Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced earlier this month the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2020 (S. 3401), which promises to ensure teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants receive the Social Security benefits according to their work history.
Specifically, this bill would replace the formula for calculating benefits – known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – with a “fairer formula that allocates benefits based on what workers earned throughout their lifetime.”
This is companion legislation introduced by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas).
“Our communities are made stronger, in large part, because of the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to public service,” Sen. Cruz said. “This is especially true in Texas, where more than 189,000 retired public servants and beneficiaries are directly affected by the unfair WEP. It’s time these hardworking Americans are treated fairly and receive Social Security benefits they’ve worked for and deserve. I’m grateful for Sen. Cassidy’s support in this effort and look forward to working with Rep. Brady and other members in the House to pass this legislation and send it to President Trump.”
“Public servants should not be penalized for dedicating their lives to bettering their communities. This bill is the only WEP bill that can actually pass Congress so that teachers, firefighters, police officers and others can obtain benefits that they have earned,” said Dr. Cassidy.
Supported by NARFE
Several organizations support the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act including the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE).
“Careers in public service are some of the most fulfilling and rewarding around,” said NARFE National President Ken Thomas on March 11, “but for millions of retirees and Social Security beneficiaries who have dedicated their professional lives to serving the American people, that experience comes at the cost of being financially penalized under the Windfall Elimination Provision. The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act would reduce that penalty, bringing much-needed relief to annuitants – especially those in low-earning households, which are disproportionately affected by larger benefit reductions.
“While NARFE is ultimately pushing for a full repeal of the WEP, along with its evil twin the Government Pension Offset (GPO), reform efforts such as this bill are positive first steps toward correcting this discriminatory practice,” Thomas said.
What is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)?
NARFE provided this background information on WEP on its website:
- The 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 (e.g., federal employment covered by the Civil Service Retirement System).
- According to the Congressional Research Service, as of December 2019, the WEP affects 1,912,706 beneficiaries, including 1,797,415 retired workers, 12,943 workers with disabilities, and 102,348 spouses and children. In 2020, the WEP can result in a monthly benefit that is $480 lower than what it would be under the regular benefit formula.
The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2020 would do the following:
- For individuals who are first eligible for benefits before 2022 (turning age 62 before 2022): Individuals receiving WEP-reduced Social Security benefits based on their own work record would receive a rebate of $100 per month. Meanwhile, individuals receiving a WEP-reduced Social Security benefit based on their spouse’s employment would receive a rebate of $50 each month.
- For individuals who are first eligible for benefits from 2022 to 2060 (turning age 62 in 2022 through 2060): These individuals’ WEP penalty would be subject to either a new formula or the current formula, whichever is more beneficial. The new formula would calculate benefits based on the proportion of a worker’s career earnings in Social Security-covered jobs to total earnings in covered and non-covered jobs.
- For individuals who are eligible for benefits starting in 2061 (age 21 and under in 2020): These individuals’ WEP penalty would be calculated with the new formula only.
To read the full text of the bill, go here.