Yes, members of Congress can collect a pension

Senators and representatives are eligible for a pension if they’ve served at least 5 years in office.

As elected officials, any money or benefits members of Congress receive from the government is heavily scrutinized by the public.

Several VERIFY viewers had questions about whether members are eligible for a pension, whereby they’d receive monthly checks from the government in retirement, on top of Social Security.

If so, our viewers also wanted to know who’s eligible and how much money they can receive.


Can members of Congress collect a pension?



This is true.

Yes, members of Congress can collect a pension once they reach retirement age, if they served at least five years in office.

How much money they receive is determined by their salary and how long they served.

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Members of Congress elected after 1984 are covered by the same retirement plan as all other civilian employees of the federal government: FERS – Federal Employees’ Retirement System.

To be eligible for a pension from this program, members must have served for at least five years, and they must be at least 62 years old to begin receiving payments. Members who have served for 20 years can start taking their pension at age 50 (though this would require getting elected by age 30, a rarity in Congress, since the Constitution requires members be at least 25 years old).

Senate terms are six years, so a senator who completes a single term in office can collect a pension once they reach retirement age.

But terms in the House of Representatives are only two years, meaning those members would need to serve at least two and a half terms before they’d become eligible to collect a pension once they hit retirement age.

As for how much money they’d receive in those checks, that’s calculated by a formula based on salary and years served. 

First, find what their highest average salary was over any three-year span they were in office. For most members, this number will be $174,000 since that’s been the base pay since 2009 – some leadership positions make more. This number is known as the “high-3.” 

Second, take 1.7% of that number and multiply it by how many years they were in office, maxing out at 20 years. For every year after 20, add another 1% of the high-3 for each additional year in office.

The result is the member’s annual pension. 

So if someone got elected to Congress right now, served either the requisite one term in the Senate or three terms in the House (six years), and then left office, once they turn 62, they’d receive $17,748 per year as a pension.

In 2018, the Congressional Research Service estimated the average amount received under this program was $41,208 per year.

Congressional pensions are capped at 80% of the salary the member made in their final year, meaning no member could receive more than $139,200 per year (unless they were in leadership).

As is usually the case with pensions, the program is funded in part through employee contributions automatically deducted from their paychecks while in office. Depending on what year they were elected, those deductions range from 1.3 to 4.4% of their total salary.

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