Will a bi-partisan bill to end the theft of my Social Security fail in Congress again? Probably.

A life-time of teaching and they steal our Social Security.

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?

Probably not.

12 thoughts on “Will a bi-partisan bill to end the theft of my Social Security fail in Congress again? Probably.

  1. Perhaps we need to be more like Joe Manchin in the sense that we won’t support anything until we get justice on the theft of our earned social security benefits. I don’t understand why teachers and our unions are such doormats. It seems like union leaders are trying to get better jobs in state or federal government rather than advocating for us. If I die before my wife she will get half of my TRS pension but if she dies before me (unlikely) I won’t get any of her SS pension. Have they even drafted a new bill to fix this? The last attempt failed and it wasn’t even a full repeal.

  2. Aaannndd–they’re off! (No, REALLY off.) Just one day after we had our local IRTA unit T.R.S. meeting, “Voice of the People”–Chicago Tribune–first letter: “Pensions are the Problem.”
    “So, Gov. Pritzker lambastes Republicans in regards to his new budget for forcing him to make cuts instead of allowing his tax hike. Yet the defeat of Pritzker’s tax hike should be put on his & Democrats’ shoulders. No tax hike can offset the $200- billion in unfunded public-sector union pensions…Since the politicians couldn’t pay for the pensions, they did not fund the plans, causing IL to go deeper into debt. As a Republican, I would support a tax hike, if politicians would move the unions to a 401(k) plan. But union leaders, who really run the state budget, find this unacceptable, so we have only Pritzker lashing out against the GOP, when the real opposition is IL voters.”

    & this will go on & on once again. Thank you, Ken Griffin, other millionaires & all those who did not vote for the graduated tax (indeed, a FAIR Tax, & much needed source of new revenue which we now do not have, since this amendment was defeated). Why are we one of only 5-6 states still holding on to a flat tax?

    That only 5-6 states out of ALL states retain a flat tax says something about IL & the majority of voters. They listen to billionaires & millionaires (who don’t want to, but certainly can afford, paying higher taxes). Why?

  3. Another law that public employees don’t like. Imagine the cost to employers and taxpayers and fixing it! Hasn’t it been a bargaining chip in negotiations for years: raise our pensions because we don’t get social security? Would you agree to reducing your teachers’ “full career” pension by the amount of social security? With pick-up plans, most of teachers’ own pension contributions are made by the schools in all events. And with current funding deficits, based on actuarial manipulation, your pension security is getting worse as each day goes by.

    Politicians should look at the whole picture and many will cite the growing costs and diminishing funding of Medicare and Social Security increases the crisis in programs that are already crumbling. I get it that you’re not a policy blog, but some analysis of the reality would be in order.

    I don’t see any contract or other constitutional right in play here. It’s a strict legislative gambit. No need for a lobbyist to tell the whole truth. The gun and tobacco lobbies have already established the rules of partial disclosure advocacy. I do think you reach the right conclusion, however: Probably not.

    1. You reveal how little you know about pensions, who pays or how much. But your ignorance matters little. While you don’t see any contract or constitutional right in play, the Illinois Supreme Court sees both. And they are not as woefully ignorant as you are.

  4. Your post was talking about federal social security law — about which IL SUP CT has nothing to say. Perhaps you could challenge the federal law as a “taking” or confiscation of property without due process of law but citizens don’t ordinarily have a property right in a federal [risk sharing] insurance benefit. Maybe you could try a civil rights claim but public employees don’t (as yet) have the sort of privilege we accord to race and gender. Try again after you’ve had some sleep.

    1. No. Actually you brought up bargaining pensions which in Illinois is not a subject of bargaining. So the federal WEP/GPO provisions have nothing to do with our pensions. They are theft of our earned retirement income.

  5. I have no objection to characterizing a long-standing law as “theft” – just good Joe Hill and Jimmy Hoffa advocacy. This federal law is ok however because it was enacted through “due process.” You share name-calling skills with Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but few take them seriously. Free speech prevails over most other constitutional rights. There are federal constitutional aspects to pro-life and pro-gun positions, and vigorous advocacy often ends up with sticks-&-stones. Sometimes it can lead to a law being amended. Good luck.

  6. It seems political candidates of both parties promise to abolish the WEP/GPO pension theft. Once elected, they forget all about us. The Democrats had a perfect opportunity to include this in their Covid-19 package they are implementing. Can it still be included? Who should we remind of this that could/would use this “reconsolidation process” to get rid of WEP/GPO once and for all?

  7. Has any action been taken to abolish WEP/GPO in the Covid-19 relief act? I have seen nothing about it. Instead, it seems Mitt Romney is trying to add an amendment he calls the TRUST Act. It allows future cuts to Social Security and Medicare to be made by methods that circumvent the normal legislative process. It is very important that this be removed from from the Covid-19 act, and to watch out for this type of adding Social Security theft into an unrelated bill.

    https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/541622-romneys-trust-act-is-a-trojan-horse-to-cut-seniors-benefits

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