Posted In: California, Moving in Congress, Rallies and Events, Retired Educators, Uncategorized

Support retired educators: Lobby Congress on social security offsets GPO and WEP

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by Tim Reed

Many retired educators, firefighters and police officers have found themselves asking a simple question, “Why can’t I get the benefits I’ve earned?” The Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) currently allow the government to reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for those who receive a government pension.

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The GPO reduces public employees’ spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension. What this means in real world terms is that 9 out of 10 public employees impacted by GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though that spouse has been paying into social security their entire career. Why shouldn’t educators, firefighters and police officers enjoy the same social security benefits those in the private sector do?

WEP, on the other hand, reduces or eliminates social security benefits expected from another job for anyone who will receive a public pension. Want to switch from a private sector job to a life of public service? Better think again. WEP means that even if your life of public service entitles you to only a $1 a month public pension, your social security that has been accumulating your entire career will be reduced or eliminated entirely.

Think getting a part-time job during the summer will help you save for retirement? Nope. If you’re already working in the public sector you’ll never see that money you’re paying into social security once you reach retirement. What better way to disincentivize public service than making it impossible for people who choose that path to retire comfortably.

These two social security provisions negatively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of public servants. GPO on its own reduces benefits for some 300,000 retirees by more than $3,600 a year each. For many struggling retirees this can mean the difference between a comfortable lifestyle and poverty.

CRTATo help fight back against these damaging provisions, NEA is partnering with the California Retired Teachers Association for a GPO-WEP lobbying day on April 3. Educators from California can register at CalRTA.org to join a trip to Capitol Hill where travelers will meet with their elected officials to speak out on this important issue.

If you’re not from California, you can still participate in the lobbying day. NEA has a wide range of resources to help you lobby on this issue available at NEA.org. There you will find talking points, leave-behinds, tips for scheduling your meeting and more. Use these resources to plan a trip to DC or contact officials in your state and schedule a visit near your home.

Can’t make it DC on April 3? Send an email urging your Senators and Representatives to repeal the GPO and WEP. Let them know that public servants deserve retirement security too!

Reader Comments

  1. Diane Devalt

    I had been receiving social security spousal benefits since October, 2013. Now that I have been retired from public school teaching in CT since July, 2014, my spousal benefits are being taken away. I am a US citizen and under Amendment 14, I have rights of US citizens and that includes being able to collect EARNED social security benefits including social security benefits.
    Repeal the law that forbids our being able to collect earned social security benefits.

    Reply
  2. Franchesca S.

    I live in Nevada and my neighbor is a retired teacher from the state of Washington where she spent her entire career. She says that her Social Security is not affected by the windfall. How is this so?

    Franchesca S.

    Reply
    • Tim S

      Simple Franchesca. Public school educators in Washington pay into Social Security, so your neighbor is NOT effected. The GPO and WEP only effect educators in the dozen or so states where teachers DO NOT pay into Social Security.

      Reply
  3. Nancy L Fischer

    I cannot believe that my social security money will be reduced by so much! I worked most of my life in the private sector, earning especially low income during my early years. After 16 years as a customer engineer for IBM, I finished a degree in Education and moved into teaching at a Missouri public school. No one warned me that becoming a teacher later in my career would cost me in retirement! How can they take the money I contributed without warning? Maybe we should start an ad campaign warning people not to switch careers to teaching, due to the high cost.

    Reply
  4. Jean Makarevich

    I retired from teaching in 2012, and prior to that I knew nothing about the WEP/GPO. All of my years of SS contributions- used loosely!– were in teaching in Pennsylvania and abroad with the DoD. If the NEA is supporting the repeal or revision of these unconstitutional provisions and there is support in both branches and nothing is done, THEN WHAT CAN WE DO AS A GROUP? There must be enough of us to do something to bring more widespread attention and understanding of these punitive laws. Any ideas?

    Reply
  5. Steve Dictenberg

    Ssme thing year after year, there were even many years with 75 percent of the so called CO-SPONSORS signed on. Every year even with all the co-sponsors, when it came time to get it out of committee, they hid.
    I don’t have anymore faith that they will finally step up to the plate. Just lip service appears every year for at least a decade now. Hope they finally prove me wrong.

    Reply
  6. Phyllis

    Could you ask him how did SSA arrive at the WEP/GPO formula? Why 2/3rds?

