AP FACT CHECK: No federal pension for Obama's mother-in-law

Posted at 11:40 AM, Jan 14, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A story widely shared online that claims President Barack Obama's mother-in-law will receive a lifetime government pension is false.

The post published by The Boston Tribune, a satire website that mimics an actual news publication, is headlined "First Grandma Marian Robinson to Receive Lifetime $160K Government Pension." It was relayed by a number of other conservative sites, portrayed as a credible news story.

The story references congressional budget statements, allegedly obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, showing that Marian Robinson earned a $160,000 lifetime pension for being a "full-time/in-home caregiver" for the Obama's two daughters.

It does not provide evidence of the FOIA request or the budget documents, and ignores that Congress is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Robinson, the mother of first lady Michelle Obama, moved into the White House with the first family in 2009, frequently cares for her granddaughters and joins the family on travel and other official appearances. Robinson spent most of her life in Chicago, working as a bank secretary and a stay-at-home mother.

She has never been a federal employee and is not eligible for such retirement benefits.

The report claims that Robinson "likely qualified for her lifetime pension under the 'optional' eligibility requirement for the Civil Service Retirement Act." The CSRS covers federal employees who entered government service before Jan. 1, 1987. It was replaced by the Federal Employees Retirement System. Both of those plans require past or current employment by the federal government, meaning Robinson would not qualify for their benefits.

The Former Presidents Act spells out the benefits awarded to ex-presidents and their families.

As of 2016, former presidents receive a pension of $205,700 and Secret Service protection. Their spouses and children (until age 16) also receive Secret Service protection. The widow of a president can receive $20,000 annually, as long as she declines other available pensions.

Other family members, including Robinson, do not have official status and do not qualify for pensions.


This story is part of an ongoing Associated Press effort to fact-check claims in suspected false news stories.