GPO-WEP: Unfair policies that hurt some retired educators

By Katie Kanner

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When Kentucky music teacher Jim Sproul discovered just how much he would receive in Social Security each month, he was floored. After paying into Social Security for 40 years, Sproul would collect less than half of the monthly benefits he initially expected as a result of two controversial laws that result in severe cuts to retirement benefits: the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

GPO reduces public employees’ Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension — 9 out of 10 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 — meaning hard-working people lose a significant portion of the benefits they have earned themselves.

An educator for 29 years, Sproul has devoted his life to educating children. He’s taught choral music, general music, and served as the principal and assistant principal at three different public schools. But like many educators, he’s also worked odd jobs in addition to teaching in order to make ends meet. So naturally, Sproul was expecting to receive benefits from both Social Security and his public pension.

“Some people call it double-dipping,” says Sproul. “But no one is asking for anything they didn’t earn.”

Not only are GPO and WEP penalizing existing teachers, but they are also discouraging the best and brightest from entering a career in public service. “I’ve explained the ramifications of GPO-WEP to people thinking about switching to teaching, and then they change their mind because they don’t want to be affected by it,” says Sproul.

Oftentimes those who enter the teaching profession later in life have paid into Social Security for years, and don’t realize they won’t receive those full benefits until it’s too late.

The effects of the unfair GPO-WEP practices have far-reaching implications for education and for those who dedicate their lives to public service. Students are losing out as potential educators are discouraged from joining the teaching force. And countless educators who have dutifully served the public sector are unfairly losing retirement benefits.

Jim Sproul is just one of thousands of public servicemen and women who are being forced to survive on less than they earned because of the harsh consequences of GPO-WEP.

The bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act of 2015 (H.R. 973) would repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. Tell your member of Congress to support H.R. 973 so that public employees and educators can receive the benefits they have earned.

35 responses to “GPO-WEP: Unfair policies that hurt some retired educators

  1. It is my understanding that only about 7 States have the GPO- WEP penalty,
    Please let me know if I’m wrong
    Who is my representative in Florida ,,I agree with everyone
    This is not fair,,steel workers get 401, pention, and SS
    I actualy worked 8 hrs a day 12 months out of the year
    More than teachers ,,I worked all summer,,for over 10 years
    Sincerely Toni Fay

  2. My dues help pay for the 2008 Democrat landslide and you did not get the super majorities to get rid of this!!!! Can I have my dues back!

    1. This makes me sick! I’m just a School Bus Driver and fall under this Teacher crap! I paid into Social Security for 23 years working other jobs and this makes no since at all.

  3. God Bless all of you! I myself will be working until 70 to make up for the lose of ex-spouses and my own social security benefits. We are not asking for something we didn’t EARN. I love teaching but I never imagined this could happen in America.

    1. Well I got hurt badly by WEP. I taught in private school for 17 years without a pay check but was paid into SS and then 17 in public school. I got a pension of $1100 for public school teaching. My husband died and he worked until 70 before taking SS. I do not get spousal benefits. At the time I quit a full pension was around $5000 and so I get penalized just the same as one getting $5000? When all was said and done I get no spousal benefits and get a check from SS for $67 period. It cost me $80 to get lawn mowed which I cannot do because of back injury.

      Talk about struggling??? This is so unfair. If one works for both one should get both and I should get spousal benefits like others.

  4. 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 !!!

  5. Unfair. I worked in parochial school for 12 years but also held 2 part time jobs. I got hired in public Ed at 49. I’ll have to work until I’m 79 to receive a pension I could live on. My social security that I put in all these years will be reduced. Not fair. Not fair.

  6. My SS was reduced to 215 a month, I retired at 65, unaware, of wep and offset, I paid into SS for 20 years the last ten years to which I get a gov pension, wipes out most of mine and all of spouse who contributed 40 years to SS while I raised three children. My teaching years were only 10 years for this pension. I taught 14 years total.I .Divorced and now about to lose my home, How can you live off 1100. A month when your mortgage is 800.i have exhausted my savings, I did not make enough to purchase 401 K, I was too busy supporting two sons in college. I contributed 20 years,to SS . the Gov stole my invested money all of those years of mine and my ex husband.
    I wish I could sue the Gov. I would not encourage anyone to teach, I spent long hours, my own money, was not given a raise for five years because of freeze in state wages, and even worked a full week without pay.

