Action Alert # 90 – Making Our Way in the New Order

Take a deep breath and start in again.

  • As always, communicate with your Congressional Representative and your Senators.
  • Learn more and refine your story to share with family and friends, especially those who might be in other districts or states.
  • Keep abreast of changes and be ready to respond to our Action Alerts.

Changes in Washington.

With the change in the balance of power in Washington, we need to be looking at our campaign for Social Security Fairness in a bit of a different light and assessing where we are.  Although there has been, in the past, substantial bi-partisan support for the repeal of the GPO and WEP in the House, the Senate often has been less responsive to our needs. In addition, our incoming President probably does not know about the Social Security offsets and is even less likely to understand the complexities of their implementation.

Since both houses of government, as well as the Presidency, are in Republican control, which was also the case from 2003 to 2007, we need to look at refining the way we make our claims for change in a way that fits with the Republican point of view—a technical rather than a “fairness” vision:  “these are faulty laws that have been poorly implemented and which our government needs to fix.” 

Kevin Brady, who became the powerful Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means when Paul Ryan became Speaker of the House, has been trying to change for many years what he sees as the flawed formula of the WEP.  His bill, H.R. 711, which he proposed during the last Congress (2015-16), did not eliminate the idea of the WEP, but used a different method which looks at a person’s non-Social Security covered income in addition to the Social Security earnings to calculate what he said was a more fair way of paying out retirement benefits. He has not given up on the idea of changing the WEP, as you can see from the statement of purpose that was sent to the public from the Ways and Means committee this week:

In 2017, our Social Security Subcommittee will focus on advancing solutions to make this vital program work better for seniors and individuals with disabilities today and in the future. For example, our teachers, firefighters, and police officers are not always treated equally when it comes to Social Security due to a flawed policy known as the Windfall Elimination Provision. The lead Democrat on our Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, and I have been working together on a solution to this problem and we will continue that effort this year.

This week the Republicans announced the names of their members of the Social Security Sub-committee of Ways and Means:

Chairman Sam Johnson (TX) Tom Rice (SC) David Schweikert (AZ) Vern Buchanan (FL) Mike Kelly (PA) Jim Renacci (OH) Jackie Walorski (IN)

The Democratic members of this sub-committee have not yet been announced, but the ranking member, Xavier Becerra, was just named to a CA state position, and will be leaving the House of Representatives.  Stay turned to find out whom to lean on next.

Re-thinking the Government Pension Offset.

  • This provision was designed to cut the total retirement income (pension plus SS) for those affected by as much as 40%.
  • It has resulted in a total loss of Social Security benefits for approximately half a million retired women.
  • This provision is a major deterrent to the recruiting of teachers for the 1/3 of U.S. teaching positions affected.  The U.S. teacher shortage is an emergency.

There are many causes to defend that affect seniors in Washington, D.C., this year.  We hope that you will stay with us as we refine our pointed Action Alerts.

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  1. WIDOWS NEED HELP NOW! Kent Conrad and James Lockhart….think that Soc Security should be MORE FAIR to Widowed Women! Conrad thinks widowed women should GET THEIR OWN BENEFITS and 3/4 of their DECEASED SPOUSE’S BENEFITS! This model for Soc Sec would keep Widowed Women OUT OF POVERTY!!! REPEAL: WEP & GPO for Widowed Women WHO TEACH IN MISSOURI! Tell Congressmen to PASS: HR 973 & S 1651. OR….Time To Correct the MATH FOR WEP….per Kevin Brady’s HR 711.

    Social Security Advisory Board should be publishing a POSITION PAPER on the GOVERNMENT PENSION OFFSET….and the harmful effects it causes for widows…by the end of this year! Just as BRADY has said…TIME TO CORRECT THE MATH FOR WEP…the SSAB….should be documenting that it’s TIME TO CORRECT THE MATH FOR WIDOWS!!! WE EARNED AND DESERVE OUR SURVIVOR BENEFITS!!!

    I asked NEA lobbyist…Al Campos…questions about GPO….and he couldn’t answer my questions !!! I have paid NEA union dues for 25 years! I need to know about the 60 months exemption for GPO. Supposedly…if you work the LAST 60 MONTHS…IN A POSITION THAT PAYS INTO SOC SECURITY…AND THE JOB IS IN THE SAME RETIREMENT SYSTEM….YOU CAN BE EXEMPTED FROM GPO . Has anyone tried this? What do you know about GPO….that I don’t know ?????


