Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Get Public Employees Full Social Security Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in reintroducing bipartisan legislation that would ensure public sector workers and their families can receive full Social Security benefits after two previous statutes reduced them. The Senators’ bill, the Social Security Fairness Act, would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) from the Social Security Act.
“These Ohioans worked their whole lives teaching our children and keeping our communities safe – there’s no reason law enforcement officers and teachers shouldn’t be able to retire with their full Social Security benefits,” said Senator Brown. “Social Security is one of the bedrocks of economic security in this country, and everyone should be able to share in the benefits. This small fix will help these families have the peace of mind that their Social Security benefits will be there for them when they retire from a life of dedicated service to our communities.”
“Public servants from across the country have dedicated their professional careers to the service of their country, yet many face reduced retirement benefits due to the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset,” said Senator Collins. “I held the first Senate oversight hearing on this issue and have continuously worked to correct it. This important, bipartisan bill would eliminate these unfair provisions that have enormous financial implications for many public service employees, such as retired teachers and police officers. It would also give current public sector employees the peace of mind to know that they will be able to receive their full Social Security benefits when they reach retirement age.”
“I’ve long said Alaska’s public sector workers who educate our children, protect us from harm, and serve the public good deserve the Social Security benefits they’ve worked for and earned. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, local government workers, and other public servants are critical members of our communities—and this commonsense, bipartisan legislation that I’ve supported every Congress since I’ve been in the Senate will repeal unfair deductions to their benefits,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “We’re supporting Alaskans who have dedicated their lives to enhancing our communities and serving the public good.”
“Everyone deserves to retire with dignity, and after years of public service America’s educators earned a fair deal in retirement. That’s why we have been sounding the alarm about a government provision that cuts educators’ retirement benefits, even after they have dedicated their lives to the well-being and potential of our nation’s students. The 3-million-member National Education Association supports the Social Security Fairness Act that helps right a wrong and ensures that educators and public service workers unjustly penalized by the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision receive the benefits they have earned. We strongly support this legislation and urge Congress to pass this bill quickly,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.
“The Social Security Fairness Act rights a wrong that has been unfair and uncorrected for far too long. The Windfall Elimination Program (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) have undermined the retirement security of educators, school staff, and state and local government workers for decades. It must stop. When you contribute to Social Security, it should be there for you when you retire. There should be no offsets, nor should workers be penalized for the time they spent out of the workforce raising their families or otherwise. No one who works hard and pays into Social Security should retire and see their benefits slashed. Sen. Brown understands the burden this creates for working families and his bill removes these penalties once and for all. I applaud his leadership and urge Congress to pass it immediately,” said Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers.
“There are nearly 3 million retired public servants whose earned Social Security benefits are being substantially reduced by 40% or more, or in some cases eliminated entirely. The National Task Force to Repeal WEP and GPO is comprised of current and former public servants who support repeal of these grossly unfair provisions of the Social Security Act. For those retirees, and the more than 6,000,000 current public servants who will be affected in the future, we join in Senator Brown’s efforts to bring about the fairness and dignity we earned through our public service,” said Roger Boudreau, Rhode Island AFT Retiree Chapter President and member of the National Repeal WEP GPO Task Force.
“The WEP and GPO provisions do not eliminate a windfall for workers; instead, they have proved to be a windfall for the Federal government at the expense of public employees. That’s not right and it’s not fair. It is incumbent on Congress to repeal these inequitable provisions and pass the ‘Social Security Fairness Act,’ which will also help to stimulate the economy by putting additional cash in the pocket of retired public employees as they and their families struggle in these trying times,” said FOP President Patrick Yoes.
“Fire fighters are often forced to work a second job to supplement their salaries and support their families. These first responders pay into Social Security through their outside employment, but are presently forced to accept cuts to their Social Security benefits simply because they served their communities as fire fighters,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly. “The IAFF applauds Senator Brown for his leadership in eliminating the WEP/GPO which will help retired fire fighters enjoy the secure retirement they have earned though years of service. This bill is a long-due recognition that retired first responders have already paid for and earned their retirements. I urge Congress to pass this bill immediately and help retired public servants nationwide.”
“Bottom line: No one who has dedicated their career to strengthening their community should be penalized in retirement – this is a bipartisan principle that is the basis of Sens. Brown’s and Collins’ bipartisan legislation. Current law deprives millions of people of the Social Security benefits they have earned, simply because they have a pension from decades of work in public service. These cuts, disproportionately affecting low-wage workers and women, can be devastating for people who were counting on Social Security to help make ends meet. AFSCME has been fighting to end this discrimination, which victimizes millions of working families, for many years. We enthusiastically endorse The Social Security Fairness Act and encourage both the House and Senate to move on this bill in short order,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), enacted in 1983, reduces the Social Security benefits of workers who receive pensions from a federal, state, or local government for employment not covered by Social Security.
The Government Pension Offset (GPO), enacted in 1977, reduces Social Security spousal benefits for spouses, widows, and widowers whose spouses receive pensions from a federal, state, or local government. Together, these provisions reduce Social Security benefits for nearly 3 million Americans – including many teachers and police officers.
The Social Security Fairness Act would repeal both the WEP and GPO statutes, ensuring public sector workers and their families receive their full Social Security benefits.
In addition to Brown and Collins, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are cosponsors of the legislation.