  7. So once you get to the Magic Amount that gives you your full benefit, you walk into the boss’ office and ask to be paid as a subcontractor. You no longer have to pay SS , you’re self employed.Your employer saves alot of money, you can go on your State health plan for insurance , get a small business loan,
    get all your teeth fixed, hell , if you play your cards right and make your wife 51% owner, the advantages in a competitive world are significant.
    Isn’t this stupid? Congress should pass no law that makes people who have never had criminal tendencies in thought , deeds or actions, immediately scheme to break it. Oh , forgot, you’d never miss an opening day. If your State does not offer a plan, move. Idiots are running your state. Hurting the poor for principle.

  8. It is unfair that an individual will not receive what they put into Soc Sec. The other side of the coin however is that teacher pensions, with what is a reasonable compensation schedule in many places, and somewhat ridiculous ‘add-ons’ to pay schedules that ‘juice’ pension entitlements create some fairly generous pensions. Few jobs allow for 80% of one’s pay, no more 11% contribution to retirement funds and no 5-6% state tax as we have here in Massachusetts. With no more union dues, that gets a retiree almost 100% of their pay around age 60. Nobody gets that anywhere. Plus lucrative health care benefits.

    Health care benefits, thanks to OBcare, are under attack. That benefit will diminish and state support will significantly lessen.

    What this all means? All public retirement systems need significant revision, they need to be 100% self funded and potentially various choices/options offered. I am amazed at the lack of financial literacy of many teachers and the naïve view of how retirement systems work.

    It will be increasingly difficult to get tax payers to support the lucrative retirement enjoyed by many public employees when they compare what they get from their employers.

  9. Between my military service and years in private industry, I had 24 years paying into Social Security before becoming a teacher. Because of the penalty, I had to leave public schools and take a $20,000 pay cut to teach in a private school in order to protect my social security benefits.

    1. If you had substantial earnings for 24 + years, you should be entitled to something on the order of 80% of your SocSec benefit. Maybe its still not the way things should work, but with a public pension to boot, those are two solid, almost guaranteed, income sources for lifetime.

      I will get 100% my Soc Sec after teaching for 13 yrs, 7 years in the USMC and 20 years working. But to my surprise I gained entitlement because of my part time (lots of hours) work while in high school and college.

  10. No one mentioned that GPO-WEP was started by that Republican shining star Ronald Reagan who was concerned that teachers, firefighters, nurses, police, etc would get huge windfalls if they received a pension along with Social Security. Bills to repeal GPO-WEP have had many sponsors over the years but nothing seems to happen. These days it may be more difficult because of opposition by billionaires and their Republican puppets who are not at all empathetic to the working people of this nation.

    1. Gerald,no worries; prosperity for working people will begin to “trickle down” any day now.
      After 35 years of favor being lavished on our top earners and corporations through “supply side economics,” thanks to policy lobbied for by $$$BIG. money$$$ in our pay-to-play” legislature, prosperity for the working people is just around the corner! (sarcasm filter-off)

  11. The WEP is so unfair. I paid into SS for 26 years. I have taught for 15. When I went into teaching in California, I was told, “we need second career teachers so badly.” No one told me about the WEP until I was 10 years into my teaching practice. I have now retired from California, am only collecting $1800 a month, and yet when I get my SS, they will deduct 30%. This is so unfair. How is it right to encourage people to leave the private sector, take teaching jobs, and then penalize them for that? I am in Oregon now where teachers do pay into SS. I am trying to get my additional 4 years of SS so that there is no deduction; however, I was looking on the site the other day, and it still seems like I can only get 90%.

  12. You devote your life to society, and this is what you deserve? Education is going in the wrong direction, and our “leaders” who are making these decisions are in it for themselves (their special interests.) I’d like to know know much the elected officials pay into social security, and how much do they collect? They should be treated like every other public worker-benefits and all!

  13. How did the guy in the story lose his SS benefit if he contributed for 40 years? I don’t think that is correct. With 120 quarters of contributions there should be no offset. Something is not right with the story

    1. In some states, the teacher has to choose between public pension or Social Security. This man, obviously, had enough quarters, but he didn’t make that much money when Social Security was being taken out. His public school pension had a larger monthly amount so because he was an intelligent man, he chose the public school pension and lost his Social Security. With forty quarters, he and his spouse would be eligible for Medicare and his public school pension, but he couldn’t double dip and receive Social Security as well as public school pension. I understand this because the same law is in Missouri.

