work experience.

In both cases, the intent of the WEP is to prevent someone from getting an "oversized-double-dipping" check from Social Security after only working the minimum amount for Social Security benefits.

http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html

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