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Repeal of the WEP and GPO once and for all! H.R. 141 - Social Security Fairness Act of 2019

H.R. 141 the Social Security Fairness Act of 2019 has 223 cosponsors now and enough to pass the floor of the House of Representatives.  We need just 68 more cosponsors to force the vote this year to move it to the Senate where we have 35 Senators already as cosponsors!  It has been many years and a hard fight but we are coming down to the home stretch in the House.  Please call your congressional member to ask him/her to add their name if they haven't already.  To find your representative, just go to U.S. House of Representatives (house.gov) site from google. Then click the tab that says REPRESENTATIVES and then look below to click on the letter of your state or the other tab for the Representative's last name.  I prefer the state because I like to call other states too and in a way, ALL federally elected officials vote for or against bills that end up directly affecting ALL of us.  So by extension, they are all our representatives and we just might have family in the state of the representative who has not added his/her name.  If you still have trouble just google things and you can find out information on an elected official or issue.  The point is, it's time for action regarding the WEP and GPO, because it is a major injustice that hurts the elderly in their twilight years.  After all, How many more years do we have after our FRA of 66 or maximum age of 70 if we delay... or even 62 if we take it early? Here are just some reasons for repeal of the WEP and GPO:

  1. 5 - 3 million+ Americans affected, and 5 million by extension
  2. It HELPS AMERICANS who've earned and paid into Social Security.
  3. It rights a wrong and pays a debt owed to millions and for others who have already died and were denied their full social security it morally apologizes for the injustice of a wrong done decades ago.  
  4. It is NON-PARTISAN  (and Bipartisan)
  5. Currently 223 members have added their names as cosponsors.
  6. Millions of seniors in your state, and thousands in your district with family.
  7. You will be thanked and rewarded for doing the right thing.
  8. It supports marriage, and rewards spouses for enduring beyond 10 years, (GPO). (all states)
  9. The votes are there but adding your representative's name will expedite its passage.
  10. The fact that a Rep. adds his or her name makes him or her aware and sensitive of the need and will stand him or her in good stead before, during and after political life.

These are only suggestions (1 – 10).  Practice your script beforehand.  Add new positive reasons to vote for this wonderful bill and ask the staff member to review or tell you WHAT the bill is (141) before you leave as a representative can be made to look good or bad by his/her staff that filters the calls and information to that representative.  Thank them for taking your call and listening to them and remind them that you will be going to the congress.gov site to check regularly to see when that elected representative adds his or her name and that they might get another call back to thank them.  Thanks for reading this and now it's time for us to roll our sleeves up and fight for it!

 

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Bronze Conversationalist

@CharlesU659303 A you may not be aware, there are more than one variations of modifying the WEP and GPO provisions of the Social Security Act (Act). Your opinion that the WEP and GPO is a major injustice that hurts the elderly in their twilight years is wrong. I have not seen any statistics that indicate people who are paid SS benefits pursuant to the WEP provision at 40% (which is just about the same average percentage (approximately 42%) all SS beneficiaries receive) have had a financial loss. I will agree that since 1983 when the WEP were implemented, those folks no longer receive a windfall of 90% which, for the most part, redirected SS benefits away from the SS beneficiaries who worked 35 to 45 or more years in the SS system. The injustice is to the SS beneficiaries who only receive 42% on average. In fact, folks with higher earnings receive less than the 42% average. Why should folks with a government pension (i.e., federal, state, local, some teachers, firemen, police, etc.) receive greater SS benefits at 90%? I will try to copy and paste the WEP provisions from the SS website https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf It would be helpful if you review how the SS program develops your Average Index Monthly Earnings (AIME) which is how your SS benefit is developed. It requires 35 years of earnings. Prior to the 1983 WEP, most folks with government pensions may have worked the required 10 years, but far less than 35 years. So, their AIME appeared to be low income or poverty level incomes because zeroes are averaged in for the years less than 35 years. And, as a result, were paid SS benefits at the poverty level at 90% when, in fact, many of those government pensioners had incomes well above poverty level. It is a shame that to this day, almost 40 years after WEP was implemented, that government pensioners are still trying to get SS benefits at the welfare level of 90%. With regard to your item no. 2, I suggest you review a number of Supreme Court Rulings regarding the SS program. If you choose to review just one, take a look at Flemming vs. Nestor from 1960. It is case 363 U. S. 603. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no contractual right to receive SS payments. Payment due under the SS program are not "property" even though many believe that paying SS taxes establish an "earned right". Section 1104 of the 1935 Act entitled,  "Reservation of Power" states, "The right to alter, cancel, or repeal any provision of this Act is hereby reserved to the Congress". This means that SS benefits are the whims of 535 politicians in Washington. Congress implemented WEP in 1983 as one of many measures to save the SS program when the Trust was near depletion. Some other measures were increasing the Full Retirement Age (FRA) from age 65 to 66 thru 67 with corresponding reductions for folks who elect to start early at age 62. For comparisons, as I understand most government pensions, full unreduced pensions may be started earlier than ages 66 thru 67 with some as early as ages 50 to 55 with certain years of service. There are approaches for WEP that use a variable percentage which is logical rather than reinstating the windfall 90% which is used for low income poverty level folks. With those approaches, highly compensated government folks receive less than 40% which is the same as highly compensated folks under the SS program. And, non-highly compensated government folks may receive amounts closer to the 42% which is the same as non-highly compensated folks under the SS program. 

