I was sixteen when I got my Social Security card and my first job that paid into the Social Security System.
I still have that first card, laminated with Scotch tape.
From the age of sixteen until I began teaching in Illinois I paid into Social Security. By then I was 38 years old. That’s 22 years of paying into a system that I and my employer both paid into.
When I began teaching, the federal government took that money away.
As an Illinois public school teacher I paid 9.4% of my salary into the Illinois Teacher Retirement System. All Illinois teachers pay into TRS except Chicago Public School teachers who have their own pension system.
But two federal Social Security provisions prevent us all from receiving our earned benefits. And the same thing happens to other public service workers.
It is pure theft.
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the earned Social Security benefits of a worker who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security.
So, teachers who do not earn Social Security while teaching, but who work part-time or during the summer in jobs covered by Social Security or, like me, have previously worked in private sector jobs, have our Social Security benefits reduced by up to 90%, even though we paid into the system just like others.
The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects my spousal benefits in Illinois and in over a half dozen other states because we are not covered by Social Security.
GPO reduces by two-thirds the benefit received by surviving spouses who also collect a government pension.
And most of us affected by the GPO lose our entire Social Security spousal benefit, even though our spouses paid Social Security.
The racism of the WEP/GPO is transparently obvious.
Government employment was the sector that first made inroads in combatting racist hiring practices that still exist in the private sector. The WEP/GPO provisions may well have been designed for the purpose of significantly impacting low-paid government African American, Latinx and immigrant workers.
The WEP and GPO provisions do not eliminate any so-called windfall for workers. They penalize public service employees by stealing earned benefits.
President Biden has proposed elimination of the WEP/GPO.
Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis has re-introduced H.R. 82, the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act (SSFA), which eliminates the WEP/GPO.
There have been bills to eliminate these provisions introduced in Congress ever since I first started teaching over 35 years ago.
Many of these bills have had the co-sponsorships of hundreds of Congress members.
None have ever made it into law.
I have been retired since 2012 and have been denied thousands of dollars of retirement benefits from twenty years of paying Social Security taxes.
I’m not alone.
Will the stealing end this year?