Alert # 36    What is not being said about public pensions!    1/12

“Public pensions are wrecking our State (City, County, fill in the blank)”  “Greedy public servants are ruining our economy!”  We hear this over and over.  All systems are lumped together.  We don’t need to debate that here, but what we do need to do is to make sure that people know that not all retirement systems are the same. 

Some pension systems require a higher rate of employee contributions than others, and MANY EMPLOYERS ONLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE PUBLIC PENSION AND DON’T PAY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FOR THE WORKER!   This saves a lot of money for government agencies, and it makes the public pension twice as important for their employees who will either get no Social Security retirement benefits or will have them greatly reduced.

This is an excruciating problem for many older postal workers.  The U.S. Postal Service will be facing huge cutbacks and the administration is probably hoping for retirements to ease the blow of layoffs.  Many postal workers hired before 1986, however, belong to CSRS and are not eligible for any Social Security or will have their benefits reduced by the GPO/WEP.  They need to hang on as long as they can.

Here is a story that came in from an SSF member in Colorado, showing what can happen when public employees are caught by both the offsets and the push to cut all public pensions.  Please use the ideas in this Alert as you write letters to the editor, to your legislators and to your friends. And please send us a copy at: ssfairness@gmail.com.

I was completely blind-sided by the unfair Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

Since I had worked in another state & career prior to teaching in Colorado, I was unable to build up many years in the Public Employee Retirement Association. But I figured that the combination of Social Security & PERA would be enough. Then I found out, when I retired, that I would lose a huge chunk of both PERA and Social Security. (PERA due to the recent cost-cutting measures at the state level and Social Security as a result of GPO/WEP.)

Both of these hits to my retirement funds occurred after I had already retired when it was too late to do anything about it.

It is a shame that our legislature is able to fund “too big to fail” bankers and other millionaires, but can’t seem to find a way to support those of us who dedicated our lives to public service.

Many members of the public don’t understand this problem, and the media has often misrepresented it!

 

7 Comments

  1. More than half of California’s public school teachers don’t understand how the offsets will affect their pensions. No one is making them aware that they won’t get the SS retirement funds they have been counting on!

  2. I guess the WEP wasn’t enough money for the Federal Government,they also get all of the income of those workers who’s income do not meet the Substantial amount also. Does any one know where all of this money is going that the Federal Government is taking out of retirees social security retirement accounts? This money should be traced. I am also having problems signing this petition to support this repeal. Is there an accurate web address to sign up?

    1. Hi James,
      The petition on the White House website is at (link removed, no longer valid). People have had a lot of problems trying to sign on. If you try for a half hour straight and can’t get on, there is a place for comments on the top of their website. Let them know! You can also email the President at whitehouse.gov/contact. Another thing to do is to got to http://capwiz.com/nea/issues/alert/?alertid=59458501 and write your representatives using the easy NEA link.

      Where is the FICA money? It has been borrowed by the US Government. The US Government is paying interest on it. Some people think that the US general fund has taken it and will keep it. We believe, with many others, that it is a separate fund and the Feds will pay it back. It is part of the general debt, however it belongs to specific people who have paid into it for retirement.

    2. Are there smtesys where retirement is more loosely coupled than in Florida? In Florida, k-12 teachers explicitly agree to a long term tradeoff between low wages and adequate retirement with compensatory protection that is mischaracterized as tenure . (imho)

    3. It is quite common for public employees to have accepted an offer of an enhanced pension rather than the raise that was needed right then. A CA school district twenty years ago went bankrupt, and the teachers who already had the lowest pay in the area, took a 9% pay cut in trade for future health benefits. Now the district is being chided for “giving” too much away in pension benefits.

  3. Thank you for checking out our website. We pay a technical person (very little) to set up the site, but the general design and the content has been written or collected by our volunteers. We have more than 2,500 members on our email list, and we get ideas and suggestions for action from them. We also connect with several retiree associations who are working on and following this issue. It is a lot of work, and we are moved by the support we get from members!

  4. I just started getting my CSRS pension, it was for only 13 1/2 years of work at the Post Office. NOT a 30 year pension! I worked in factories and paid SS for 12 years before starting work at the Post Office. My SS statement said I would get 474.00. BUT thanks to WEP I can only get 253.00 of that. They took away close to 1/2 of my SS because of a 13 1/2 yr pension. Oh and then they said you can draw from your husband but GPO will apply. Well I’m 62 so my full amount of SS at 66 is what they deducted from his SS, even though I will never get that amount. Then they deduct 20% because I am 62, then they deduct 2/3 of my small little 13 1/2 year pension. I ended up, because of GPO, with less than 100.00 from my husband. I’m not even getting 900.00 in retirement. Less than 11,000 a year, that’s poverty. How could I ever make it on my own ? To top it all off they tell me…now if you should get a cost of living raise in your pension you MUST notify us immediately because 2/3 of that COLA will be taken away from your spousal benefit. It’s already less than 100. How many years will it take of colas before I get no spousal benefit? I cried right there in the SS office. I couldn’t believe that I even had to give up 2/3 of a cola too, on top of WEP and GPO. To top it all off I have health insurance that cost almost 10,000 a year. If I wasn’t married, that would leave me 1000 a year to live on. OHHH but congresss made theirselves EXEMPT from WEP and GPO. They don’t have a clue as to how this affects people like me. I’ve never drawn unemplyment, never been on food stamps, welfare. We put our kids through college, bought and paid for a house, paid our bills. This is how it ends, welcome to retirement. What really makes me mad is when I was at the SS office, two young boys were there, they didn’t look 21. I rescued a homeless kitten and had an ad in the paper. Three young kids came and took her, they told me they were all on disability. They looked fine to me, had a nice car, fancy clothes and phones, jewelry, etc. I’d like to know how all these young kids get disability and people who work get penalized? Why aren’t the CEO’s penalized on their big millions of dollar bonuses? The rich pay little in taxes, like Buffet says he pays less than his secretary. Yet someone like me has a small 13 1/2 year pension and I’m penalized by these WEP and GPO laws. SOOOOO UNFAIR!!!! I’ve read tons of letters just like mine on other sites, mostly written by women. When I left the SS office the day I signed up, I cried all the way home. I could write a ton of other things but better shut up. I write letters, sign petitions but nothing helps. I’d like to talk to the people who came up with these WEP and GPO laws. People think government workers have it so good, they don’t have a clue.

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