I have written here frequently about my life before teaching. Since I didn’t begin my teaching career until I was 38, I paid into Social Security while working in the private sector. Because I joined the Illinois Teacher System when I started teaching, my Social Security benefits from a system I paid into for over twenty years, are now severely reduced in my retirement. By delaying my Social Security until I am 70 means I will receive $218 a month. I can claim no spousal benefits.
The federal laws which allows for the theft of my Social Security benefits are known as WEP/GPO. The Windfall Elimination Provision allows for the theft of my own benefits. The Government Offset Provision covers the theft of my spousal benefits.
I have written here asking you to support efforts in Congress to change the law so we public employees can receive what we paid for.
A few days ago I received a letter from Andrew Szakmary, a professor of finance at the University of Richmond.
Professor Szakmary wrote in part,
I saw recently that you posted favorably on HR 711, the so-called Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2015. As you know, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is holding hearings on the bill this week.
If this legislation is passed…long story short, there will be at least as many losers as there are winners. Because of my relatively high income you may not have much sympathy for me, but a great many people with much more modest lifetime incomes who have worked in the private sector for most of their careers, and did only relatively short stints of non-covered employment, will also be losers if this bill gets adopted in its current form.
As it turns out, Professor Szakmary is correct.
In its current form, HR 711 will do more harm than good.
HR 711 does not change the GPO, the denial of spousal benefits. In fact it may expand it.
HR 711 does not redress any lost of Social Security benefits for those currently 62 and older.
It will create a new formula for those governed by WEP, paid for partially by expanding GPO enforcement.
This is a bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Neal (D-MA) and has 64 co-sponsors.
Professor Szakmary submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee which held hearings on HR 711 last week.
This letter pertains to H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2015. I am a 57-year old Finance professor who, since the age of 21, has been completely out of the labor force for only one year (graduate school), and who did not pay into Social Security for a further nine years because I was employed by a state university in Illinois where the employees were not allowed to participate in Social Security. Nevertheless, by the time I am eligible to receive Social Security in 2020 I will likely have paid into the system for 31 years, and during most of those years I have contributed the maximum possible amount in payroll tax because my covered earnings exceeded the maximum taxable amount. Under current law (because I will have 30+ years of substantial covered earnings) I will not be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision of Social Security. Given the low likelihood that I will get the Illinois pension I am owed due to the severely underfunded status of the pension systems and the financial difficulties the state faces, I was counting on at least receiving the Social Security benefits I have been promised under current law to ensure a moderately comfortable retirement. Imagine my dismay, therefore, when upon close examination of H.R. 711 in conjunction with my earnings record, I determined that it would REDUCE my Social Security benefit by approximately 12 percent, even though I am less than five years away from being benefit eligible!
HR 711 is not the relief from Social Security theft we were looking for.