– By Glen Brown. Glen blogs at Teacher/Poet/Musician/Watch Cat. This is a post from 2012 with current updates.
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) “was enacted as part of the 1983 Social Security Refinancing Act, designed to shore up the financing of the Social Security Trust Fund. That Act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan” (Mass Retirees).
“The Windfall Elimination Provision primarily affects [a public employee who has] earned a pension in any job where [he or she] did not pay Social Security taxes and also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security retirement or disability benefit” (Social Security website).
WEP reduces any earned Social Security in other jobs because of a state pension benefit. “…Reduction in [a] Social Security benefit cannot be more than one-half of the amount of [one’s public] pension that is based on earnings after 1956 on which [he or she] did not pay Social Security taxes…
“The Windfall Elimination Provision may apply if [the public employee reaches 62] after 1985; or [if he or she] became disabled after 1985; and [if he or she] first became eligible for a monthly pension based on work where [he or she] did not pay Social Security taxes after 1985…” (Social Security website).
According to Mass Retirees, “the WEP affects members who apply for their own (not spousal) Social Security benefits and fail to satisfy certain exceptions. A major exception is that members, who were eligible for their public pension before January 1, 1986 (i.e., 20/more years of service under age 55, or 10/more years over 55) or have at least 30 years of substantial coverage under Social Security, are exempt from the WEP. (There is some relief for those with 20-30 years of SS coverage.”
The Government Pension Offset (GPO) is “a provision in the 1977 Social Security Amendments signed into law by President Jimmy Carter” (Mass Retirees).
“The GPO affects members who apply for Social Security spousal benefits, based upon their husband or wife’s work record under the program and fail to satisfy two exceptions. Members must either be eligible for their public pension before December 1, 1982 and meet all requirements for Social Security spousal benefits… or be eligible for their pension before July 1, 1983 and receiving one-half support from his or her spouse. Unless a member satisfies one of these two exceptions, then the amount of their Social Security spousal benefits will be reduced by two-thirds of their public pension” (Mass Retirees).
“In other words, [with] a monthly civil service pension of $600, two-thirds of that (or $400) must be deducted from Social Security benefits. For example, [if the public employee is eligible] for a $500 spouse’s, widow’s or widower’s benefit from Social Security, [he or she] will receive $100 per month from Social Security ($500 – $400 = $100)” (Social Security Website).
As said by the Illinois Education Association, “nine out of ten public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years. The WEP causes hard-working people to lose up to sixty percent of the benefits they earned themselves. Many workers rely on misleading Social Security Administration statements that fail to take into account the GPO and WEP when projecting benefits.
“Some 300,000 individuals lose an average of $3,600 a year due to the GPO – an amount that can make the difference between self-sufficiency and poverty. Impacted people have less money to spend in their local economy and sometimes have to turn to expensive government programs like food stamps to make ends meet. Individuals who worked in other careers are less likely to want to become teachers if doing so will mean a loss of earned Social Security benefits. The GPO and WEP are also causing current educators to leave the profession, and students to choose courses of study other than education.
“The GPO and WEP impact government employees and retirees in virtually every state, but their impact is most acute in 15 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia (certain local governments), Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky (certain local governments), Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas. Nationwide, more than one-third of teachers and education employees, and more than one-fifth of other public employees, are not covered by Social Security.
“The GPO affects federal, state, and local government employees – including teachers and other education employees – eligible to retire after December 1982 or later from a job not covered by Social Security. Approximately 305,000 retired federal, state, and local government employees have already been affected by the GPO. Thousands more stand to be affected in the future.”
There is a Senate Bill that has been introduced to repeal Social Security offsets.The National Education Association (NEA) “supports the repeal of unfair offsets – the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision – that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits that public employees have EARNED. In December 2011, Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Collins (R-ME) introduced the Senate version of the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 2010), which would repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. Representatives McKeon (R-CA) and Berman (D-CA) had previously introduced the bill in the House (H.R. 1332). See if your Representative is a cosponser. Take Action Today: Urge your Senators and Representatives to cosponsor the Social Security Fairness Act” (NEA).