    Reply
  7. P. Abraham

    The whole professionals working in the education fields are the prey and the law makers
    as well as the professional unions are the predators because they make their living using
    us.As tax payers,educators(educating the whole nation’s future children/adults), paying
    union fees ,voting for the candidates representing the Local, the State, and the National
    Govts., we are the modern slaves. Together, we can make a big difference and we need
    to educate everyone using the most modern technology. Our children are our future.It takes
    the whole nation to educate each and every child. Let us pray for our children and our future. Sorry, I did not reveal my identity. I had the privilege and pleasure to educate/teach
    my students,their siblings,their moms,dads,and even their grandparents in the great city of Houston for the last 32 years. I am retired now and I have been going through almost the same problems most of my fellow teachers and educators are going through. I cannot
    receive my spouse’s social security benefits (married to her for the last 33 years), if anything happens to her because I chose a wrong profession as an educator. She has been working and paying her social security for the last 33 years( working in the same State of Texas.) We are the victims and we need to fight for our rights in a different way because we are talking to the walls. Wish us all the best. God bless each and every student and professional learning and educating .

    Reply
  8. Mary E Jones

    I, too, feel that the NEA and TSTA have let us down. This have been going on for years with promies but nothing materializes. I am worn out sending letters to the Congress with absolutely no results after years of promises.

    Reply
  9. Jennie E Zalesney

    I feel that the NEA has not represented us well. An organization that represents the teachers of this country has been very uninvolved in responding to why teachers are unfairly taking blame for failing schools. Teachers in good schools have more input into why children in our country have better opportunities compared to children in other countries. Our systems are better because all children regardless of ability are given the opportunity to get a quality education. This gives us a better educated middle-class than countries that give higher education only to those who score
    high. The teachers that I worked with deserve recognition. I don’t think that the privatization of public schools should have been so readily accepted as testing has
    shown. The President called for more intelligent people to become teachers; this very attitude of disrespect by the President for our profession is disappointing.

    Reply
  10. James Hamilton

    I agree with Matthew Valenti. The federal government is stealing from teachers who have paid into S.S. when they worked other jobs to supplement their low teaching salaries, or who worked non-teaching jobs sometime during their lives. The Republicans passed the WEP and GPO during the Reagan years, when they decided to use teachers’ S.S. money to pay for the Reagan military build-up without raising taxes. The Democrats could have ended this when they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House in 2008-2010, but the Senate Democrats (just like nowadays) sat back and allowed the filibuster to let the Republican minority call the shots in the Senate. Over 350 bills that the House passed in those two years never were acted upon by the Senate because Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, and other Senate Democrats refused to dump the filibuster. We teachers are left holding the bag. I actually got a message from my Democratic Senator telling me that the repeal of the WEP would not happen because “it would cost too much.” (In other words, Congress intends to continue using my S.S. money for something else they deem more important. Outrageous.) The NEA has never made this a priority, either. Frankly, we would see fast action if the 300,000 members of the California Teachers’ Association (not to mention the many thousands of teachers in the other affected states) made it clear to NEA that it would not get another dime in dues from teachers in those states until NEA made the repeal of the WEP and GPO its top issue. We ought to use our money and clout to run out of office any member of Congress who opposes this repeal. There is nothing on our list of issues that is more important than this because it affects the retirement of virtually every teacher in numerous states.

    Reply
  11. Evie Hardiman

    I taught for 3 years before my son was born and was lucky enough to be able to stay home with him. 8 years later I returned as a substitute. I was widowed when my kids were 5 and 8. I was fortunate to get a full time position that year. 3 years later Massachusetts passed Proposition 2 1/2 and I was laid off. I went to school and became a Medical Technologist and worked for 10 years. I was very fortunate to get back into teaching then and put in 22 more years. I retired at 65 with 27.9 years of teaching. I do not get a full teachers pension and S.S. will only give me 40% of what I earned. I also am mad. This isn’t fair. I was told when I started my last teaching postition that the NEA was working on this problem and not to worry. Well, I am worried because nothing has been accomplished. I get 69% of my teaching pension, and 40% of the S.S. that I earned and 0% of what my husband earned before is death.

    Reply
    • Jennie E Zalesney

      I am in about the same situation as Hardiman I worked as a professional for Raytheon and after earning low wages (women were not paid as professionals even though we worked in; engineering, as artists, as designers), I worked with men that were not as capable nor as educated but their income was three times more than mine. I found this atmosphere unacceptable and turned to teaching. I never earned enough to get a pension and the company gave me a settlement of $!000. I am affected unfairly by both the WEP and GPO. My husband’s company folded due to modernization and I was unable to benefit from his retirement because he was too young for a pension. When I retired I was informed that the reason I couldn’t collect on his Social Security was because my pension was greater than his.

      Reply
  12. Susan Welence

    I served in the United States Air Force as a transportation officerfor 11 years and will not get a military retirement because it is under 20 years. I even served during the first Gulf War and worked under War Time conditions, 12 hour shifts 6 days a week for 6 months with no overtime. I also worked for an entire year under War Time conditions when I served at Osan AB in Korea. If I had known this I wouldn’t have gotten out of the military and gone back to teaching. I have been writing to my Legislator, Dan Lungren, for the past 10 years when I became aware of this unfairness. He collects 2 pensions one from the state for being a state legislator and one from Congress. The Windfall Act and GPO doesn’t affect him because of how the state pension program is administered. Is this fair? He will make millions and because I started my 2nd career at 40 I will not even make a living wage. We need to let teachers know about this because many of them are totally unaware and if we can get every teacher to write to their congressional representatives surely it will be overturned.

