In this Alert you will find;

1. Instructions for how to comment on the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee hearing on HR 711, Kevin Brady’s replacement bill for the Windfall Elimination Provision. (Due by email in their office 5:00 PM, April 5) You must follow their format. You can make it short. Just be sure to identify yourself according to their instructions.

Click on this link. On the right side of the page, above the calendar, click on
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/committeesubmissions/

2. A link to the page where you can read comments by other groups.
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/hr711/

3. A link to the video of the hearing conducted on March 22.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2pwq5GPu54

4. Links to the Home page of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, so you can send a copy of your comments to your own Representative and Senators.

www.house.gov

www.senate.gov

5. The Committee for Social Security Fairness letter regarding H.R. 711, which we are filing with Ways and Means.
(You may quote any information in this letter in your comments or forward it to your representatives in the House and Senate)

The letter is below (Download this letter as a PDF):

April 2, 2016

Representative Sam Johnson, Chairman
House Ways and Means
Social Security Sub-Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.

RE: Comment on March 22, 2016, Hearing on H.R. 711,
“Social Security and Public Servants: Ensuring Equal Treatment”

Dear Members of the Committee:

I am writing on behalf of the Committee for Social Security Fairness, a nation-wide group of public servants, mostly retired, who have been or will be affected by the Social Security Offsets, the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.

We believe that the current Windfall Elimination Provision formula is arbitrary, punitive, and that it results in unequal treatment of retired Americans. Our public pensions have been contributed to and are taxed differently than are Social Security earnings. We believe that only a complete repeal of this offset would provide a sufficient remedy. A great many of us, however, are pleased that you are considering a formula that would result in a greater return in investment for the contributions that we have made to Social Security over the years.

Your own Congressional Research Service report—Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), dated April 16, 2014 (the most current)—illuminates two of the issues that we find most egregious:

1) The current WEP causes a higher reduction of benefits for low-income retirees. We have members who are school bus drivers in Louisiana. Why are we cutting the paid Social Security benefits for these workers? One of our members, a California teacher, earned $600 a month in Social Security benefits working for a city childcare center, later, after transferring to the local school district, she earned $900 a month in a teacher retirement pension. Because of the WEP, her Social Security benefits were cut in half. Instead of receiving a total of $1,500 a month, she is getting only $1,200.

How would H.R. 711 mitigate this problem? How does H.R. 711 protect low-income workers?

2) Because of the often temporary, low-pay, or part-time nature of the employment of women in this society, women have been less likely to be affected by the provision of the WEP that eliminates the penalty for people with 30 years of “substantial” earnings. As part of this provision, the WEP penalty is reduced for people with more than 20 years of “substantial” earnings and is reduced by 5% every additional year until it is eliminated at 30 years of substantial earnings.

In a Social Security Fairness survey we conducted last year, out of the more than 2,200 persons affected by the WEP who answered our question, 80% of them stated that they were NOT aware of this provision. Because of this failure, they had no opportunity to reduce the effect of the WEP by working longer in a Social Security-paying job before they retired.

How does H.R. 711 affect people who have both a short non-covered public employment and a short Social Security covered work history?

The lack of clear and accessible communication about both of the Social
Security penalties has been one of the most outrageous aspects of the Social Security offsets. The Social Security Administration has failed to adequately warn recipients ahead of time that they would not be getting the amount in retirement benefits that their statements said they would. Public employers were required by Congress only at the beginning of 2005 to notify their newly-hired employees that they would be affected by the offsets. Not knowing about the offsets has caused harsh financial problems for retirees.

The Committee for Social Security Fairness, in our 2015 survey mentioned above, obtained survey responses from more than 3,250 persons affected by one or both the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. Responses came from every state and from a few foreign countries. Only 5% of these retirees had known about the offsets when they began work for their public agency. Nearly 30% only learned that their Social Security retirement benefits would be cut from the amount that their statements said they would be earning when they walked into the Social Security office to claim their benefits.

This failure to notify public servants that they would not be getting the retirement benefits that the Social Security Administration said they would has distorted many retirement plans. Of those affected by the WEP, 35% reported themselves to be 65 years old or older and still working. Eighteen percent said they had not been able to afford necessary health or dental services. Nearly 3% had taken public assistance.

More than half of those affected by the WEP said they would have planned differently for retirement, including planning to work longer. Twenty percent said they would never have worked for a government agency. More than 500 teachers said they would have forgone those summer jobs they took in order to make up their Social Security quarters. Since, apparently, lawyers don’t have any idea about these offsets, and public workers haven’t known, 7% reported having gotten a bad legal settlement. An example: one woman said that she had had to give her husband 40% of her teacher pension in a divorce settlement, but when she retired, because of the Government Pension Offset, she could not get any of her expected Social Security spousal benefit. The GPO usually eliminates ALL Social Security retirement benefits for those affected.

How will H.R. 711 compensate these retired public workers for the failure of the Social Security Administration to give them accurate information about their earned benefits? A slight improvement in their monthly Social Security benefits because of H.R. 711 would be welcome, but it would make a only a small dent in the tens of thousands of dollars that have been unfairly withheld from these deserving, mostly low and middle income, public servants.

We thank you for considering these issues and realizing that the WEP and GPO result in a process of means-testing middle and low-income Americans in a way that no other persons with different forms of income are affected. Our public employees are punished first by not earning Social Security benefits while they are working for public agencies, and then they are punished again by having the Social Security benefits they have already earned in other work cut back when they retire.

