Guest Post: It’s Time to Fix the WEP

U.S. Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas)

By Kevin Brady, Chairman
U.S. House Ways and Means Committee

The Windfall Elimination Provision or “WEP” is unfair. It’s unfair to public servants in Texas and across the nation, including places like California, Massachusetts and Ohio.  I’ve been working to repeal and replace the WEP for a decade. This is something we must do for our teachers, firefighters, police, and other public servants.

You probably know the history: When Social Security was created in 1935, state and local governments were excluded from participating due to Constitutional concerns.  Later, the law changed to allow state and local governments to offer Social Security to their employees.

As a result, many teachers, police, and firefighters still contribute to these longstanding retirement plans instead of Social Security since these substitute plans are often tailored to their chosen careers.  But many of these public servants also hold second (or third) jobs or have a second career where they’ve paid Social Security taxes. These folks rightfully expect to receive their earned Social Security benefits when they retire.  However, due to the WEP, their Social Security benefits end up being much lower than they were expecting.

Although the WEP may have been well intentioned in the start, today it’s simply unfair. Those affected by the WEP are subject to a different benefit formula than all other workers.  This arbitrary formula is based on a 1980’s one-size-fits-all Washington compromise and ignores a person’s actual work history.  The WEP also makes it harder to plan for retirement since the reduction doesn’t show up on a worker’s Social Security statement. When you are nearing retirement, surprises are never a good thing.

I think we can all agree that our teachers, police, and firefighters deserve better.

Working with my Democratic colleague from Massachusetts, Representative Richard Neal, and teacher, police, firefighter, and retiree groups, we’ve come together on a solution for addressing the WEP based on fairness, equal treatment and personal work histories.

Here’s how it would work.  The new proposal repeals the WEP as it exists today. Instead of only counting Social Security earnings as the current WEP does, we count all earnings of workers. This helps tailor benefits to your real-life work history.  This “proportional approach” calculates Social Security benefits using all earnings and then adjusts this amount based on the percentage of earnings that were subject to Social Security taxes.  This way, two workers with the same average earnings receive a Social Security benefit equal to the same percentage of their Social Security earnings.

Let’s look at an example for two teachers – one from Virginia who paid Social Security taxes on all of her earnings and another from Texas, who paid into a substitute retirement system like TRS but also tutored and paid Social Security taxes on these earnings.  Both teachers had average monthly earnings of $4,000.  The Virginia teacher had all of these earnings counted for Social Security purposes, while the Texas teacher only had $2,285 credited toward her Social Security benefits.

Under today’s law, the Virginia teacher would receive an initial monthly benefit of $1,776 if she claims at her full retirement age. That represents about 44 percent of her pre-retirement Social Security earnings.  On the other hand, because of the WEP the Texas teacher under today’s laws would only receive a monthly benefit of $800, which represents about 35 percent of pre-retirement Social Security earnings.

Under the new proposed “proportional approach”, the Virginia teacher would still receive a monthly benefit of $1,776.  But the Texas teacher would receive a monthly benefit of $1,015, which represents 44 percent of her pre-retirement Social Security earnings – or the same percentage as the Virginia teacher.

While the new proportional formula addresses the WEP for future retirees, we cannot leave current retirees behind. Our plan provides Social Security relief to current retirees affected by the WEP by providing special payments to these retirees. That’s only fair.

ATPE’s Monty Exter, Carl Garner, and Gary Godsey met with U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady in June 2017 to discuss fixing the WEP.

Over the years – with the help of groups like the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Texas Retired Teachers Association and Mass Retirees – we have taken important steps toward finally fixing the WEP.  With your help, we will finally ensure equal treatment for our teachers, firefighters, police, and other public servants.

This is a top priority for me, and we will not rest until we have a solution in law.

 

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10 thoughts on “Guest Post: It’s Time to Fix the WEP

  1. Deann Lee

    There aren’t enough thanks for Congressman Brady’s tireless efforts in gaining SS equity. Even though I, personally, won’t receive any SS, the thousands upon thousands who have paid in deserve the same benefits as every other American who will get their benefits for the same time worked & dollar amount contributed.

    Reply
  2. Elaine Hutzelman

    Dear Representative Brady:
    I am thankful that someone recognizes the unfairness of this program. I taught in Ohio and paid into the Ohio Teachers Retirement program. I then moved to TX and worked for a gas pipeline company for 9 years. I was laid off and returned to teaching where I paid into TRS-there was no choice. The entire time I was a teacher in TX I had a part time job for years and paid into SS as well , so I earned over 40 quarters. No one believes me when I tell them that I can’t receive all my SS-they are in disbelief. TX uses a special formula to determine what percent of my SS I should receive, as I don’t receive all of it,even though I paid into it for many years. This is punitive and discriminatory towards certain groups of people to withold what they are due. Thanks for your work in letting others know how egregious this current policy is. In addition to that, retired teachers in TX haven’t had a raise in 13 some years. What other state employee is treated such as this? We have lost more than 30% of our purchasing power by not keeping up with the yearly cost of living. What does TRS do with their allotted money-it would be interesting to discover just why the average retired teacher here makes about $24,000 annually-a pathetic amount of money to live on after receiving a college education. Is there another profession that treats its retirees so meagerly, and then tops it off by increasing their portion of their healthcare program? Whatever you can do to right this wrong would be appreciated by those of us who find ourselves still working after retiring. I am 72 and I forsee no “real” retirement” until my health deteriorates such that I can no longer work to supplement my annuity.

