ALERT #52 – Washington D.C. Report and What We Can Do Now

On April 2 more than 40 members of the California Retired Teachers Association arrived in Washington DC to speak to the policy makers (Legislative Aides) while their bosses were on Easter recess.  It involved lots of early planning as well as organizing the debriefings and writing thank you letters to the legislators. We thank CalRTA for the hard work they did to organize this!  It proved to be a good time to be there.

Every one of the 53 CA Congressional Offices was visited, nearly all of them with formal appointments on April 3.  In addition, on April 4th and 5th, three members of Social Security Fairness went to an additional six members of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee and left information. We left information at another 22 offices of the members of the Senate Finance Committee (the Ways and Means counterpart in the Senate) and a few others.  Some of these visits were requested by our members, and the list of Senators we visited is at the bottom of this Alert.  Also, attached, is the 4-page packet we left in the offices.

A number of offices also were given hand-signed petitions for repeal from the Congress Person’s own constituents.  The online “petition” that is on our website is actually a method of sending emails directly to legislators and were sent when you signed that form. (Nearly 15,700 letters sent so far!)  While leaving the packets we were able to talk to aides in 7 different Senate offices, finding some for the repeal and some against it.

Useful things we learned:

1.  There are some strong forces, including NEA, working out a plan to re-introduce the repeal bills.  Timing is important as are the details.  We hope to see some new bills soon.

2.  The worst thing we heard is that the cost to get rid of the offsets is the same as will be “saved” by instituting the Chained CPI.  Neither will make much of a difference in the big picture. (less than 2% of annual payments)

3.   The most useful thing we heard was that many staff members, even those with years of experience on “The Hill,” do not understand how the offsets actually affect people.  Our job is to fix that.


Prepare your best letter and use it over and over. Mention the hardship that the Offsets have caused you, specifically, using dollar amounts if you wish, and also show them why much of the thought process behind the GPO/WEP is faulty.  Write to the person in your Representative or Senator’s office who is in charge of Social Security questions, when possible.  When explaining the faulty reasoning behind the GPO/WEP you may find a complete list of ideas in the attachment or select from the list below.

We recommend using these points when writing your Senator or Representative’s office.

1.  You were never told before you retired, either by your employer or by the SSA, that the statements you got for years were not representing the amount of money you would get as a benefit. (The law to inform employees did not affect anyone hired before Jan. 1, 2005)

2.   Although there have been some public employment situations where employees have had the choice to contribute to Social Security as well as their public pension, you had no choice whether or not to pay into Social Security. (Many people in Washington know that Federal employees in the 1980’s could choose to stay in their current retirement system and not pay into SS or join FERS and pay into both the Federal Employee Retirement System and Social Security, earning both pensions.

3.   The amount you lose to the WEP makes no sense based on your public pension amount and work history. (Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas has developed a formula that is more accurate, but it is also very complex.)  People who have studied this issue know that it is wrong.  It is based on a guess, rather than recent hard data.

4.   The GPO was not meant to cause dependants to lose ALL of their earned spousal or survivor benefits.  Changes in wages in the past 30 years have distorted the formula—a short career negates many years of dependency.  If you do get your own SS benefits they will be reduced each year by 2/3 of any cost of living increase in your public pension.

5.  Both Offsets have an unequal effect on women, and exacerbate the male/female wage gap.  Of the nearly 568,000 penalized by the GPO, 80% are women and, of those, 74% lose their entire Social Security benefit. In addition, women often have lower level wages and a shorter work career, which gives them a smaller Social Security retirement benefit based on their own work, and then that benefit is also cut by the WEP. This is a case of double jeopardy!

6. WEP fails to consider that some workers have earned only Social Security and no additional pension for part of their career.  Some employers provide no pension system and some pensions require a specific number of years before becoming vested. Therefore, because people change employers, lose their jobs before pensions are vested, or work for employers with no pension system, many people receive no separate pension contributions other than Social Security from their employers. Even though these workers may eventually qualify for a public pension in addition to Social Security, they will be deprived of some of the only retirement benefits they received for many of their working years. Their Social Security, and their retirement income will be calculated on a partial lifetime of work, rather than their full lifetime of work, thereby substantially reducing their future standard of living.

House Ways and Means members offices visited:

Doggett TX, Griffin AR, Sam Johnson TX, Kelly PA, Schwartz PA, Schock IL

Senate offices visited:  (*offices where we spoke to policy aides)

Begich*, Bennett, Boxer*, Brown, Carper, Cornyn, Feinstein*, Graham, Cantwell, Enzi, Hatch*, McCaskill, Mikulski, Murkowski, Rockefeller, Nelson, Portman*, Rubio*, Stabenow, Toomey, Warren*, Whitehouse.

