Public Workers Penalized By Two Social Security Provisions
Representative Rodney Davis (IL-13)
Every day, thousands of our neighbors and friends protect our cities, educate our students, and provide crucial services to our communities. While these public servants have made careers out of giving back, our federal government unfortunately uses antiquated policies to take back the benefits that these workers have earned.
As part of efforts to strengthen the Social Security system, Congress included the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) in the Social Security Act of 1983. While its intentions were noble, these changes did little to secure the Social Security system and have instead unfairly penalized millions of public sector employees.
These three-decade-old policies have been proven to be harmful and unhelpful, which is why I introduced H.R. 1205, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017, which will eliminate these counterproductive policies. Nationwide, nearly 1.5 million people are affected by the WEP, meaning those who receive a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security see their Social Security benefits reduced. For example, a teacher who spends his or her summers working a second job or a first responder who leaves the force after years of service, but is not ready to retire, can see their benefits reduced by as much as 40 percent.
In 2012, the GPO reduced, by nearly two-thirds, the Social Security benefits of nearly 600,000 surviving spouses who also collect a government pension. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for years.
As a nation, we should want young adults and workers from all walks of life to aspire to serve their communities and become public servants. However, policies like these only discourage citizens from becoming teachers, firefighters, and public health workers.
Social Security is a promise that the federal government has made to its citizens. It is a promise that millions of Americans rely on, and one that needs to be there for them when they retire. I am proud to sponsor H.R. 1205 and work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we keep the promises we made to our public-sector employees.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.