Education News

Help protect retirement for public servants: GPO/WEP fix introduced in Congress

by Tim Reed

Last week, Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 896), previously introduced in the House (H.R. 1795) by Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA). This legislation would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which penalize people who have dedicated their lives to public education and other public service careers by taking away benefits they have EARNED.

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GPO reduces public employees’ Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension — nine out of ten people lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years. WEP reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security — hard-working people lose a significant portion of the benefits they have earned themselves.

What this means, in real terms, is that public servants such as teachers, firefighters and police officers are losing the benefits they earned through a lifetime of public service. Loss of benefits can result from moving from private to public employment and vice versa or moving between states that have different GPO/WEP rules.

The bipartisan legislation recognizes and respects the contributions of educators and other public employees by eliminating unfair penalties attached to public service. Nearly 1.2 million NEA members will be eligible for full retirement within the next 10 years. These people are educators that have devoted their lives to students.

The brave men and women serving  as police officers and firefighters even have to worry about their spouses being able to receive their survivor benefits if they lose their lives in the line of duty. After dedicating their lives to protecting our nation, we owe them, at the very least, the peace of mind that comes with knowing their families will be able to access the benefits they have worked their entire lives to earn.

AmbulanceThe effects of the unfair GPO-WEP practices have far-reaching implications for education, starting with disincentivizing a career in public service. We should be encouraging the best and brightest from the private sector to enter the teaching profession and help groom the next generation of leaders in this country, not punishing those who aspire to a life of public service.

Those who are attempting to enter public service across our country are being held back by the fear that they will not be able to provide for themselves and their families in retirement. Educator and former private industry employee “Pat S” said it well in a comment on a recent GPO/WEP article right here on Education Votes:

I am disgusted that hard-working teachers are discriminated against with WEP and GPO! I worked for 20 years in the private sector until I was finally in a financial position to afford finishing my college degree and credential program to become a teacher. I started teaching late in life and will not be able to accrue 30 years or so towards my retirement. My education retirement, therefore, will not meet my retirement needs. Had I known when I decided to dedicate myself to the future of children (teaching in a high poverty school district with a lower pay scale despite the fact that I live in an affluent community), I would probably not have made the same decision. I now have to worry about my own future as I may become a burden to my children.

I have paid into the mandatory Social Security system in my private sector positions, and I should therefore be paid benefits as any other citizen who draws on Social Security, based on my years of private service and pay rate.

As this discriminatory policy becomes more well known to those considering public employment, our country may lose the talents of those who worked hard, paid for their own education, and bring experience, knowledge, and a good heart to serve the public.

I will certainly never encourage my peers or others considering changing professions to consider public employment, and will tell them of the personal pitfalls they will encounter.

Our students deserve the best educators our country can produce, but right now an entire generation of hopeful teachers and career changers are being turned away by a broken system. Stand up for public servants and retirement security by sending an email to your elected officials urging them to support the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013!

14 responses to “Help protect retirement for public servants: GPO/WEP fix introduced in Congress

  1. WIDOWS NEED HELP NOW! Kent Conrad and James Lockhart….think that Soc Security should be MORE FAIR to Widowed Women! Conrad thinks widowed women should GET THEIR OWN BENEFITS and 3/4 of their DECEASED SPOUSE’S BENEFITS! This model for Soc Sec would keep Widowed Women OUT OF POVERTY!!! REPEAL: WEP & GPO for Widowed Women WHO TEACH IN MISSOURI! Tell Congressmen to PASS: HR 973 & S 1651. OR….Time To Correct the MATH FOR WEP….per Kevin Brady’s HR 711.

    Social Security Advisory Board should be publishing a POSITION PAPER on the GOVERNMENT PENSION OFFSET….and the harmful effects it causes for widows…by the end of this year! Just as BRADY has said…TIME TO CORRECT THE MATH FOR WEP…the SSAB….should be documenting that it’s TIME TO CORRECT THE MATH FOR WIDOWS!!! WE EARNED AND DESERVE OUR SURVIVOR BENEFITS!!!

    I asked NEA lobbyist…Al Campos…questions about GPO….and he couldn’t answer my questions !!! I have paid NEA union dues for 25 years! I need to know about the 60 months exemption for GPO. Supposedly…if you work the LAST 60 MONTHS…IN A POSITION THAT PAYS INTO SOC SECURITY…AND THE JOB IS IN THE SAME RETIREMENT SYSTEM….YOU CAN BE EXEMPTED FROM GPO . Has anyone tried this? What do you know about GPO….that I don’t know ?????


    There’s suppose to be a law…that all new teachers in Missouri…are suppose to SIGN A PAPER….stating that the SCHOOL DISTRICT…has INFORMED THEM ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY…AND THE 2 LAWS….WEP & GPO. I just asked a NEW TEACHER….if she signed her paper….SHE SAID SHE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT! I personally don’t think the LAW is being followed. I know NEA….NEVER TALKS ABOUT WEP & GPO!!! Whenever I tell someone about these 2 LAWS…..they don’t believe me! My Fnancial Planner and Tax advisor….were completely unaware of WEP & GPO !!!

