Action Alert #114 Why the Government Pension Offset is WRONG!

This is a reference page for you to use when documenting the negative effects of the Government Pension Offset.

Use it when you are telling your story about how the Government Pension Offset cheats you out of your earned retirement income. Share it with your Representatives in Congress and in your state legislature. Share it with your union or workers association. Active workers often have only a vague idea about what the offsets will do when they retire. They need to know these facts, also.

The Government Pension Offset reduces the spousal or survivor Social Security benefit by 2/3 of the amount of the pension earned from a public agency which doesn’t pay into Social Security for its workers.  Most people affected are women. This penalty usually eliminates ALL the Social Security retirement benefits a public worker’s spouse has paid in for them. 

1.  This particularly affects women who have earned only a partial pension. Women usually have made less money over their lifetimes than men have. In addition to the well-known pay inequities, women often work fewer years than men. As homemakers and family caregivers they may be out of the workforce for many years. This often results in their having fewer years to build up either Social Security credits or a robust pension.  It contributes to greater poverty among retired women.

 2.  The way the Government Pension Offset works, it ignores the number of years a spouse may be truly dependent on the earner, earning neither a public pension nor a FICA-Social Security contributing income. If the not-employed spouse at a later date earns a pension, the years of dependency are not counted, despite the spouse’s having been in a marriage situation which normally would qualify that person for spousal or survivor benefits. There are ways the Federal Government could use these years of “no pension/no FICA” information to calculate a lesser GPO reduction for many spouses, but even this level of mitigation is not being attempted. Receiving a public pension should not nullify the spousal or survivor Social Security benefits rightfully earned during other parts of a person’s life.

3.  The effects of the Government Pension Offset can be erratic and produce unequal results that are grossly unfair. 

Social Security regulations generally are designed to provide a higher-percent return for their investment for low-income retirees than for higher-income retirees. Both the GPO and WEP subvert this purpose and produce crude inequities that would be nearly impossible to correct. 

Here is an example using the GPO survivor benefit. For a higher-earning retiree with a governmental pension of $3,600 a month and a deceased spouse with the average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,470, the GPO would reduce the survivor’s benefit income by 29%. For a lower-earning retiree with a pension of $2,400, and a deceased spouse with the same monthly average Social Security benefit of $1,470, the GPO would reduce the survivor’s monthly income by 38%. (The two charts below demonstrate these figures.)

Trying to make the offset “more fair” by correcting for individual income anomalies would be a logistically daunting effort for the Social Security Administration.

4.  A particularly onerous provision of the GPO is that, because of the way the law was written, every time you get a cost-of-living increase in your non-Social Security pension, the Social Security Administration is supposed to reduce your spousal or survivor SS benefits by two-thirds of that amount. For example, when you get a $30-a-month cost-of-living raise in your pension, the SSA is supposed to reduce your spousal or survivor benefit by $20.  Everyone else gets a fair cost-of-living raise, but you don’t. You are responsible for informing the SSA of this raise in your pension.

5.  The most prominent argument in favor of maintaining the Government Pension Offset is that its application is necessary to maintain a parallel process with the Social Security Dual Entitlement Reduction. According to current law, a retired dependent spouse is entitled to an amount equal to half of the amount the worker spouse receives; or the person can choose to receive their own earned benefit instead. This lower reimbursement for the lower earner runs counter to the ideas of equality in marriage and community property, which mandate that earnings by either spouse during the marriage must be shared equally. To be fair, the Social Security retirement earnings of both partners gained during the marriage should be added together, and each marriage partner should be allotted half. The fact that the Social Security Dual Entitlement rule discriminates unfairly against the spouse who earns a smaller retirement benefit does not justify the indefensible treatment of spouses by the Government Pension Offset.

The only clean solution to the Government Pension Offset is



A.   The following statistics are from the 6/21/19 Congressional Research Service report. (Statistics as of 12/19/18).

  • 695,059 retirees were affected by the Government Pension Offset.
  • 1% of all Social Security beneficiaries were affected by the GPO.
  • 54% of those affected were spouses; 46% were widows or widowers.
  • 83% of those affected were women.
  • Of all potential beneficiaries, 72% lost ALL Social Security benefits.

