U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) today introduced the Social Security Fairness Act, 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.
“This bill ensures that a teacher who spends his or her summers working a second job or a police officer who changes careers after years of service will not face a possible 40 percent reduction in their Social Security benefits,” said Davis. “By repealing these outdated provisions that unfairly penalize public servants in Illinois, we can provide some certainty to retirees while helping to recruit future teachers, firefighters, and police officers.”
“We must work to ensure that public employees, just like retirees who have private pensions, receive the full Social Security benefits to which they are entitled,” 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 hard work for the public good is justly compensated, even in retirement.”
"These outdated provisions deprive educators and other public employees of the benefits they have earned and the secure retirement they deserve," said Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna. "I thank Representatives Davis and Schiff for their leadership on this issue and for their support of educators throughout Illinois and across the nation."
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.
Davis and Schiff were the lead sponsors of the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 in the 113th Congress. 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.