Congressional Corner: Two Social Security Provisions Unfairly Penalize Millions of Teachers, Firefighters and Public Sector Workers

Congressional Corner: Two Social Security Provisions Unfairly Penalize Millions of Teachers, Firefighters and Public Sector Workers

Rep. 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. 141, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2019, 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 those 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.

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 unfortunately received little attention from House leadership.  In September 2018, myself and my colleague, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) offered this bill as an amendment to the Family Savings Act, which was part of Rep. Kevin Brady’s “Tax 2.0” package.  Unfortunately, the amendment was ultimately defeated, but highlighting this important issue.   It continues to be my priority.

Social Security is a promise that the federal government has made to its citizens.  It is a promise on which millions of Americans rely on, and one that needs to be there for them when they retire.  I am proud to sponsor H.R. 141, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in any capacity available, to ensure that we keep the promises we made to our public-sector employees.