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  3. CHRIS LADD

    Rep. Kevin Brady, please ELIMINATE WEP. It is totally unfair and unjust. We have worked all our lives, sometimes in private industry, paying into the Social Security System and sometimes for a government agency, that did not take contributions to SS. Now, our SS benefits are reduced, because of our government pensions, and it is quite a surprise when you apply for your SS benefits and find out THEN that part of your earned $$ is going to be taken from you. IT IS NEVER INDICATED ON OUR SS BENEFITS LETTERS and is a well kept secret. We voted for change…we voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN & support President Trump, but we never hear what is going to be done for those of us that are senior citizens and retirees and need ALL our EARNED SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY. We just keep paying, paying, paying while others pay zero…the injustice is so disturbing. We aren’t looking for a hand out, no free ride, no free perks…just ALL OF WHAT WE EARNED…SOUNDS PRETTY FAIR TO ME. PLEASE HEAR OUR PLEA’S AND THANK YOU FOR HELPING US SENIORS AND RETIREES…it doesn’t seem anyone else is. H. R. 235 was introduced 1/7/2009 and has been stagnant since.

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  4. Karen Billings

    WEP is absolutely unfair! My husband taught public school in Maine for 26 years, took early retirement, and became a self-employed lobsterman. Unless this law is repealed, he will only receive a small portion of what he has paid into Social Security. My mother is a retired teacher and when my Dad passed, she was not allowed to have 1/2 of his SS income.
    Thank you for your persistence.

    Reply
  5. Sharon B.

    In regards to Social Security Public Law 98-21 which implemented the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). My opinion is that it is discriminatory, theft and possibly a violation of seniors’ civil rights! These penalties affect only a small percentage of seniors who were employed in some capacity at federal, state and local government entities no matter the length of employment.

    I, for one, paid into social security 20 plus years, then due to unforeseen circumstances worked 14.5 years in county government. I EARNED ALL MY SOCIAL SECURITY CREDITS YET AM AFFECTED BY BOTH WEP AND GPO! Imagine the surprise of being penalized on a retirement you planned on and then find out you are not going to get it after all because it is too late by the time you retire, all because, I would venture to say, like me, no one knew of these penalties!

    I suspect most people affected are too old to fight for their rights not knowing how to use social media or just take it in the rear and move on as fighting the government seems to be a lost cause. The government most likely thinks we are all almost dead so why bother.

    THE VERY DEFINITION OF WINDFALL DOES NOT FIT THE CRITERIA FOR THE PENALTIES IMPOSED. Perhaps this law was enacted because a large number of these government employees had large pensions and they threw us lower wage earners in (women) so it would appear equal??

    Millionaires, billionaires and, if you will, those that are recipients of a true windfall will receive their full social security benefits, therefore making it difficult for someone who earned all their social security credits (and widowed to boot) to understand why a government pension and/or social security is considered a windfall!

    Following are a few points to my circumstance, however, I am sure each person affected has their own individual circumstances.

    I am now 65 years of age

    Widowed at 38 (husband died at 40)

    Husband worked for State of California-I received a small lump sum but they told me I could not get his pension because they did not know how to calculate it

    Did not receive any social security for myself after his death but received between four and five hundred dollars/month for my daughter for four and one-half years

    My son was in the military but became mentally disabled after father’s death and two years ago had a traumatic brain injury. He receives a small SSDI benefit but I support him to keep him off streets

    I retired at 60 to care for my son, my mother and physical problems of my own

    I receive govt pension (14.5 years) and for 20 plus years in the private sector, a small pension from Boeing and a small amount from social security which is penalized by WEP and would be penalized more for my husband’s social security by GPO.

    ONE FINAL NOTE: I FOUND IT QUITE UNFAIR THAT CONGRESS DID NOT PAY INTO SOCIAL SECURITY UNTIL UNDER THIS SAME LAW WHERE WE WERE PENALIZED THEY DECIDED TO BEGIN PAYING SO THEY WOULD NOT BE PENALIZED-WE DID NOT EVEN KNOW ANY OF THIS WAS HAPPENING AND HAD NO CHOICE NOR NOTIFIED UNTIL WE WENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE!

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  6. Peter Martinez

    I am a 60 year old maintenance worker with 21 years federal civil service who payed in to social security. my retirement is supposed to be made up three pieces thrift savings the largest piece of my retirement with social security being the second largest piece and a small annuity, because my job was contracted out after 21 years I went to work for the state of colorado, and because i work for the state i am told that i won’t get my full benefit from social security this is so unfair and i want to thank you for all your work on this God bless your efforts

    Reply
  7. Thankful in Colorado

    Thanks to Kevin Brady who is working in a bipartisan manner to replace an extremely unfair WEP program. I wish lawmakers in other states such as Colorado would be as supportive of their teachers, firefighters and policemen as Senator Brady.

    Reply
  8. Peter Weigle

    Thank you for your affords… I have over 33 years under social security full-time and still through WEP they took 10 percent of my social security benefit. My income is just above the poverty level, so the money is much needed…

    Reply
  9. Richard J Victorson

    With “WEP”, public employees receiving Social Security benefits have been subject to individual federal income tax on these Social Security benefits at the rate of 85% taxable. That is, 85% of Social Security benefits are subject to federal income taxation.

    This is a big burden on retirees !

    With this Fix the new WEP – will 85% of our Social Security benefits continue to be subject to federal income tax?

    Reply

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