It is believed that an unknown number of potential spouses or survivors have not applied for benefits because they believe the GPO would eliminate all money for which they might be eligible. (See the whole report on our website at:

B.  The charts below illustrate the effects of the GPO on lower-income and higher-income workers.

The Government Pension Offset can have a more dramatic effect on lower-income married workers than on higher-income workers. In these cases, both the spousal benefits and the survivor benefits are totally eliminated by the amount of the pension. The figures below use the 2019 average Social Security retirement benefit:  $1,470.

Example 1. Higher teacher/government worker pension $3,600 per month

Average SS benefit for SS earner $1,470

Total amount couple receives in retirement $5,070

GPO applied:

2/3 of government pension equals $2,400 which:

Eliminates potential spousal income: $735

Eliminates potential survivor income: $1,470

Percentage lost to GPO: $1,470 divided by original family total of $5,070=29%

At death of Social Security earner, percent of income lost: 29%

Example 2. Lower teacher/government worker pension $2,400 per month

Average SS benefit for SS earner $1,470

Total amount couple receives in retirement $3,870

GPO applied:

2/3 of government pension $1,600 which:

Eliminates potential spousal income: $735

Eliminates potential survivor income: $1,470

Percentage lost to GPO: $1,470 divided by original family total of $3,870=38%

At death of Social Security earner, percent of income lost: 38%


  1. Karen Havens says:

    Fix this!

  2. Kathryn E Vauthrin says:

    I am a victim of WEP. I was a teacher in Texas for 22 years. In the summer I worked under Social Security and also when I retired. If I wasn’t subject to WEP, I wouldn’t have to keep working like I am now. These two provisions need to be repealed—NOW!

    1. christine swanberg says:

      Hi Kathryn, I am also a victim of both WEP and GPO. Now that I read the total number of us who are affected and realize it is under one million of us, it seems like very little burden to Social Security to repeal this outrageous and unfair law. You would think it could be done quickly, but this has been going on for decades. Chris S

    2. Will a repeal be retroactive? I am almost 69. At 70 my whopping 38 K “retirement” for 9 years work outside the social security system rolls over and reduces my – not enough to live on however humbly – social security benefit. Essentially I have to work full time until I die due to this irrational law frought with inequity. If a repeal is passed, when will it take effect? It will have to be retroactive to save all the women who are condemned to old age poverty or death from overwork, if we are lucky enough to maintain our positions with the pernicious ageism that permeates our society.

  3. Edmond Lee says:

    GPO also affects current generation of employees and minorities.

  4. Sharron Lovins says:

    Not just total repeal of GPO, but also total repeal of WEP, not just a formula recalculation that hurts retirees!

  5. Janet Boyle says:

    you keep talking about but nothing happens….I still am cut and am a widower and have been for18 years….I have been waiting …you all are incapable of solving this and doing what needs to be done…..Talk and emails that is the extenst of it!!!!!!! Don’t bother me about it anymore

    1. Brenda Walker says:

      These emails are awareness for us. Intended for us to speak or write to our congress to gain support in numbers. Don’t give up, get up and contact your representatives and other representatives!
      There have been a couple of bills presented to Congress to repel but they(Congress). Has other things on their agenda. Taking care of us and The People is last on their minds.
      I’m from State of Illinois where zero state money was contributed to our pension. Therefore, I don’t believe I’m a Recipient of a ‘government pension’ . My part of pension was withdrawn from my salary for the 28 years. Even my little earned SS I paid into is affected!
      That’s my story and I intend to meet with my representatives.
      We need to meet in DC and demand attention to their errors!

  6. Donna Rodgers says:

    This unfair law affects me greatly being female
    I was not aware of this law when I took a job with the county earning minimum wage be to supplement our income. Please repeal this law
    It is so unfair. I would lose my spouses social security income if anything would happen to him


  7. Sue Advey says:

    What will it take to repeal this unfair law!!! Are letters enough? What other kind of action works? A petition? Legal representation? We need to stick together on this one!

  8. Stevenrmorris says:

    This is not fair!!! We paid ss all of are life it’s are money !!!!


    The bill ( H.R. 141) has over 235 signatures why is it still stuck in committee to die there. I am not sure if this will ever be repealed.

    1. Helen E Ensign says:

      yep. A signature is easy, but actually standing up for us: a small minority of mostly women, that would require real courage. I am not holding my breath. I sure wish I had been told of this penalty when I entered public school teaching at age 40! I didn’t even know my system didn’t take out SS until I received my first paycheck! And didn’t learn of these penalties until I went to a retirement seminar. My husband would be turning in his grave if he knew that $80/month was all I would receive of survivor benefits after he spent his entire adult life working full-time and paying into social security. I am fortunate, I guess, that he also worked for the state, so I get a partial pension from his job which is more than $80. I still cannot see how supplementing a pension benefit of less than $3k/mo equals a windfall benefit!

