Action Alert #73 – A Problem and a Plan

—Current employees don’t know about the offsets, so they make erroneous plans for retirement.

—We need to reach active public workers who don’t know about the offsets and get them involved. This will give us a larger constituency to pressure Congress for repeal in 2017!

—Use our new flyer to inform current employees of what lies ahead!

Those of us who are affected by the GPO and WEP have a pretty good idea of how they work and are pretty darn sure that both offsets are unfair!

Many current public employees still don’t know about the offsets or only have a vague idea of their effects.  In a recent study of active teachers in California, half of them did not know if they would be affected by the offsets. We rely on our worker associations to inform us. Many any of the people in union leadership and other one-career professionals know about the offsets, but they often are building large enough public pensions that the loss of Social Security retirement benefits does not seem to be a big an issue for them. They don’t realize the devastation that can be caused to others by these offsets.

Then, there is the issue of younger people believing that Social Security may disappear or be of minimal value to them when they retire. Wrong!  Benefits may be reduced if Congress doesn’t implement some fixes, but it will be there.

Congress will be stuck in the usual pre-election morass for the next year or so. Our job for the next year and a half is to reach out to current union employees and let them know that YES, Social Security retirement benefits will be there and its benefits will be important to them.  They will, however, be affected by the offsets, unless they are repealed. We need them now to help us get Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.

What to do:

Pick your local or a larger association of active public workers as your target.  Keep after them! Get them to publicize the offsets, so that their members can be prepared as most of us who are retired now were not.  They need to know that they must get life insurance early and to begin saving a greater amount of their paycheck than they might do ordinarily to make up for the shortfall.  They need to know that the amount that the SSA tells them they will be getting is wrong and that if they are expecting any benefits from their spouse, they won’t be getting those, either. They need to get onto our team!

Go to to find out “more information.”  That page has explanations from several different agencies and associations.  The latest Congressional Research Service report is online there, also.

Attached and below is a one-page flyer that you can ask your target group to share with their members. (Click on the title to get the printable PDF to give them.)


The More You Work, the More You Lose!

Do you work for a public agency that does not participate in the Social Security system by deducting F.I.C.A. taxes from your paycheck but, rather, contributes to a pension system? If so, you know you aren’t earning SS credits on this job, but also—When you retire, you will lose part or all of the Social Security retirement benefits you have earned in other work or as a dependent or surviving spouse!


Penalty:  The Government Pension Offset–GPO

Many people do not realize that if you have been married for ten years or more to someone who has earned Social Security benefits, when you retire, normally, you will receive an additional amount equal to one-half the amount your spouse has earned. But if you have one of these public pensions where you don’t pay into Social Security, you can lose $12,000 or more a year of your earned spousal benefit.  If your spouse dies, you can lose double that, ALL the death benefits other families rely on. (You get your own SS earnings if they are more than half your spouse’s, but those earnings get reduced by the WEP)

Penalty:  The Windfall Elimination Provision–WEP

Most people rely on the statements that the Social Security Administration publishes every year estimating your future retirement benefits.  DO NOT DO THAT.  If you get a public pension, no matter how small, your Social Security benefit earned from other work can be reduced by an amount up to half the amount of your public pension!  This has a huge effect on multi-career people!  Most people lose $400 or more a month, but the amount can be much more.

What can you do about it?

  • Pressure your union or employee group to make it a major priority to repeal the GPO/WEP.
  • Write your representatives in Congress. This is so unfair!
  • Get more info and join the group at

Defend yourself!  Find out how much you will lose. Get appropriate life insurance on your spouse. Plan your retirement knowing that you will not be getting as much as the statements say you will! Make sure that your lawyer or broker understands the effects of the offsets when making financial decisions about your future!


Become informed!  Be vocal!  Talk to public servants affected!