    There’s suppose to be a law…that all new teachers in Missouri…are suppose to SIGN A PAPER….stating that the SCHOOL DISTRICT…has INFORMED THEM ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY…AND THE 2 LAWS….WEP & GPO. I just asked a NEW TEACHER….if she signed her paper….SHE SAID SHE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT! I personally don’t think the LAW is being followed. I know NEA….NEVER TALKS ABOUT WEP & GPO!!! Whenever I tell someone about these 2 LAWS…..they don’t believe me! My Fnancial Planner and Tax advisor….were completely unaware of WEP & GPO !!!

  2. The WEP/GPO must be repealed. It is totally illegal in my opinion. I had requested it in (The Plain Writing Act) from Obama and not received it.
    This was not made to take money away from poor hard working people.
    If you pay into SS you should receive what you are entitled to, including spousal benefits. It should have nothing to do with any Government jobs which your paid into a different retirement plan. This is the United States of America, where everybody is supposed to be treated equal. This makes working for the Government a disgrace. It is no different then me saving for future by stuffing my mattress and the Government coming and taking it out.

    The WEP/GPO, in my opinion is like a Felon, convicted and still out on bail for thirty-five years.
    This Repeal should be acted upon “Now”.
    As I previously mentioned, this law is in my opinion illegal.
    If you take money from what the people paid for, it is called stealing.

    1. That is exactly what my deceased parents would have called it! I was always taught that when you take something that isn’t yours, it’s called stealing!

  3. You are absolutely correct. This theft has a myriad of problems of why it has not been fixed. Two of the larger problems are that so many Americans are unaware that it works like it does. And sadly enough, when it does not affect one personally, too many of us just do not pay close enough attention to the problem. The other large part of the problem is that the voices of outrage are not (apparently) coming from people who are big enough and possessing enough clout to take on the “bad guys” like the Republicans who are not willing to help the people who honestly worked, paid into the system, and now are entitled to their monies. We have to find an ear and a “huge” voice. I had hoped it would be the president-elect, and now I am waiting to see. We must be heard to be helped. Please repeal this law now and give the people who paid it their fair share.

    1. May I remind everyone that we’ve had eight years of a Democrat in the White House and his cronies. I for one, am sick of being told that this is the rich Republicans’ fault. There is plenty of blame to go around!
      As a life long conservative, teacher and a no money in the bank, retired Senior, please stop the fraudulent accusations that all Republicans and rich, selfish, greedy, millionaires. This is what all Democrats want the public to believe.
      It is just not true.

  4. “…cut the total retirement income (pension plus SS) for those affected by as much as 40%.”
    I believe that this is stated incorrectly. WEP can cut our SS up to 60% (meaning that we could end up with only 40% of what we would have received otherwise).

    1. Not so fast. I worked 14 years in private industry before my 32 years in the Federal Government. My 14 years was only worth 794.00 monthly, but SS told me I am only entitled to $63.00 per month. Seriously, there is no logic to their math. The 60% crap is just that…crap.

      I worked for those benefits and to be told I am not entitled because I also work a civil servant position is disgusting. How is my 32 year service any less important than the military service members who had WEP repealed for them so they get full military retirement and/or civil service income/retirement income?

    2. Christine, it sounds as if you are being penalized in addition to the WEP. Also, they subtract your Medicare, Part B, from your monthly check before you get it. Double check and ask specific questions.

    3. Wrong. The max that can be cut from your SS from WEP is half of your pension amount or $428 dollars maximum.

      People keep mixing it up with the GPO, which can cut up to 2/3rds your SS.

    4. RE GPO: It can actually take all of your SS benefit if you make “too much money” in your non-covered pension.

    5. In my case, I am reduced 37 percent of my pension amount of 318 from Nevada PERS, which comes to 119 bucks subtracted from my early Social Security benefit.

      I could use an extra 119 a month. My combined pension and SS is less than 1100 a month, which is less than the average Social Security monthly benefit.

