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.
To 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!