Reps. Davis and Schiff Introduce Bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced that they have introduced the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), which eliminates the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), two titles of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for millions of Americans who have devoted much of their careers to public service, such as teachers and police officers.
When Social Security was first created in the 1930s, public employees were excluded by design because they were the only workers that already had pension programs in place. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), almost thirty percent (30%) of public employees - 7 million people – are not covered by Social Security. Since then, many public employees have held down more than one job and paid into Social Security even though they are still precluded from drawing any benefits they would otherwise have accrued.
"These outdated policies unfairly penalize many public workers who we rely on every day to educate our children and keep our neighborhoods safe," said Davis. “At a time when many states, like Illinois, are struggling to fund pension plans, we must act now to provide some certainty to retirees and to future educators, police officers and firefighters."
“We must work to ensure that public employees, just like retirees who have private pensions, receive the Social Security benefits to which they are entitled when they pay into the system,” said Schiff. “We have a responsibility to our educators, police officers, and fire fighters to act now to repeal these inequitable provisions, and ensure that retirees are not denied the benefits they worked hard to earn.”
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. For example, educators who do not earn Social Security in the public schools but who work part-time or during the summer in jobs covered by Social Security have reduced benefits even though they pay into the system just like others. The WEP also affects people who move from a job in which they earn Social Security to a job, such as teaching, in which they do not.
The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects the spousal benefits of people who work as federal, state, or local government employees—including educators, police officers, and firefighters—if the job is not covered by Social Security. GPO reduces by two-thirds the benefit received by surviving spouses who also collect a government pension. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years.
The WEP substantially reduces benefits workers included and counted on when planning their retirement and it substantially penalizes lower paid public employees. These provisions also discourage qualified, talented individuals from entering into public service professions, hindering efforts to attract new math and science teachers from the private sector unwilling to sacrifice earned Social Security from prior careers. The WEP and GPO provisions do not eliminate a windfall for workers, they penalize public service employees by taking away benefits they earned throughout their careers.
There have been numerous Congressional hearings on the Social Security Fairness Act, however, this bill has never been brought to a vote before the full House or Senate. Repeal of the WEP and GPO should be a part of the discussion as Congress grapples with our current fiscal issues and reforming of the federal tax code.