Trusted Contributor

The WEP was implemented like doing surgery with a chainsaw instead of a scalpel.  I don't think a full repeal of the WEP is appropriate because if they did my wife would receive about $500/mo in SS when her total FICA taxes paid back in the 1980s was about $3500 total over 10 years to qualify.  Her first year of SS would be $6000 due to the weighting of indexed low wages early in a career and the high percentage at the first benefit calculation bend point.

 

The GPO is the law I have issues with.  Should I drop dead tomorrow, my wife gets $0 of my SS whereas any other spouse with a civilian pension would collect my full SS.  It is over $400,000 my employers and I paid in SS taxes over the years that my family would get no benefit from but any other spouse would.  And that is just the dollars paid in without considering any indexing or inflation adjustment.  At the least, I feel she should receive a half payment of my SS benefit.

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@roachme In your second paragraph, what is your definition of a "civilian pension"? Is this a pension from the private sector? For example, a single employer plan (i.e., Ford, IBM, etc.) or multi-employer (i.e., Teamsters, IBEW -electrical workers, Iron workers, etc.). In other words, covered earnings subject to FICA taxes and SS benefits. I am providing a link to the Program Explainer from the Social Security website https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/program-explainers/government-pension-offset.html#:~:text=Congress%2.... If the link did not copy and paste correctly, you can access the document at www.ssa.gov/policy and searching Government Pension Offset. It should be noted that the GPO was created in 1977 to help ensure that spousal and widow(er) benefits of those with covered or non-covered lifetime earnings would be roughly equal. At that time, the GPO was dollar for dollar which is the same provision that the SSA uses for spouses with covered earnings. In other words, the SSA reduces spousal benefits dollar for dollar by their own earned SS benefit. The SSA does not pay spousal or survivor benefits in addition to Old Age (retirement) benefits. So, your sentence indicating that "any other spouse with a civilian pension would collect my full SS" is not accurate. At any rate, the concept was to keep everyone "on a level playing field" or roughly equal. However, in 1983, Congress reduced the GPO to just two-thirds (.667) and kept the folks under the SS system at dollar for dollar (100%). Why do folks with government pensions have better provisions than folks under the SS system? Moreover, the folks with government pensions continue to ask for even better provisions as evidenced by this thread. Based on other proposals that Congress may review, there are some logical reduction or offset percentages that vary based on income. The non-highly paid have a lessor reduction/offset and the highly paid have a greater reduction/offset which results in zero which is the same for folks in the SS system. Although you have not provided any figures to support your opinion of the GPO, it should be clear that your spouse's government pension is significantly greater than any spousal/survivor benefits under the SS program even with only a two-thirds (.667) reduction/offset. That is why spousal/survivor SS benefits are not payable. 