We have received support from retirees in nearly every state in the Union. Thanks to all of you who have been acting on the Alerts and who have continued to bring this issue to the attention of Congress in a positive manner.  As we join together to fight for repeal we would like to clarify that unless people have given permission, it is not our policy to share private emailsThis is a long, hard battle and we respect everyone who has tried to right this wrong from whatever position they are in, including both elected and association officials.

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  1. I am a retired educator-but have worked other jobs and now I am a elected magistrate in Kentucky.SS said I would draw 698.00 when I reach 67,but my 1st SS check was 231.00.I have been a magistrate for12 years & pay SS now I draw 271.00 a month that not 698.00 I paid in so I should draw what I paid.

  2. I stayed home most of my 31 year rmarriage to raise four children, driving them to parochial schools and saving the state of California 30 school years in public school tuition. I worked a little under social security in my youth, but when my husband died in 1989 I had to get a job at a public library and it earned a pension but not social security. I did not RETIRE at age 51 but started WORKING then. When I retired at age 70 I could not collect my widow’s benefit. So I am left with a modest pension about $2200 month and $150/month social security. I should be getting my widow’s benefit but do not because of the GPO/WEP.

    This is unfair. I deserve better.

  3. Pure and simple, everyone who is penalized by this trumped up “windfall” provision was robbed of their legally earned full payments FOR NO REASON other than the Reagan administration found a way to do it. My husband worked for all of the necessary years and had all of his “quarters” paid in full before he accepted employment with the Dept. of Defense in 1980. His SS benefits are reduced significantly, and as his wife of 40+ years, mine are too. What a horrible crime against working Americans.

  4. Having worked and PAID all my social security dues, in both the UK and the US, I now find out that the American Government will deduct the sum of 6.00 from my social security. Had I worked for the US my whole working life, I would have had a pension in excess of 00.00 per month. Now I am almost 69 years old and have not collected my US social security as I am still working full time, still paying into the social security fund with no hope of reaping any benefit, I paid from my hard earned paycheck every week in the UK, social security dues, then here in the US I PAID social security dues again with the expectation that I would receive what was due to me at retirement, I find myself unable to retire because of the money being STOLEN from me. No-one in congress contributed to my pensions in either country, so why are they taking it from me. It is actually illegal what you are doing, and I urge you to look into all of the discriminatory aspects of this horrible practice. I also PAID TAXES to BOTH countries while I was working. I urge you to look up the meaning of the word “WINDFALL” in the dictionary, because I would in no way shape or form call my hard earned money a windfall, Is this so that Government INFLATED pensions can keep getting bigger, and people like myself and thousands of others LOSE their pensions that they HAVE WORKED ALL THEIR LIVES FOR. —–SHOCKING

  5. The above comment has somehow changed my dollar amounts. It should be $486.00 not 6, and also in excel of $2000.00
    I have no idea why these numbers changed as I certainly did not type them like that.

  6. I too worked and earned SS credits before joining the Post Office. My jobs with SS benefits were very low paying, so I wasn’t expecting a “windfall”, but maybe 300.00 a month, helpful for med’s, etc.
    I read, but may be off, that a minimum of $365.00 mol, will be deducted from any benefit I had paid. WOW, probably going to get a double digit SS payment a month after working and contributing to SS for years. UNFAIR. My pension with the PO is barley below the poverty line. I am grateful for my Post Office pension, but will need the SS as well. WEP is going to hurt the lower income people the most, so why in the world do some people think this unfair lesgislation should stay??? We are getting OUR money stolen from us just because they can and the Public is not that interested cause they don’t understand the effect. IMHO. I’m writing, calling and emailing public officials NOW, we’ve got to take action.

  7. My comments are very similar to those already posted. After going back to teaching to help educate our family and paying for eleven years their college education, I retired from teaching in 2012. Another wrong that has been discovered along the way is the rule to report any COLA on my Teacher Pension to SS so that amount can be deducted from my already reduced SS. This is like kicking a dog when it is down. In a few years, I will receive very little SS. While I am thankful for what I DO receive, since all of us had no choice in our “contributions” to either the Pension or SS, the question is what else can we DO to bring attention to this Policy? My family and friends knew NOTHING of this and even those who will be affected do not know. We do not have the political clout needed to bring attention and correction to this wrong. Any suggestions?

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