Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2019 (HR 3934) which would permanently repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and transition “to a fair formula that treats our teachers, firefighters, and police officers just like everyone else.”
WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of local, state and federal retirees who worked in Social Security-covered employment (e.g., private-sector jobs) and who also receive a government annuity from their non-Social Security covered government employment.
“Although HR 3934 does not fully repeal the WEP, it represents a significant improvement over the status quo, which unfairly punishes CSRS retirees for their public service — for that reason, NARFE supports the bill,” the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association wrote in an email to its members Wednesday.
“By depriving dedicated public servants of full Social Security benefits that they rightfully earned through contributions to the Social Security system, the Windfall Elimination Provision is simply unfair,” said NARFE National President Ken Thomas. “With low-earning households disproportionally affected by larger benefit reductions, the federal community experiences significant financial loss due to the WEP. ”
What Would the WEP Repeal and Reform Legislation Do?
NARFE described the bill this way:
“Individuals currently affected by WEP could lose up to $463 per month in earned benefits. The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act seeks to replace the WEP with a formula that equalizes benefits for certain individuals with non-covered employment. The bill would provide WEP-affected individuals age 60 and older with a monthly rebate of $100 ($50 for surviving spouses). For WEP-affected individuals currently under age 20, the bill would change how the WEP is calculated. For those between age 21 and 59, the individual’s WEP penalty would be calculated either using the current formula or the new one created by the bill, whichever is more beneficial.”
Rep. Brady released the following statement regarding the legislation:
“For years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a permanent solution to fix WEP. This arbitrary Washington compromise has resulted in unfair treatment for our teachers, fire fighters, and police officers; and Texans simply cannot afford Congress to remain inactive and let this unfair policy be the law of the land.
“Now is the time for Congress to put forth a solution that can actually be signed by the President. This legislation permanently repeals the current WEP, and instead uses a fairer formula that treats public servants like all other American workers. Democrats agree that this is a problem we must address now, and we hope they join us in fixing this long-standing problem this year. While I am introducing a bill today, I am committed to staying at the table to get a bill to the President’s desk”
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 here.
According to the Congressional Research Service, as of December 2017, the WEP affects 1,804,095 beneficiaries, including 1,687,542 retired workers; 13,981 workers with disabilities; and 102,572 spouses and children.
To read the full text of the bill, go here.