The WEP/GPO and the theft of teacher Social Security benefits.


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.

10 Replies to “The WEP/GPO and the theft of teacher Social Security benefits.”

  1. One correction . He will get his Illinois money. He vested.Also this is a short term problem because Teir 2 is the bailout for the underfunding . The theft attempts which now exist only in Rauner and Cullertons minds were to grab immediate cash. The head of TRS gets this. The other ruling was equally interesting. Does it apply to the Private Equity and Hedge Fund operators as well as Union members and Vendors.?

    1. Yes. He will get his Illinois money. I didn’t want to get into that in this post. But the ISC is clear on that point.

  2. As I have tried to point out a few times, a number of these Orwellian-named WEP/GPO bills actually make things worse for most public sector retirees. “Reform” is not needed. “Outright repeal” of WEP/GPO is needed, with no “replacement”.

    1. Your suggestion to repeal that law regarding the WEP/GPO is a good one. I can’t even imagine this corrupt government making a move to repeal it. The initial bill became law during the Ronald Reagan administration. I’ve heard it referred to in some circles as the “teacher penalty”. Illinois has one of the highest percentage of people who are victim of this unfair law.

  3. What is this obsession with making beggars out of public employees? I know we’re all supposed to be incompetent, lazy bastards, but, hey, somebody has to teach your children, pick up your garbage, repair your roads, put out your fires, police your communities, provide public health clinics, run the justice system,… In what universe do you not have to pay for services you receive even if they are provided by incompetent, lazy, government bastards? How come any work we do in the private sector doesn’t earn the same amount in social security as anyone else’s? When businesses actually provided their workers with pensions did they receive less SS because of their pensions? How about 401Ks, no matter how bad they are? Shouldn’t SS be reduced for them as well? After all, we don’t want our workers bees to get above themselves. I know someone will jump in with how they pay taxes for my benefits. Guess what? So do I! I am not exempt from property and income taxes. I pay for those incompetent, lazy government bastards, too!

    1. Thank you for your comment. I just cannot understand why I will not receive the SS benefits that I earned (in additional jobs) due to the fact that for 30 years, I was a teacher! And then to take away spousal benefits to boot! I feel like I’m being punished for my teaching career. I’m questioning my life’s work now!! WEP needs to be abolished!

  4. Bring this matter public at ANY 2016 Town Hall Meeting by any political party! Make it just as important as free college tuition (if the students aren’t paying– who is? Nothing is free!!!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s