  2. I worked all my life under social security. At 55, I decided to become a teacher, not knowing that doing so I would lose my SS. After going to a workshop for those planning retirement, I discovered that all I would get would be my Maine State Retirement of approximately $500 a month. The Social Security representative told me that I would NOT get any SS and I would also lose my widow’s benefits. There was another widowed teacher there who was told the same thing. She has also decided later in life to teach. This is an unfair law and needs to be repealed.

  3. So here we are more than a year later (from 5/2013). It’s now 6/2014! I would like for NEA to keep us updated on what has been happening to S. 896. The info here is now old and out of date. My own invesatigations have shown that this bill is “just sitting around” and “may have been absorbed into another bill.” It will expire in December, 2014! Previous attempts to rescind the WEP and GPO have not been successful. What MAY make the difference this time around is our ability to organize. NEA, please help us to mobilize on this! We need to be able to take some kind of legislative action such as you have provided to us in the past. Summer is a good time to mobilize our membership. THIS BILL TO RESCIND WEP/GPO WILL EXPIRE AND DIE IN DECEMBER OF 2014 UNLESS WE TAKE ACTION IN MASS! IT’S TOO IMPORTANT TO TREAT WITH APATHY!!! NEA, HELP US! Members, call the Finance Committee office at 202-224-4515 and ask to be connected to Senator Tom Klohden (sp?)who is the Social Security person on the committee. Ask for an update and for how to keep this alive, who else to contact, etc. If I can find out more, I will post here.

  4. I earned my qualifying 11 years of social security quarters while working in two other states. After 30 years of teaching, why is the CommonWealth of Massachusetts allowed to deny me the majority of my earned social security money that I have already contributed? Robbers without a gun…

  5. I too will be unfairly affected by the GPO and weeps laws. I have written to my congressmen and have received information about their supposed support of the social security fairness act.

    I would like to know what measures the NEA is taking to urge Congress to vote on and pass this once and for all! I feel like the NEA should be taking a more active part in helping to get these unfair laws

    Retired teachers who have had social security paid into the system from other work deserve to get their fair share back. A reduction of these benefits is unacceptable. But a powerful organization such as the NEA must take a more active role in helping!

  6. I like several of the former commenters, worked in the private sector for several year earning enough quarters for social security benefits. I later had a career I public education and have a pension that I worked and saved for through my contribution. I feel that it is a form discrimination the teacher, fireman, police and other important and lower paid government who are eligible for social security are penalized and do not receive the benefits that we worked and contributed to.
    Why would anyone want to change jobs from the private to public sector if they are losing the prior pension the worked for. This must be be changed.

  7. As a single woman who has worked for 45 years earning Social Security credits, and who went into part-time teaching with a love for the classroom, children, and fellow educators, I was faced with having to discontinue teaching as I became closer to being vested in the Teacher’s Retirement System in order to preserve all of my eventual Social Security benefits.
    The punitive practice makes absolutely no sense to me. I initially believed that I was doing the prudent thing in preparing for my retirement years, potentially both earning my SS benefits along with a hard-earned small Teacher’s pension. What a surprise I got when I instead learned about the punishment in California.
    I would venture to guess that women may be more proportionately and adversely impacted by this unfair practice. I know that I want to be as self-sufficient in my retirement years which will be upon me in the next decade, but this unfortunate glitch does not assist me in that quest.

  8. I changed districts in the same state 2 years ago. Imagine my horror in discovering that my out of my 140+ accumulated unused sick leave, only 90 was allowed to transfer. There is a legislative mandate prohibiting transfer of more than 90 days. So much for putting off medical attention to summer and Christmas vacations!!!

  9. My story is very similar to the one above. I also went back to college after having three children and paid for it with loans. The exception is that my husband then passed away (A Viet Nam Vet, owner of a small business, and village Mayor) That’s about the time I found out that I will never receive any of the money he “contributed” to social security, or the money I paid in during the years I worked outside of teaching. I think sometimes my head will explode I get so angry about this unfair law. Then I remember that I live in Illinois, the land of crooked politicians. They have made a mess of Illinois finances and blame teachers for their outrageous stealing of our funds. Its a joke. I just wish I could laugh.

  10. I have lost the spousal benefit because I was a teacher. I am pleased that this issue is being brought forward at this time. I understand that only a few states are affected. This does not seem fair. Thank you for addressing the problem.

  11. What bothers me the most is the fact that all my SS deductions from the pre teaching jobs don’t get refunded and SS still gets deducted and my employers still kick in their share from my second jobs now even though I get no return.

    I could be paid more if the employer didn’t have to pay in to ss on my non teacher earnings.

  12. I want this fixed. I’ve watched year after year of failed legislation. I want what is supposed to be coming to me when i retire in two years.

  13. Thank goodness someone finally realizes the hardship GPO/WEP offsets inflicts on those who have worked in both the private and public sector. Please encourage your senators/congressmen to support this legislation.

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