    6. Something is wrong with your calculation. It isn’t with mine. The most they will take out is fifty percent of your pension on WEP or 428 a month, which increases each year. I am not wrong. You are failing to put in something because that is just not correct.

      See, my post is based on what Social Security has calculated for me on my benefit, which I am to begin to receive on March 15. There were no surprises because I had used the WEP calculator on the SSA website. If anything, I am getting more a month than I thought I was getting. I am receiving an early benefit of $759 a month, which is $119 a month less than I would have received without the WEP. That is based on my current Nevada PERS of $318 a month.

    7. I am assuming they nailed me for 37 percent and not 50 percent because I have 20-plus years in substantial earnings.

    8. The Government Pension Offset cuts an amount up to 2/3 of what you get from your Government Pension. If you have a pension of $1,800 and spousal or survivor Social Security due of $1,200, the GPO will eliminate your SS entirely. This is what happens to most retirees.

  5. I still don’t understand the logic behind WEP. When I worked for the public school system in Massachusetts, I did not pay into SS. Thus, I receive no benefit for those years. When I worked jobs that did pay into SS when I was younger, that benefit is now cut to half of what it would be if I was not receiving a public pension. Why is there an additional penalty only because I have a public pension? It makes no sense.

    1. Some kind of a Great Compromise between Pres. Reagan and ???Tip O’Neil back in the 80’s. You would have to Google it to get the details as I don’t know how to explain it but that was then and this is now and it is stealing.

    2. It was put in by the Reagan administration when reports circulated, especially on “60 Minutes” about high-paid military personnel who were collecting large military pensions and then working in private sector qualifying for large SS payments. What ended up happening with WEP is that people who didn’t make much in the public sector or were in it a short time in states that didn’t pay into SS were given the shaft. People who have “generous pensions”–people with 30 or more years in–don’t generally qualify for SS because they don’t have the 40 quarters in. The “substantial earnings” requirement to avoid the WEP was put in during an era where many people worked their entire careers with one company. It totally shafts women, who are more likely not to have enough substantial earnings to avoid the penalty.

    3. The “substantial earnings” stipulation seems to me to be backwards. If you have all those years of substantial earnings, then you might be more able to afford some kind of cut to your benefit. If they are trying to be *fair*, then it would seem that those most in need of their entire benefit would be those who worked low paying jobs and did not meet the substantial earnings requirement (like myself). And I still don’t see how my modest teacher’s pension is considered a “windfall” and, as such, a basis to reduce my rightfully earned benefit at other jobs earlier in my working life.

  6. The last bill that Brady tried to pass revising WEP by using a new formula to calculate Soc. Sec. benefits for retiring teachers created another unfair distribution for seniors already retired. Under this bill my recalculation of Soc. Sec. benefits would over time only reach 30% of what I should be receiving.


    1. I would also be a lot worse with HR 711, because of years of substantial earnings. I would do better with the current WEP. (Though I must admit that I don’t understand the 711 amendment that says that they must compare our SS and Non-SS earnings. What does that mean?)

    2. They combine your social security earnings with your non social security earnings and come up with an average and that average is used to calculate your social security benefits. Now you appear very poor to the social security administration because they do not count your non social security earnings and you get a better rate than what you should.

    3. I still struggle to understand the reasoning behind WEP. If you earn non-SS earnings, then you do not contribute to SS. Isn’t that the built in penalty, thus making WEP unnecessary (and actually a “double” penalty). You are not credited with any earnings. I can understand if you are working in non-SS and SS jobs SIMULTANEOUSLY – Then you may be credited with more of the higher percentage in their formula than you deserve. But if the jobs are worked in separate years(as in my case), you are already penalized by not contributing, thus you get nothing back. In line with this, what is the thinking behind the “substantial earnings” exemption. If they are trying to make it more fair, wouldn’t you do the opposite and exempt folks who made BELOW substantial earnings, since in theory they would need the SS benefit more than someone who did make substantial earnings for twenty or thirty years. I don’t get the logic behind the WEP penalties.