    2. I’ve been wondering the same thing Josephine. S521 has 36 co-sponsors. Something smells. Are they just playing politics at our expense. I want action not signatures & co-sponsors.

  10. Jay Riojas says:

    I have asked this same question of my representatives many times, “Why is this bill still on the desk of the Social Security Sub Committee?” Why don’t they ad-
    dress this Bill with the same intensity as Reagan did when he took this money from Seniors. It is truly amazing to me how all this elected officials speak shit about protecting senior and their benefits and no one has the BALLs to say “ENOUGH ALREADY” lets get this bill passed. They can pass bills or appropriate money for other countries and their people at the expense of AMERICAN SENIORS

    1. Jimmy Carter and a Democratic controlled House/Senate passed the GPO with the stipulation that it would not go into effect for 5 years (after Carter was re-elected LOL). Reagan and a split House/Senate get credit for the WEP

  11. I am equally frustrated with the inability of our so-called leaders to address this issue. I have written many letters to our state representatives expressing many of the issues outline in these Alerts. All I get is “We cosponsored a bill”. Nothing ever comes of it, EVER! My mother went to her death not seeing any action on this issue as well. She was also affected by survivors’ benefits. It is a very sad state of affaires when we are unable to take care of our own people whom spent careers as public servants.

  12. I am one of the millions affected by both WEP and GPO. I have my forty quarters in as I worked in the private sector for 20 years. I worked an additional 20 years in the public sector. Since I have a Gov pension my SS was REDUCED BY 2/3rds. My husband passed away three years ago and because of GPO my income has been cut in half. I have been sending emails, letters and every other form of communication to State reps and Senators and to Congress for 18 years through my retirement board and this site to no avail. Until these unfair laws directly affect our law makers they have no understanding of how mostly women are affected. We are reduced to living at poverty level in our senior years. If they could put themselves in our situation to see a change in their life style, perhaps they would have a little compassion.

  13. George R Rogan says:

    Had I known about this law – I would have gladly continued to pay into SS to get the last few years needed to have a full 30 years for social security.
    As it is now my own SS is reduced by almost 50% and I receive nothing from my now deceased spouse’s which was almost 3,000.00 per month

  14. judy everett says:

    ERA: Equal Rights Act all of this injustice is not EQUAL. The Gpo is discrimination at its best. Where is the help that we need? No one listens or cares this is an election year and still no one listens. Make your voice heard, call, tweet, email, facebook, get louder HR 141 is our best hope. Maybe we need a lawyer?

  15. Jamie Land says:

    If I received a one time extra check of $750 from TRS are they going to subtract 2/3 of that ($500) and take that amount from my social security check? They are already holding my benefits for two years because they said they paid me too much! Seriously? $928 a month was my total benefit including my widow’s benefit. When I start receiving benefits again, the amount will be half that!

    1. SS Fairness says:

      Sounds awful. Make sure you ask for a supervisor at the SSA to make sure you get someone who knows what they are doing!

  16. MARK VAN WINKLE says:

    My wife and I both are hurt by the WEP. I’m in the OP&F Fund and she is in the SERS Fund. I worked SS jobs before and during my police career. She worked more SS jobs than I did before her school employee career. My gross SS benefit was about $495.00 but after WEP and my Part B deduction I have a net deposit of $51.70/month. Her gross SS benefit was a little over $700.00 but after WEP and her Part B deduction she has a net deposit of $175.50/month.

  17. Diane Schilling says:

    I cannot afford to quit working at 77 years of age due to GPO and WEP. I can’t figure out how to live on $900 a month the after the WEP & GPO cut. I live paycheck to paycheck from my University job where I get more responsibility but not more money. The WEP & GPO is brutal to people in the paycheck to paycheck predicament. It will force us to welfare so the government will be paying. Why not allow someone who paid into both systems retain their dignity and collect what they earned. The University retirement is not a windfall by any stretch of the imagination.

  18. I don’t read anything about us old timers who lost even more as our districts would not allow us to be in the classroom beyond the fifth month of pregnancy thus causing us to lose months of earnings and making us ineligible to meet the time line for eligibility in,I think it was,1984.
    As I have often said, “They are just waiting for many of us to die”, as has happened to so many of my colleagues and, as a former teacher in my nineties I’ll be going that route soon.

