Congressional Corner: Windfall Elimination Provision And Government Pension Offset Punishing Public Sector Employees

Congressional Corner: Windfall Elimination Provision And Government Pension Offset Punishing Public Sector Employees

Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13)

The United States consistently lags behind countries like China, South Korea, and others in education, placing us 26th in math, and 21st in science, out of 34 countries. As we work to improve our education system to compete internationally, I believe recruiting teachers is critical to the success of our children and our nation. Unfortunately, we are doing just the opposite. We have two decades-old policies in place that unintentionally discourage people from becoming public servants and punish those who are.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) were included in the Social Security Act of 1983 to help shore up the Social Security program. I believe this has done little to secure the program and, instead, unfairly reduces the Social Security benefits of millions of public employees. Earlier this year, I reintroduced legislation, H.R. 973, the Social Security Fairness Act, to repeal these arcane policies.

Nearly, 1.5 million people are affected by the WEP, which reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. For example, a teacher who spends his or her summers working a second job or a police officer who leaves the force after years of service but is not quite ready to retire can see their benefits reduced by as much as 40 percent. However, a similar worker with a private sector pension would not see this kind of reduction. We are punishing public sector employees such as our teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

In 2012, the GPO reduced by two-thirds the Social Security benefits received by 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 many years.

I believe Social Security is a promise made to hard working Americans – a promise that must be kept. We need to improve our economy to get folks back to work and paying into the program so our children and grandchildren have access to the same social safety net. I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to keep these promises made to seniors and it starts by passing H.R. 973.

As a father of three children attending public school, I want them to have access to the best educators. H.R. 973 will not only give our public servants the certainty they deserve but a chance to recruit and retain the best, brightest, and most dedicated educators so America can continue to compete.