Your benefits: Social Security update

Texas public school employees are among a unique group of public servants subject to a set of provisions in federal law very few people ever come in contact with, and even fewer actually know much about. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects spousal benefits, and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) alters the calculation of personal Social Security benefits. Both of these laws generally apply to those who are eligible for a government pension based on employment where they did not contribute to Social Security.

Godsey, Wiggins, Brady, Colby, and Gregg

ATPE visited Washington, D.C. recently to discuss Social Security legislation. Pictured (left to right) are ATPE’s Executive Director Gary Godsey, State Past President Richard Wiggins, Congressman Kevin Brady, State President Cory Colby, and Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg.

ATPE has long worked to repeal both of these provisions, the GPO and the WEP, in federal law. We have been successful in helping to get legislation filed and supported by a majority of U.S. House members in several Congresses. However, the cost of completely repealing the GPO and WEP has proven to be prohibitive, and no federal legislation that would repeal either provision has ever been successful.

Recently, ATPE has worked alongside the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and Texas Congressman Kevin Brady (R) to pursue legislation that would repeal the existing arbitrary WEP formula and replace it with one that actually reflects the contributions employees have made to Social Security. Brady’s Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2015 (H.R. 711) would create a new formula to reduce the punitive effects of the WEP by up to one-third (an average of $1,034 per year) for current retirees and as much as one-half ($1,620 per year on average) for future retirees.  A bipartisan list of 40 congressmen has signed on to cosponsor H.R. 711, which has no cost to the Social Security Trust Fund. Considering that no WEP-related legislation that would benefit employees has ever gained momentum in the past, this is a very significant step forward toward increasing public school employees’ benefits.

Unfortunately, one of the largest national teachers unions recently made the decision to oppose H.R. 711 claiming the rationale that Brady’s legislation does not achieve full repeal of the WEP. While we do agree that full repeal would be preferred, ATPE believes it is a mistake to ignore the political realities that have stalled legislation to achieve that goal for far too long. Continuing to insist on full repeal or nothing at all is done at the peril of those who are affected by the WEP. Any realistic improvement that will increase educator Social Security benefits is much-welcomed, and as such we at ATPE will work to see that those benefits are increased in any way possible while maintaining the long-term goal of fully repealing both the WEP and GPO.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, as well as other legislation that affects public education.

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14 thoughts on “Your benefits: Social Security update

  1. Pingback: Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 18, 2015 | Teach the Vote

  2. b. chin

    Thank you for working on the WEP. I am a paraprofessional since 2002 and before being hired at cfisd, I worked in Social Security jobs for thirty years. I am a very dedicated employee with high work ethics, from the old school. But I never earned much because I had to go out and work for a living without a complete college education, which is why I am a Para and not a full fledged teacher. I am also a single mom and the sole caretaker of 3 boys. I am excellent at everything I do .and I am now 62 years of age. But I did not have a chance to better my salary because I always needed to make a living and then I had the important role of being a single mom, I did the best I could as far as employment and at the same time be involved in my boys’ lives (example, boy scouts) as well as raising one full scholarship one, one National Merit Scholar, and another collage graduate. I am proud of my sons and I am proud of the role I played. But at retirement I will need every cent of social security and every cent of trs pension, together yielding less than $2000 monthly. It will be very hard to manage with this amount. Plus all my medical expenses, result of 2 heart attacks, cholesterol and triglycerides requiring expensive meds, 3 aortic stents and a carotid stent making it necessary to continue with comprehensive and expensive care, peripheral neuropathy and more. Please keep working hard to get your common sense legislation passed. Please help us attain a better quality retirement. Please help us be as self sufficient as possible. Please help us just get what should be ours without strangling penalties. What can I personally do to help you further this cause.

  3. Linda E. Paradise

    I am sympathetic to the plight of B Chin. Her case is similar to so many para professionals and teachers. The bottom line is that if you have PAID into Social Security you DESERVE Social Security just like every other tax payer in America. Not only is this a legal issue it is a MORAL issue. I agree there is a cost involved here but irregardless, we deserve our Social Security. This is also a discrimination issue. It is an issue of fairness. There are so many regulations in the Social Security system that allow for those who have not ever even paid into the system to collect. And those of us who have paid are being denied our RIGHTFUL benefits to help pay for individuals who never even paid into the system!

    1. Janell Taylor

      I am a para and have been told I can not draw my husbands Social Security because I pay into Teacher Retirement. I don’t think if people have not paid into Social Security they should not be able to draw it. I worked a short time paying into Social Security, but I would draw more as a widow from my husband when he died. I am 71 still working because I could not live on my schools pay without my husbands Social Security, but I have been told if I retire from my school job my Social Security will stop! PLEASE TRY TO HELP PARA’S!!!!!! The law that went with this work 1 day and you could draw your Social Security is a CROCK!!!! Lots did it, but I wasn’t eligable at the time. Please Help US!!! Thank You! Janell Taylor

      1. Ann

        I teach with a woman who is 87 years old who falls under this painful plan instituted by Ronald Regan. As usual, there is little thought given to the people affected. Had she been any other profession, she could have claimed her husband’s social security. It is a crying shame. Thank you to those working to eliminate this gross injustice to those who shape the future.

    2. TM Williams

      WEP is so unfair, they took money from me for 22 years, they need to deliver what they promised or return what they took. I hope this bill makes them at least deliver what they promised.

  4. D. Murphy

    I don’t understand how people who have never worked and paid into Social Security can receive benefits. Even more important, I don’t understand how changing careers to teach, after paying into Social Security for 28 years, will significantly reduce my benefits. This really needs to be looked at.

    1. Carolyn Scott

      D. Murphy, if you ever find an intelligent person alive who can explain your first sentence, this country would be so much better off and possibly have a chance to return to the values and principles that America was built on by our forefathers. It is completely unbelievable how people that have never worked, living in this country or just coming to this country, don’t work, don’t pay taxes, can be receiving Americans Social Security benefits for themselves and family members and coming to America to have babies that will most likely will not try to get an education to be able to work, support their families, and will continue to receive free everything.

  5. Judy Butler

    I am 74 years old and have worked at school for 25 years and before that I worked paying into Social Security for 10 years, therefore I have my 40 quarters in. My husband passed away 8 years ago and I am receiving his Social Security now but when I retire and draw TRS retirement I will lose most of my spouse’s SS. I think this is very unfair when there are so many people who haven’t worked and paid into SS who are receiving their spouse’s SS. I would appreciate so much if you could understand and fix this. I would give up my SS if I could continue to receive my husband’s SS, since my teacher retirement will not be that much.

    1. Georgia Clark

      Yes, please keep up the fight. Steve Zurline is my ex-husband and I have every intention of filing on his social security now that I can claim 100% of my benefits and still continue to teach. As long as I teach or work but not draw my teacher retirement, I can claim 100% and that sounds wonderful to me. Maybe I will still be working when Congress finally amends this law that prevents me from receiving what I paid into Social Security. I am fully vested and the WPO and WEP is an insult to all Americans.

  6. Pingback: Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 6, 2015 | Teach the Vote

  7. James H

    These bill to repeal the WEP & GPO have been introduced year after year and never get out of committee. Congress people just introduce these bills to show they’re sympathetic but that’s always the end of it. No vote in the House. No vote in the Senate. They just sit there and go nowhere. We’re being conned.

  8. Pingback: Major development announced in the fight to protect educators’ Social Security benefits | Teach the Vote

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