By Representative Rodney Davis (IL-13)
Every day, thousands of our neighbors and friends protect our cities, educate our students, and deliver vital services to our communities. While these selfless public servants have spent their lives giving back, our antiquated federal policies take away the benefits that these workers have rightly 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 intentions were noble, these changes did little to protect the Social Security system. Instead, they unjustly penalized millions of public sector employees.
These three-decade-old policies have been proven to be harmful not helpful, which is why I introduced H.R. 141, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2019. This bill will completely eliminate these counterproductive policies and, while other members of Congress have their own ideas on how to improve our Social Security system, this legislation is the only one that completely repeals both harmful provisions.
Nationwide, nearly 1.5 million people are affected by the WEP, meaning that those who receive a public pension from a job, and are not covered by Social Security, see their benefits reduced. For example, a teacher who spends summers working a second job, or a first responder who leaves the force after years of service, but is not yet ready to retire, can see his or her benefits reduced by up to 40 percent.
In 2012, the GPO reduced the Social Security benefits of nearly 600,000 surviving spouses, who also collect a government pensions, by nearly two-thirds. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lost their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes.
We should hope for our young adults, and workers from all walks of life, to aspire to serve their communities and become public servants. However, policies like the WEP and GPO only discourage our young people from becoming teachers, firefighters, and public health workers.
I have proudly introduced this important legislation every single Congress since coming to the House of Representatives in 2013. Despite having over 100 bipartisan cosponsors each Congress, the bill has received little attention from House leadership. In September 2018, myself and my colleague, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) offered this bill as an amendment to the Family Savings Act, which was part of Representative Kevin Brady’s “Tax 2.0” package. Then in May of 2019, we offered the legislation as an amendment to H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement (SECURE) Act which passed the House 417-3. Unfortunately, both times, the amendment was defeated in the House Committee on Rules.
Social Security is a promise that the federal government made to its citizens. It is a promise that millions of Americans depend on, and one that must be there for them when they retire. I am the proud sponsor of H.R. 141, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we keep the promises we made to our public-sector employees.
We must work together to increase the support for this legislation that currently has over 200 cosponsors for the first time in years. Help me by calling your own member of Congress and asking them to cosponsor H.R. 141.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.