      1. Nancy, can you explain about public/social security paid into before retiring? This is my first year of teaching & need to know what to do.

      2. I’m from a state where I paid SS and I paid into my pension, so I get both. I do not see what is wrong with that. If you paid in, you must get benefits. It’s only fair. Nobody is asking for something they didn’t earn.
        Why should teachers be treated different than anyone else? GM, Chrysler, and Ford workers all have a pension plan and they get SS, too. My sister is a widow, her husband worked for GM, she got his pension and SS amounting to $3100 a month, and she never worked a day. So if she taught she would get nothing??? That’s backwards!

          1. I am sick of “the government rip off by Social Security!!!!! ” You work hard, bust your butt and when the golden years come you get screwed by Social Security and punished for working your but off! Are we really living in a Democracy????

    2. Social security has a base pay per year that you must meet in order for it to qualify. It’s not an issue unless you change to a job (I.e., teaching) that does not pay into SSN. Most likely, he didn’t earn enough money in his early years of working so those years don’t count. If you go to and search on WEP, you will see the table and earning required to have years count.

      1. Quite correct. Each year there is a threshold pay that one must reach to earn an entitlement. The 40 year guy must not have reached that level for many years. I was surprised to find I had in years I was in high school and college working (lots) of part time hours.

  14. I agree this is bs, but we should all be looking at the bigger issue… Why is it that teachers should work do hard and then have to add a second job? This is a profession and should be treated as such. Public education is mistreating its educators. We love our jobs but hate our pay! The incorporation of charter and alternative schools has also taken its toll on teacher salaries. I think that collectively we should all put down our work and have a nation wide walk out and we should not return to the classrooms until our voices have been heard on issues such as pay, benefits, ss, etc… It is the only way things will change.

  15. Came from a dual retirement state-PA–worked in industry, then made the mistake of teaching in CA. Very little of my earned SS is available for me and no Widow’s Benefits. $14,000/year gone in a flash when my husband died.

  16. I am a victim of this unfair Social Security practice. I worked and paid I to the SSA for 25 years, then I taught elementry school for 20 years. As a result, I get 40% of the social security I am entitled to, (what I paid!) and my teacher pension is small becas I only taught firc20 years. So it’s lose/lose for me! Thanks federal government!

  17. This is out right theft. We earned our pay, you took money out for SS, we deserve the benefits that WE PAID FOR. Many teachers need a second job to make ends meet. Paying SS is not an option, we had to pay, I expect to get the benefits that were paid for!

  18. I will be a victim of these laws, and will not receive the social security benefits I earned when serving in the military (both reserve and active) for almost 22 years. Apparently I don’t “deserve” what I am rightfully owed by social security simply because I have paid a large chunk of my salary into The Public School Retirement System and will earn income from that (which was mine to begin with) upon retirement.

  19. if that doesn’t beat all one works their asses off thinking they will be fine at 62-65 but no one now has to continue to work until they are placed in the ground then still have no money to be buried with. Washington ans all States have got a lot of balls complaining why so much is happening to this world it’s the greed of people who have money why in the world would someone pay a coach 3 million dollars to stay at a school when there are people out in the world who have not one thing. People open your eyes they borrowed from SocialSecurity was to pay it back never happened I have worked earned my points not of age yet and not able to work not able to get disability living on nothing but food stamps and that’s not a lot.

    Where is the common sense in people no one cares any more about anything lets like when Katrina hit New Orleans was left to fend for themselves no one to help but let someone of importance have something happen its a whole get me what I need now and fuck the rest.

  20. i worked for 38 years in education, partially as an administrator. My husband worked 39 years, 15 for a publishing company. He also was an administrator. Because of the penalty in social security he will earn less than half of what I earn in retirement.

    How fair is it to take away those benefits?

  21. I’ve written to my Senator regarding this matter because this effects me. However, after writing 4 letters nothing has changed.

  22. This is absolutely ridiculous. I have been working for more than forty years with only 23 years in education. So not fair.

  23. After working and/ or being covered by my spouse under Social Security for 20 years, I switched careers and became a teacher at 38. Now I find that I can receive none of my Social Security benefits for the half of my career that I worked and paid into the fund before teaching. I am going to have to teach until I am 70 years old to be able to retire!

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