  7. Thank you, thank you for this. I worked in jobs that paid into SS for 22 years and then I became a teacher and just retired after 19 years. I’m going to try to hold out to age 70 before taking my SS to supplement my union pension, but it’s going to be hard. If I had no WEP offset, or at least a smaller offset, it would help me a lot. As a single female senior with no relatives, I’m going to need that money. Thank you so much for your efforts.

  8. I am a retired California Highway Patrol officer. I worked for 21 years in the Social Security System and when I started on Social Security at age 65 in 2009 the interviewer told me I should get $700 a month but it was cut to $400 a month and then Part B subtracted from that. Not fair and the law should be changed.

  9. My husband died from a brain tumor. Now that I am a retired teacher, I don’t have enough monthly income to make ends meet. I still substitute because I must in order to keep up on expenses.

    The offset effects mostly women. Even though I was a teacher, I have paid into SS and am vested. I’m not asking for my social, I am asking for his.

    Please end the offset, so

  10. These republican monsters will be even more futile to deal with as any interest related to the common man is contrary to their agenda!

    1. Boy, have you been brainwashed! I am 71 years old, a retired teacher, and have worked for 48 years in both education and the public sector.
      I do not have beaucoup bucks in the bank and have been a conservative all my life. Don’t paint everyone with the same brush!

      I’m glad Donald Trump won. At least, maybe, we can get his attention. He owes no politician anything. These unfair taxes may never get repealed. Our former President Obama and his cohorts did absolutely nothing to fix it, either.They had 8 years!

    2. Be sure to write the White House about this, emphasizing your vote for the President!

  11. When you publish these notices, you could make each name a link to their email so we can address them directly those that sit on committees. I am tired of being broke. The extra $500 a month that is withheld from me from the SS would go a long way to paying for my propane, car repairs and food. As a teacher for special education for 18 years, I feel that I should be entitled to what is rightfully mine since I worked all my quarters previous to entering the field of education. Why should I be penalized? Morally wrong.

  12. Do I understand this new bill as only for those who have not yet retired? I worked as a teacher for 15 years and was not allowed to contribute to SS. I also worked in the private sector for 15 years where I contributed to SS. Unfortunately, since my retirement 8 years ago, I have received about 50% less in SS benefits for the 15 years when I contributed to SS than I would have had I not been a teacher. Am I still to be penalized even with this new bill?

    1. You probably will be penalized, even with a version of HR 711 that is likely to be re-introduced this year. You might gain something, though…

  13. I’ve been communicating with Rep. Pat Tiberi for the last 17+ years. In the early times he told me that he was going to see that it was repealed “very soon” because it effected both of his parents who were school teachers and covered by Ohio STRS. I’ve emailed both of my state Senators several times and each time I get the standard form letter response.

    I am currently drawing a monthly pension from the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund ever since 1998. A year ago I turned 66 and filed to receive my Social Security benefits. I’d heard horror stories about other members have their SS benefits reduced dramatically. My benefit payments have been reduced by about 55% to 60%.

    Myself and about 10 other law enforcement officers and fire fighters met with Rep. Tiberi a little more than 10 years ago at a local town hall meet & greet. He told us exactly what he thought that we wanted to hear and left the room. Out of that group of public servant retirees I am the only one left alive. It appears to me that Mr. Tiberi is just waiting for me to die and he can go about business as usual. I’m still in pretty good health Mr. Tiberi and you’re going to continue to hear from me until I see some results. NOW, MOVE IT!!!!

  14. Dear Susan Nunes, You are right, the SSA is wrong and things make a lot of sense now. The SSA contacted me last September and told me they had made a mistake and overpaid me. Thus my benefits would be reduced and they wanted my overpayment returned in 30 days, or I could appeal. My attorney filed an appeal over the reduction and the claim of overpayment due to their error in October. I’m still waiting for a reply. I guess it is time for chapter 2.

  15. I gave an incorrect committee to contact in my previous post. It should have read: United States Senate Special Committee On Aging. Contact them and express your opinion of WEP/GPO and share your personal stories. Facebook – @senateaging

  16. I am a veteran that served during the Vietnam war. After I got out I worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 25 years and helped many veterans. I was forced to take an early retirement due to the fact that our Department was moving to another State. My Government pension was cut drastically due to the early retirement. I will start drawing S. S. in July of this year and it will also be cut drastically because of WEP. In addition I cannot draw my spousal benefit because of GPO. This is so very unfair. Is this a way to treat a Veteran?