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Yes, I was referring to a private, FICA covered earnings employment pension.  Calling it a civilian pension is the result of too many years in the military and working with Fed workers who typically refer to private sector people as civilians.  If you're a civil servant, everyone outside the government workforce is a civilian.

 

I oversimplified "the collect my full SS" as a reference to she wouldn't receive an amount equal to my SS comprised of her own benefit and a survivor benefit like you indicated.  So many people refer to it as "getting the higher spouses benefit" instead of the true two part self benefit plus survivor to equal the highest benefit amount.  I fell in the trap.

 

My primary issue with GPO is there is no mechanism in place for my wife/family to benefit from the $400,000 in SS taxes paid if I die first because she receives a government pension that is double of my SS.  If she dies first, I could get up to 55% of her pension and no SS reduction, but it requires a 10% survivor benefit premium that reduces her pension while she's alive.  We took a lower partial survivor benefit and used the premium savings to purchase a life insurance policy to cover the pension loss if she dies first.  Something like that would sound reasonable for SS to collect a survivor benefit premium so the govt pension spouse could receive a reduced, capped, SS benefit.  It might even provide some solvency to the SS Trust.  People can already do this by buying a life insurance policy on the SS beneficiary but a mechanism tying it into SS would make it easier so everyone didn't have to go find their own policy.

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@roachme I appreciate your clarification of civilian pension. Please note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes State and Local Government workers in their definition of "civilian workers" even though many of those SLG  workers are covered by government pensions as opposed to civilian pensions. Anyway, I am providing a link to a BLS article that indicates some pertinent statistics that illustrate the private sector has moved away from defined benefit plans (monthly pensions) to defined contribution plans (i.e., 401 K, etc.) and either soft or hard froze the prior defined benefit plans. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/factsheet/defined-benefit-frozen-plans.pdf The bottom line is that if you are a civilian worker in the private sector (exclude SLG workers), there is a high percentage that you do not have a monthly pension or your past monthly pension has been froze (soft or hard). That situation is by far more of a economic/financial burden than any reduction due to WEP or GPO. I understand your position regarding the substantial FICA taxes that you and your employer(s) paid. I believe many folks believe their FICA taxes are directly related to SS benefits. They are not correlated. Your SS benefits are developed based on the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) formula. In most cases, indexing increases actual earnings by 30% to 40% with no additional FICA taxes due. At any rate, I pointed out to CharlesU in my reply dated June 3rd that the Supreme Court ruled that there is no contractual right to receive SS payments. Payments due under the SS program are not "property " even though many believe that paying FICA taxes establishes an "earned right". Many believe they have an account with the SS Program similar to an IRA wherein the FICA taxes you paid are held in trust for you or your beneficiary(s). There is no account in your name. The FICA taxes that are paid fund the SS Program. The 7.65% tax funds Old Age (about 5%); Disability Income (about 1.2%) and Medicare (about 1.45%). Employers pay the same. You have already received coverage for Disability Income. Don't know if you have used or will use Medicare for hospital and/or medical/drug expenses. Lastly, you may be receiving an Old Age (aka retirement) benefit. Just for fun, I will provide you the present value of a $25,000 annual SS benefit for the period of 18 years at a discount rate of 3% or $343,837. I used SS benefits starting at age 66 through age 84 ( average life expectancy based on SS Life Expectancy table). If you do not use a discount or interest rate, simply multiply $25,000 X 18 years or $450,000. FYI, the GPO provisions  are included in the SS Dual Entitlement Rule. This Rule offsets folks (husband and wife) in the SS Program dollar for dollar (100%) whereas the offset is only two-thirds (about 66.7%) if a spouse receives a government pension. That is a benefit in itself. The reason that many receive zero SS benefits is because the government pensions are significantly greater amounts of money. Hope this helps.

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Newbie

I joined the FB Repeal the WEP/GPO group and have been corresponding with the National Task Force Group  and I strongly encourage any affected by the WEP/GPO to do the same. They organized a rally in Washing D.C. on May 18,2022 & many spoke on how they are personally  are affected. Hopefully some media attention was gained as they have gained a few more cosponsors of the bill to repeal. With the elections in full swing here in GA- I am not getting timely responses back from the congressional representatives and senators from GA but have not given up.

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