  19. Bonnie Bergeron says:

    Paid into Social Security and earned my forty quarters. But I worked at a Community College the last 16 years before I retired and of course my SS was cut. Think about this– there are people getting huge corporate pensions and they still get all their SS plus their huge pension. But we get penalized–why??? How can this possibly be fair. I have written letters and made calls but nothing happens.

  20. Jerry Ferrone says:

    I am a retired postal worker who has had to work 2-3 jobs all my life and paid into social security but the WEP still takes the same percentage no matter what. Please ElLIMINATE the WEP now!!!!!!

  21. I wish I had just the small average Gov pension. I have a CSRS pension that is extremely small 654.00 a month. That is with my 2020 COLA, I got ten dollars. My SS is still the same 241.00 a month because of WEP and GPO that COLA goes to Medicare every time, every penny. If my husband dies first, well we know how that will work compared to other women. I’ll be in poverty for sure. WEP and GPO is so unfair, but especially hard on women with small Gov pensions. These laws never should have affected anyone but people with pensions under 1000.00 a month is just too much of a cut to survive on. Remember Congress made their selves’ EXEMPT from these laws, WHY????!!!!

  22. How is it that maybe 15 out of our 50 states fall under this and the other states get their full due? My husband, a retired schoolteacher of 30 years, worked at least 80 quarters in other jobs to provide for our family and paid Social Security taxes in all of those quarters. There has been talk for years about repealing the WEP/GOP but that is as far as it goes. JUST TALK.

  23. Mark Allen says:

    Interesting. Plenty of info from supporters, but I have been unable to get ONE opponent to tell me why they feel we shouldn’t get what we are entitled to, not ONE. I am assuming that if your name isn’t on the supporters list one must be an opponent. I would be interested in hearing their rationale.

  24. Bonnie Bergeron says:

    Paid into SS most of my working life and reached my 40 quarters. However I spent the last 16 years of my career at our local community college as an advisor/ counselor. We could not pay into SS and could only pay into the state pension plan. And, of course when I retired, my SS was drastically cut. So because of these arcane, unfair laws I and thousands like me are denied SS benefits that we earned.
    Yet, those in the corporate or private sector who retire with huge pensions, and who probably don ‘t need SS benefits, get their full benefits. How can this possibly be fair. These stupid laws need to be repealed immediately!

  25. Bill Hansen says:

    Make it a priority and call, call, call until we get their support. If they don’t support, vote them out when the time comes. Texas has 36 Representatives only 16 have signed on as cosponsors, Lets go after Texas! Call Call Call!!! Then the other States in the South… I will keep calling, hope you will as well. No Senator from Texas has supported S.521 with so many individuals in Texas that are affected this could change if those affected would call. Maybe they don’t care, don’t know who to call, or are uninformed. Not matter, Call…Let them know how you feel. It makes me feel good to know I am doing something to change the situation. Even if my efforts fall on deaf ears at least I am doing something, maybe not much but something, and something is always better than nothing. If we ALL did even a little, I believe the law would be changed.
    Thanks for ALL who do something!

  26. Dottie Alexander says:

    I am a victim of both GPO and WEP. I am a victim of divorce. I have been divorced for 18 years and have not remarried. It is time this be repealed. I keep hearing about how unfair the WEP and GPO are. We all know how unfair they are but no one takes action to get it repealed. The money should have been ours to start with. All we get is just talk year after year. I am 72 years of age and am still working.

  27. I am very angry about this law that was so unjustly passed by the Reagan administration. I just retired in May of 2019, after working for many years as a substitute teacher in Ky. I have written letters to politicians ever since I became aware of the law, around 2008. None of the politicians are interested in doing anything about it. I do not believe anything will be done unless a large group of us get together and file a class action suit against the government for passing such an unjust law. Even if we do not win, it might draw public attention to what is going on. This is out and out stealing and we are being treated as bad as the slaves were treated in our country.

    1. Bill Hansen says:

      Doris, Lets file a class action suit! How do we start? What do you need from me? Anyone else interested? If we all get together maybe we can make something happen instead of lip service. I am not sure how to get in touch with anyone. This is my number 619-757-8519. if I don’t answer leave a message. I get a lot of solicitors for EVERYTHING…

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