  17. My husband is a retired fire fighter. The city (Central Falls, RI) he worked for, for 25 years went bankrupt 5 years ago and subsequently he and about 100 retired firefighter’s & police officer’s lost 25% of their pensions. He is now going to lose 40% of his SS benefits as well. Please help fix WEP unfairness!

  18. This law has many flaws and in my opinion infringes on our constitutional rights. One example: I have lived equally in both the UK and US and I am a citizen of both countries. I have 22 years of SS credit and I am also eligible for a UK Gov. Pension. I will be penalized with a reduction of my SS Pension by 1 dollar for every 2 dollars of UK Pension. Why reduce a persons spendable income which is part of another countries revenue. My spendable income being reduced effects the US economy negatively. Foreign money coming into the US is a plus for the economy, but the effect is nulled by WEP penalties as in this case. I have less money to spend because of WEP. If my entire working years was in the US alone there would be no reduction in my SS. WEP is smothering our economy and economic growth.

  19. My attorney and I appealed a decision by the SSA that they overpaid me for 10 months in October of 2016. We also appeal their decision to steal 72% of my School Employees Retirement System pension when the SS laws state that they can not steal more than 50% of a pension on October. We have not received a reply. I believe they know they are wrong and hope I go away. No chance! I’m also believe that there are many who have given up. We must not give up. The more noise the better.

  20. I do not understand why the real explanation of what the WEP is all about, wy it is unjust and needs repealing and that we MUST insist on it. Here is an explanation I feel is very correct and thorough and we need to understand it so that we can fight for its repeal. I do not understand why some attorneys do not take this up as a mantle and try to force this issue before the courts.
    The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP): This is the most comprehensive information I have found to date and explains exactly why this is wrong, unjust and needs to go. The American people should be outraged this has gone on for so long – about 33 years. Taking thousands of dollars away from hard working people who earned their SS benefits before working for schools, etc. in non-taxed jobs.

    Public employees may be penalized by the Windfall Elimination Provision and lose up to 60% of your earned Social Security retirement benefits! If they have had two jobs: one in which they paid Social Security taxes and therefore earned their own Social Security credits and another job in which they did not pay Social Security taxes. (This later job is referred to as “non-covered”! public!employment).

    Why the GPO and the WEP are unjust

    The GPO/WEP are based on faulty assumptions. The offsets were based on a decision to treat pensions from certain public positions as if they were the same as Social Security!
    Error One:

    These public agency pensions were earned separately and differently from Social Security, yet they are used to reduce the amount of Social Security benefits that a worker receives during retirement. When participation is required by both Social Security and also State and local pensions, the public pension is earned and collected separately. Therefore, it should have no effect on Social Security benefits earned elsewhere. •

    Error Two:

    The GPO/WEP formulas are arbitrary and inconsistent. Social Security and public agency pension benefits are treated differently by Federal tax law. While federal income tax is collected on public agency pensions, Social Security benefits are sheltered, often completely, from this tax. State community property laws may treat them differently, also. Due to these two differences, a public pension should not be used to offset the amount of Social Security earned.

    Unintended/Undesirable Consequences of the GPO/WEP

    Loss in earned benefits is severe, often resulting in substantial lifestyle!reductions and even poverty, for formerly productive working citizens of middle/low class. •
    According to the 2013 Congressional Research Service Report, in December of 2011 the average yearly public pension for those affected by the GPO was $24,780. For a person with this average pension, the GPO resulted in an annual loss of more than $6,876 in earned Social Security benefits. Few people can sustain a loss of that much money in retirement. Older workers often have pensions that pay half that amount, and they still lose the same percentage of their deserved Social Security retirement benefits.!It is possible for one’s spouse to pay Social Security taxes of as much as $90,000 and yet their survivor may receive nothing from what was a contribution of join marital income. • WEP: The WEP was not designed to affect the middle or low wage earners that it can deeply penalize.

    WEP cuts to earned benefits are substantial, commonly causing serious lifestyle reductions. Someone with a pension of only $900 a month from a “non-covered” government job can have his/her earned monthly Social Security benefits cut from $600 to $300. •

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