Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) last month introduced the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2018 (S-3526), which would ensure that teachers, first responders, law enforcement officers, and other public servants receive Social Security benefits calculated from their work history. Representatives Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR-6933).
These bills follow a line-up of previous legislative proposals in recent years that have attempted to either repeal or reduce the impact of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)– a law enacted by Congress in 1983 designed to eliminate the “windfall” of Social Security benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security.
Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2018
According to an Oct 4 letter from the Social Security Administration to Rep. Brady, HR-6933 would “generally replace the windfall elimination provision (WEP) with a new formula” for individuals becoming eligible for Social Security benefits in 2025 or later. The proposal would also provide for a rebate payment starting in 2020 for individuals affected by the current WEP.
“I am grateful for the men and women who devote their time and lives to our classrooms and communities,” Sen. Cruz said. “This bill would replace the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) with a fairer formula to ensure that our public servants receive the Social Security benefits they deserve, based on their service to our communities. I am proud to support our hard working teachers, first responders, law enforcement, and all other public servants, and appreciate the leadership of Reps. Brady and Neal as we continue to find ways to better serve them.”
“Introduced by the two of us, this bill is intended to provide relief from the WEP for affected individuals in Texas, Massachusetts, and the rest of the country,” Reps. Brady and Neal said. “Workers nationwide pay into Social Security with the expectation that they will receive the benefits they’ve earned when they retire. As we have known for some time, WEP, though well intentioned, has treated many of our public servants unfairly. This legislation is part of continued efforts to ensure that public servants who earn both a Social Security benefit and a pension from a Social Security substitute are treated fairly when it comes to Social Security. We know there is room for improvement, and we encourage feedback on the bill as work continues to address the WEP. It’s time to stand up for our teachers, firefighters, and police officers in our states and all across the country.”
What is the Windfall Elimination Provision?
Many individuals, including federal employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), Americans employed in foreign countries by foreign employers, and some state public employees do not contribute to Social Security. In spite of their not being able to contribute to the Social Security system in their jobs, many of the aforementioned individuals have at some time during their working careers been able to earn the required minimum 40 “quarters of coverage” or credits to qualify for Social Security retirement payments. Before 1983, these workers were able to receive the maximum benefits from both Social Security and their public pensions.
However, in 1983 Congress passed the Windfall Elimination Provision in order to eliminate this advantage. In particular, if an individual is covered by a public pension plan (such as CSRS) and has less than 30 years of “substantial” Social Security covered earnings while working in the private sector, the amount of Social Security benefits they receive will be reduced. The Social Security benefits are reduced for affected individuals; those:
- reaching age 62 after December 31, 1985;
- becoming disabled after December 31, 1985; or
- becoming first eligible for a monthly pension after December 31, 1985 based on non-covered Social Security employment.
More information on the Windfall Elimination Provision can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website at: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/wep-chart.html