Update for WEP & GPO (April 28, 2013) :http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2013/04/speak-out-for-social-security-fairness.html
Update for WEP & GPO from Mass Retirees (November 15, 2014):
“If passed, H.R. 5697 would repeal the current WEP law and replace it with a new Social Security formula that would apply to all Social Security recipients – both public and private sector. Current retirees, impacted by the WEP, would see their Social Security benefit recalculated. The result would be a restoration of roughly 1/3 of the original WEP reduction.
“‘The goal of H.R. 5697 is to create a fair Social Security calculation that accurately reflects the years paid into Social Security vs. the years paid into a pension system outside of Social Security,’ explains Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. ‘If passed into law the benefit change would take effect in 2017, once Social Security launches their new enforcement system that will ensure everyone is collecting the benefit in which they earned.'”
Federal Legislation to Repeal Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) Introduced November 2014 (Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana):
“H.R. 5697, if passed, would permanently repeal the current Windfall Elimination Provision and replace it with a new and fair formula that treats public servants like the rest of American workers. Guarantee public servants receive the benefits they earned while they paid into Social Security. Reduce the WEP by up to a third for current retirees, and up to half for future retirees – increasing lifetime Social Security benefits by between $20,000 and $32,400 (as estimated by the Social Security actuary). It would not impact the Social Security trust fund.”
Click here for more information.
Update for WEP & GPO from the Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana (May 5, 2015):
“…U.S. Congressmen Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA) have co-authored H.R. 711, known as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act. If passed, this federal legislation would repeal the WEP in its current form and enact a new formula which would recognize actual earnings history. At a recent meeting Ms. Rougeou attended in Washington, D.C., Congressman Brady asserted that the legislation has bipartisan support, is cost neutral, and he believes it has a real chance at passage…”
Click here for more information.
Update (June 17, 2015):
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces, but does not eliminate, a portion of an individual’s Social Security earned from other work outside of his/her public employment.
Congressman Richard Neil (D-MA) and Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) are continuing their efforts to pass HR 711, a measure to reform the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision.
This measure is continuing to progress slowly through the process and has continued to draw bipartisan support since its introduction in February. The legislation has garnered the support of 27 co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee.
HR 711 proposes to reform the Windfall Elimination Provision by replacing the existing WEP formula, which uses an arbitrary reduction percentage with a formula that takes into account the actual wage history for the public employee. The WEP was enacted in 1983 as part of a large reform package designed to shore up the financing of the Social Security system.
We are asking retirees to contact their members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor HR 711. To log in and send your message, please Click Here.
Updated (June 29, 2015)
Dear Mr. Brown:
Thank you for contacting me to voice your support for repealing the Windfall Elimination and Government Pension Offset Provisions in current law. I appreciate your active participation in our legislative process. Your involvement helps me more effectively represent you and the Eleventh District of Illinois.
I agree with you, and you will be pleased to know that after hearing form constituents such as yourself I joined as a co-sponsor of H.R.973, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2015. Introduced on February 13th, 2015, by my colleague Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL), this measure would repeal the government pension offset requirements for Social Security that apply to the insurance benefits of spouses, widows and widowers, and mothers and fathers. The bill would also repeal windfall elimination requirements used to calculate an individual’s primary insurance amount under Social Security.
As you know, when Social Security was first created, public employees were intentionally excluded because they already had pension programs in place. Unfortunately, this rule has resulted in millions of hardworking public employees and their families being penalized when they retire. H.R.973 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Please know that as a co-sponsor of this bill, I plan to vote for it if I have the opportunity to do so in the House of Representatives.
I apologize for the delay in responding to your concerns. It is my policy to respond to every one of the thousands of emails, faxes and letters I receive each month. Hearing from the people I serve is vital to doing my job right. Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns and I hope you keep in touch with me on this or any other issue you feel important. To stay informed of my work, or to sign up for my electronic newsletters, please visit my website athttp://foster.house.gov. It is an honor to represent you.
Member of Congress
For more detailed information about WEP and GPO, Click Here.