Recap of Tuesday’s Social Security hearing in Washington, D.C.

This week I had an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for congressional meetings accompanied by ATPE’s Washington-based lobby team. Along with visiting several members of our delegation and their staffs, we attended the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on Tuesday, March 22, to hear discussion on H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA).

Filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R–TX), the ETPSA proposes to eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a federal law that reduces the Social Security benefits of anyone who is also eligible for a government pension, such as through the Teacher Retirement System. In place of the WEP, the ETPSA would substitute a new formula to calculate benefits that actually reflects the amount of a person’s career that was spent working in position covered by Social Security. We believe that the ETPSA formula would be considerably better than the arbitrary, punitive WEP formula that currently applies the same maximum reduction to every employee who has between 0 and 20 years of substantial earnings and contributions.

Congressman Brady gave an opening statement at Tuesday’s hearing noting that he has been working since 2004 to replace the WEP with a more equitable formula. He recognized the many organizations that have contributed to this effort, specifically thanking ATPE during the hearing. Click here to watch video of Brady’s opening statement.

IMG_2662_Josh_SamJohnson_03-22-16

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson with U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) following Tuesday’s hearing

Brady’s ETPSA legislation is bipartisan, with more than 64 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle including 24 members of the Texas congressional delegation. ATPE has been joined by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), AARP, and numerous education, law enforcement, and public service associations across the country in supporting this legislation. As was noted during the hearing by Congressman Sam Johnson (R–TX), who chairs the Subcommittee on Social Security, it is past time that these millions of employees received fair treatment in the calculation of the benefits they paid for during their careers. Congressman John Larson (D–CT), a former public education teacher whose daughter is also an educator who will be affected by the WEP , chimed in by stating, “I have long been a proponent of eliminating the WEP… and this bill works toward that goal.”

Brady with Wiggins and Colby

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) pictured last year with ATPE State Past-President Richard Wiggins and ATPE State President Cory Colby

ATPE has long called for fully repealing both the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), and we have supported federal legislation in the past to accomplish this goal. However, the massive costs to the Social Security Trust Fund have prevented any full repeal legislation from ever having a chance to be enacted into law. Pretending that these long-shot goals are reality and refusing incremental progress in place of a complete repeal are doing a disservice to the thousands of education and public safety employees affected by these laws. If Brady’s ETPSA passes, we will be one giant step closer to a system that is fair and actually allows employees to receive the benefits they paid for and deserve.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this legislation as they occur.

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8 thoughts on “Recap of Tuesday’s Social Security hearing in Washington, D.C.

  1. Andrew Szakmary

    This is the worst legislation ever. I base that statement on the testimony before the Ways and Means Committee of Stephen Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration. For those of you who want to verify what I write below, here is a link: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/20160322-SS-Testimony-Goss.pdf.

    Long story short, when fully implemented, this bill increases the SS benefits of 1.25 million people who are currently impacted by the WEP. However, the new formula reduces the benefits of 0.25 million people who are currently impacted by the WEP and it reduces the benefits of 14 MILLION PEOPLE who are not currently impacted but will become impacted by the new formula because they made the mistake of working in non-covered employment, at some point in their careers, even if only for 1 year, never mind that they are not receiving a pension based on that short stint (Goss testimony, p. 3). Because the ratio of losers to winners under HR 711 is over 11 to 1, in the aggregate, Social Security benefits paid would be $3.4 Billion lower annually. Truth-in-advertising would lead one to retitle this bill “The Social Security Benefit Reduction Act of 2015.”

    And that is not all. ALL current beneficiaries (yes, even 90-year-olds) who have any non-covered earnings and less than 30 years of substantial covered earnings will be subjected to WEP audits; they will have to submit certifications from all previous non covered employers (even from jobs they had 30-40 years ago) that the employment in question did not qualify them for a pension. If they fail to submit by the end of 2016 their SS benefit is retroactively reduced back to the month they began receiving benefits. This “overpayment” will then be recovered from their future benefit checks and in addition, their benefit check going forward is reduced to reflect the new WEP reduction they will be subject to (Goss testimony, p.4). Many millions of current beneficiaries will be impacted.

    If this bill is passed in its current form, the uproar will be deafening.

    Reply
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  3. Deann

    ATPE is one of the few organizations who would NOT give up on this even when we were told there was NO way it would EVER pass. Besides the organization, Brock Gregg and David Pore deserve a standing ovation for never giving up on the possibility. Thank you, Josh, for carrying on the torch.

    Reply
  4. Janell Taylor

    I have worked for a school district as a para for 28 years. I will be 72 years old July 4, 2016. I could not live on what my retirement with the school district if I lose my husbands Social Security which is more that I make working. I draw a widows benefit. He has been dead for 9 years and he didn’t get to draw his Social Security long before he had a massive stroke. They passed a law if you work ONE day for a school you could draw your Social Security from your husband! That is wrong!!!!!

    Therefore, I will have to try and work until I DROP so I can draw my husbands. If I retire I will loose his Social Security. I appreciate all you can do to bury that law !!!!!!! Thank You for all you can do!

    Janell Taylor
    janell.taylor@ennis.k12.tx.us

    Reply
  5. Sherry Slater

    My case is different from most. I have worked 28 years in education, but I’m not a teacher. Prior to working in the educational setting, I worked as a secretary for about 10 years. Once we started our family, I became a stay home mom for about 7 years. In the educational field, I worked as a library aide for 2 years and have worked the last 26 years as a secretary. It has been my privilege to serve in these rolls and I have enjoyed every year.

    At the age of 49 my husband passed away suddenly due to a nasty brain tumor. Most of us picture retiring with the love of our life by our side, hoping to continue enjoying each other for many years to come. For me, that was not meant to be. My husband was the main provider in our home. I had hoped to retire at the age of 64 until I heard about all these changes in Social Security. After visiting the Social Security Office, I was crushed to discover my widow’s benefits would amount to approximately $222 monthly once I retire! My own Social Security benefits will only be about $500 monthly due to the WEP (Windfall Elimination Plan). It appears to me I am being severely penalized because I was born a few years too late and because my husband died too early.

    Many things in life are not fare, but this one takes the cake!!!

    Reply
  6. shirley vogel

    How will this effect me? I worked for Hospitals and doctor’s office before I started being a school nurse. I have meet all the criteria to receive Social Security but was told would not get much. Will you please let me know. Thank You Very Much Shirley Vogel.

    Reply
    1. Josh Sanderson

      Shirley:

      The primary factor that will determine what your Social Security benefit will be under the WEP is the number of years your worked in a position that paid into Social Security. HR 711, the bill that proposes eliminating the WEP formula and replacing it with a new calculation, would simply make your SS benefit proportionate to the number of years you worked in job where you contributed to SS. There would be no predetermined reduction to your benefit, as is with the current WEP formula.

      Reply
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