Sincerely,

Bonnie Cediel
The Committee for Social Security Fairness
P.O. Box 7486
Berkeley CA 94707
Tel: 510 524 7412
Fax: Please call ahead

11 Comments

  1. From the time I began working, I paid into SS…I had no idea I would be denied MY money when retirement came. I was advised my benefit would be $800-900 a month; with WEP (because I retired from a County) I ended up with $153 a month after my Medicare premium is paid. With the rising co-pays and deductibles, and more medical tests (I now have kidney disease) I don’t always have enough funds to cover the costs, and have to rob my savings. These will soon run out. Eliminating the WEP would make a huge difference to this 70 year old person. Thank you.

    1. I also feel that the repeal of the WEP should be retroactive for at least the last 20 years.

  2. Please support the repeal of the wep/gpo theft of social security benefits from state and federal employees. This unfair law reduces by at least 50% the earned benefits of millions of workers who have contributed into the system for many years prior to their government service. Thank You!

  3. The WEP/GPO must be repealed. It is totally unfair. For People who worked both Civil Service jobs and private jobs and paid SS. The two should have no connection. If you paid into both, you should receive from both. That also includes spousal benefits also. If you tried to save for retirement by stuffing funds in your mattress, no one should be able to steel from it.
    This is the USA, everybody treated equal.
    You just can’t take a time period of workers and penalize them.

  4. As a US citizen living outside the USA I agree with the comments made by Bonnie Cediel and Jim Gill regarding the WEP. It not only applies to those people who work/worked for a federal, state or local government agency and a nonprofit organization, but also those of us who live “in another country”. We also believe, to quote Bonnie’s words, “that the current Windfall Elimination Provision formula is arbitrary, punitive, and that it results in unequal treatment of retired Americans”.

  5. I support eliminating WEP for it has and does cause a hardship on my and my family well being due to loss of $ I should be entitled to for all the work I did while I was in the workforce and paid into social security. The current WEP is punitive. I’ve been working for most of my life since I was young. I given to my country and the states I have lived in and could have died in an airplane crash in 2000 when I was going to do a one day job for the State of Alaska. Since this crash I have suffered with pain and the inability to work as I used to be able to do for a number of years, then finally I had to apply for disability because my doctor told me I was causing further damage in trying to work. Then to find out that I was getting penalized because of the WEP issue was shocking to me, since I had some 29 years paid into SS. Yes WEP needs to be fixed. Thanks

  6. I worked in the private sector 15 years. Little did I know, when I accepted a job with a municipal government, that upon retirement, I would lose 2/3 of my social security benefits. I would have gladly continued to contribute to social security along with the government pension program, but that was not an option here in Ohio. So, now when I retire my earned social security benefit of $1048 per month will be reduced to $640 – less my monthly medicare payment. How can this be right? I paid into the system, I should not be penalized. Restore the full benefit to those who earned it.

  7. HR 711

    I am writing on behalf of the Committee for Social Security Fairness, a nation-wide group of public servants. I have been affected by 40% reduction of my Social Security Benefit. The worst part, is not knowing how this would be revealed when I retire. Employees are told by the Social Security benefit person what you had earned and an approximate factor used to reduce Social Security during your application process. For me that is about $400 + per month. The factor used causes a higher reduction of benefits for low-income retirees.

    I worked in private industry and Federal Government working range levels GS 4 to GS9, these positions are all FICA/Social Security jobs. The time period covers just less than 20 years of Social Security paid benefits. My Social Security Benefit would be about $1,300 to $1,400 per month. Social Security has applied a factor which reduces my monthly benefit to $823.

    I worked 9.5 years for the State of Alaska, a non FICA employer. I receive a small pension and after expenses I receive less than $400 per month.

    As you can see those of us Civil Servants thinking while taking care of the family and working little jobs it could provide $25K or so in retirement.

    So if you add up my State of Alaska pension and the WEP social security, I receive about $1,223 per month or $14, 676 per year. Know anybody who is living on this? What will happen to me if my spouse dies?

    “The lack of clear and accessible communication about both of Social Security penalties has been one of the most outrageous aspects of the Social Security offsets” my spouse and I would have planned to differently if we had had all the information about this despicable injustice to civil servants.

    With almost 20 years of Social Security earnings, I believed that these were two different pots of money for my future.

  8. I support repeal of the WEP. I spent 10 years in military and then 10 years or so as a college student with low income. Now, at age 56, I am a community college teacher in Nevada and my social security is going to be significantly decreased because of WEP. I feel like my family and I will be penalized because I chose to be a dedicated teacher in Nevada. Additionally, because of the economic downturn in 2007, Nevada educators have not seen an increase in pay in 9 years, which has significantly and negatively affected our retirement investments.

    Q: Who thinks that my social security benefit + my 403b are going to be a “windfall” ?

    A: Not my retirement financial advisor!

    Congress needs to find a way to make the Social Security Administration solvent other than decreasing benefits to those who count on it.

  9. During the twenty-five years I worked as a public school educator in Missouri (notorious for it’s low teacher pay) I worked evenings, weekends and summers in jobs that were Social Security taxed, in order to supplement my income. As well, for 17 years after I left public school teaching I worked full time in Social Security taxed jobs. Upon final retirement my Social Security benefits were reduced by 50% because of the twenty-five years of non-Social Security taxed employment. The WEP has been a “slap in the face” for all of my years of SSI taxed employment. It needs to be eliminated or restructured in order to be fairer.

  10. The WEP/GPO must be repealed Now.
    This stealing from a selected group of people and time in my opinion is illegal.
    If you pay into Social Security, you should get what you are entitled to just like everyone else.
    Your spouse should also get his or her entitlement.
    Just because you worked multiple jobs to survive, doesn’t give the government the right to take from you.
    This makes working for the Government a disgrace.

Comments are closed.