    Reply
  13. Jim Foley

    At 77 years of age, I continue to work all the while contributing to Social Security which I will never receive. I estimate that in the 12 years since I was 65, I have been deprived of my rightful benefits of nearly $75,000. Even though I have contributed off and on since I was a teenager. This promise made was broken, and continues to be broken by mostly Republican lawmakers who refuse to allow repeal of the law to be brought to a vote. A curse on all you educators who continue to vote for those charlatans..

    Reply
    • Matthew Valenti

      Jim, I’m not a Republican, but let me tell you this…..We had a Democratic Majority and NEA should have been able to get this through during this time. Why did they fail? I’m so angry that this opportunity was allowed to pass.

      Reply
  14. Matthew Valenti

    It’ ludicrous to me that we as teachers are still trying to get this rectified. I found out about it 13 years ago. I’ve given dutifully to the NEA fund for public education to get this changed, but two years ago, I’ve stopped giving to this because they’ll never get this fixed, and I’m not going to waste any more money. I will be severely penalized, and I put in money to SS for ALL my part time positions. Thank goodness I’ll get medicare, I’m sure they’ll start to take this away also. I’m retiring in two years, unless something is done quickly I’m sure this won’t help me. But I will write again. I’ve been writing every year. Shame on the largest teachers union for not taking care of this, and at one time we had a majority of democrats just a few years ago!

    Reply
  15. Judy Smith

    I am truly glad NEA has gotten involve.

    Reply
    • Matthew Valenti

      They’ve been involved for years. Nothing has changed on this at all.

      Reply
  16. Peg Nicholson

    So glad this is coming up. I, too, am in Missouri, and went into education in my forties. I paid into SS for a long time and this is hugely unfair

    Reply
    • Matthew Valenti

      You’re right, it’s very unfair. But NEA has been working on this for a long time, and nothing has changed. We can’t seem to get rid of this.

      Reply
  17. Susan Davis

    I live and teach in Missouri. We are already living this reality! Even though I have held other parttime jobs that withheld Social Security from my checks and qualify me for SS benefits AND my ex husband (of 30 years) will have a healthy SS benefit from which I could be eligible for part of, I CANNOT look forward to collecting almost any of it. We are 1 of 8 states who are living this reality already. It is unfair and sucks! It’s not like teachers make a whole lot of money to begin with (not to mention being frozen for 5 years) and being divorced makes it that much harder to look at impending retirement optimistically. Stand strong against this folks. It’s a simple reverse Robin Hood move. Take from the poor and middle class and give it to the rich!

    Reply
    • Jean

      Our benefits are not taken to give to the rich. Social Security has been raided for years by the government for other areas and is full of IOU memos that are never repaid. On another site- just yesterday- i read a comment concerning the WEP/GPO problem. It was from a reader who spoke in person to an elected official concerning these policies and was told by said official that “we always say in public of our support for the repeal of these policies but we have NO intention of ever voting them out of committee.” So there you have it. From the lips of those voted to represent us. We MUST organize in some other way to bring attention to ourselves and these policies. Most Americans do not know they exist, and even family members say “HUH?” when we tell them how we are negatively affected.

      Reply
  18. Jon-Paul Roden

    Members of Connecticut’s CEA-Retired are always looking for news that deals with Social Security and our fight to eliminate the WEP/GPO. CEA-Retired has time after time made sure that our members know about the consequences of the WEP/GPO and has made it a point to both educate our members, especially new retirees, about those consequences while encouraging them to take action by lobbying the Congressional Delegation for the elimination of the WEP/GPO.
    Again this spring, Al Campos, a federal lobbyist at NEA who has spoken to us previously, will be a featured guest speaker at the CEA-Retired Annual Spring Business Meeting to be held on May 23, 2013 at the Aqua Turf Club. Campos has been with NEA for a number of years and working with colleagues is responsibilities for federal legislative and regulatory issues concerning taxation, pensions, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, and school finance.
    Members can find additional information about Penalties for Public Service and view a video of Campos when he was a previous guest speaker at a CEA-Retired Meeting at http://www.cea.org/cear/news/2011/wep-gpo-update.cfm

    Reply
    • p

      Hi- at his talk could you ask him about why legal action has not happened? WEP/GPO seem to be unconstitutional – taxation with out representation. Thanks

      Reply
  19. pamela brucker

    I taught for 30 years, and my husband taught for 37 years. During that time we paid 7% of our income into the Teachers Retirement Fund in CT. No employer paid in any money – that was all our money. However, the SSA considers that pension ( our own money) a “windfall” and only gives us 1/4 of what we paid into from jobs other than our teaching jobs. How is this fair?

    Reply

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