Education News

H.R. 4540 begins to fix problems caused by Social Security’s WEP

Nearly 2 million retired educators and other public employees would benefit from fixes to Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) made by the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act (H.R. 4540), introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) on Sept. 27. Among those subject to the WEP, current retirees would get an extra $150 a month and future retirees an average of $75 a month. Moreover, the bill includes a guarantee that no one would get less than the amount provided under current law. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security and jobs NOT covered by Social Security over the course of their careers—for example, educators compelled to take part-time or summer jobs to make ends meet. After years of congressional inaction, this bill is a step in the right direction. NEA continues to push for full repeal of the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) that reduces the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people not covered by Social Security themselves.

Tell your representative to support H.R. 4540.

Take Action: Support H.R. 4540 to ensure public employees get the Social Security benefits they have earned

78 responses to “H.R. 4540 begins to fix problems caused by Social Security’s WEP

  1. Listen people our human rights are being violated because of the wep. Ronald Reagan did a disservice to the elderly when he enacted wep . He also took 3.6 trillion dollars from SSA. Starving in ky because of wep. Help us. We are elderly humans. We should be treated equally. We are not a 3rd world country. We as elderly Americans need equal treatment. American is always helping other countries
    Help is needed at home.

  2. I started receiving widow’s benefit Social Security and PERS when I turned 60. I needed to collect both in order to get my medical benefit. Since I have PERS my SS benefit is reduced by 75% of my PERS benefit. Every year I receive COLA of $27 from PERS that I report to SS so they can take away $18.
    My husband died young but was entitled to full SS benefit of which I receive approximately half. When that is reduced by my 14 years in the public sector my benefit is not a living income. I also have the minimum required quarters for SS but I would receive even less if I used my own benefit.

  3. I worked in a public sector agency and paid into social security a total of 26 years. I also worked in another public agency where social security was not deducted sufficient years to earn a separate pension. I am presently being penalized under WEP for not contributing into social security a total of 30 years. Very unfair system as I believe all social security retirees who have fully contributed should receive their full benefits and not be subject to WEP just because they are also receiving a second pension

    1. The problem is that Social Security benefits are calculated at different percentages of average monthly lifetime earnings so as to help low income people. For example, the first $900 or so of average income gets a 90% return.

      When people have a second, unreported income source, their lifetime earnings known to Social Security make them seem “poorer” than they are.

      Other people sacrifice their own pension amount so as to give a boost to people with low incomes. The result is unfair,

      1. If you go into the actual calculation for SSA they take the highest 35 years of employment to get an average and then multiply the percentages. If you have no wages that did not have SSA take out then those years are entered as zeros dollars. The penalty is built into the system. What WEP does is one step further, they take the already reduced amount (the average with all of the zero dollars) and reduce it further. The reduction is taken from the SSA that I actually contributed. So along with a small government pension I am being penalized twice; once for being a public servant most of my life and earning a much smaller wage than private and then take away what I did earn.

        I have a retirement income of $2400 from my government jobs, and SSA $987, this has been reduced by $413. This amounts to about a 12% reduction over all, or about 35% reduction in my SSA. When they are talking about retirement incomes from public employees, we are not talking about pensions of $100,000.

        So although it sounds like government employees are getting extra dollars, in reality they are having ssa benefits that they actually earned reduced.

        1. Thank you for taking time to reply. The WEP reduction is obviously painful, but it seems there is still misunderstanding in your calculations.
          First, EVERYBODY has SSA benefits calculated on their 35 best years. You can work from the legal age, usually 16, to well over 70 (the age when delaying the start of benefits no longer increases them). At an extreme employment lifetime of 16-70, that’s 54 years. The best 35 are counted, so in the example there could be 19 years of $0 income (54-35) that would not count against the calculation.

          For the rest, a $0 year is not a “penalty” for people with non-covered income. It is a year they work and contribute to another pension. It is surely no discriminatory compared to people with low income. For example, a person who has $0 because of being unable to find employment or who doesn’t earn enough to qualify for credits, ALSO has a $0 year among the 35 “best.”

          I’ll mention but not discuss the fact that public employment may produce lower salaries than comparable private sector jobs, but the usual trade-off is more job security and rules for promotion and salary increases,

          The fundamental problem is that you make claims about Social Security that are not valid. You may earn credits, but you have no right to the benefits –in the sense that you are NOT contributing to a pension system in which you become vested. If you die the day before you intended to start benefits, in general you “lose” what you contributed. If you live to 100, you get far more than you contributed, all inflation taken into account.

          NOBODY’s benefit is really based on what was put in. If you’re lifetime low income, you get back 90%. If your lifetime income is higher, you move to the next bracket and get only 32% back, and then just 15%. If you become disabled, you can get income for life for both what would have been your working years — and beyond in retirement. In other words, public employees are not being especially picked on.

          The “SSA benefits actually earned,” as you put it, is not just about you. This is called SOCIAL security, not individual pensions. People help each other in various ways through the system.

          So if there’s somebody out there who’s earned $900/mo all his life and is going to get an $810 pension (well under poverty level), should people who’ve earned public pensions be treated as if they’ve had the same lifetime low income?

          By the way, something similar goes on with Medicare. If you contribute for 10 years, at age 65 your get exactly the same reimbursements for medical expenses as somebody who contributed for 50 years. Or would you like that to be proportional to contributions as well and have tens of millions without adequate health care?

          I’ll tell you something else you may not know. Since we’re on the NEA site, you may have been a teacher. The WEP repeal bill floated a few years ago, introduced by Cong Kevin Grady, has an interesting idea for how to pay for lost income from WEP reductions.

          The federal employees union was behind the bill and they knew that good records were kept on federal employees who went onto Social Security. SSA knew who they were and charged the WEP. But SSA had less track of state and local employees (and employees abroad), so many might have escaped the WEP. The idea was to make them pay for the revenue loss. They would have to prove their employment history going back decades and if it appeared there was WEP reduction they hadn’t paid it would be taken out of future pension payments. This is called being thrown under the bus. Be careful what you wish for.

    2. I agree. I am also suffering in the same situation. I work 27 years for ssa and 22 in public service. I wasn’t a high earner. My max pay was 42 thosand a year. Since we had a wage freeze for 10 years. Totally not far. It’s like the government is letting the elderly is put out in a 3rd world country. Let the older person do without food. Shelter and medical. This is totally unbelievable. Doesn’t the government realize what they have let Ronald Reagan do to our own human rights.

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