Spanberger, Davis Call on Congress to Protect Social Security Benefits of Law Enforcement, Firefighters, & Other Public Sector Employees, Bring Their Bipartisan Bill Forward for a Vote

The Lead Sponsors of the “Social Security Fairness” Act Today Called on House Leadership to Bring Their Legislation to the U.S. House Floor for a Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) today called on U.S. House leadership to bring forward their bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Social Security Fairness Act would eliminate both the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), two provisions of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for millions of Americans who have devoted much of their careers to public service. Spanberger and Davis introduced the bipartisan bill in January 2021 at the start of the 117th Congress — and the bill now has more than 250 Republican and Democratic cosponsors, far more than is needed for the legislation to pass on the floor.

In a letter sent to congressional leadership and U.S. House Ways and Means Committee leadership in both parties, Spanberger and Davis called for a vote on their Social Security Fairness Act as soon as possible — citing strong support from Members on both sides of the aisle. In their letter, Spanberger and Davis also highlighted the personal impacts the WEP and GPO have had on the financial security of constituents in Virginia and Illinois.

“We write to urge you to discharge H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act, from the Ways and Means Committee and bring it to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible,” said Spanberger and Davis. “Passing the Social Security Fairness Act will immediately benefit millions of retired police officers, federal employees, first responders, and other public servants. H.R. 82 has significant bipartisan support — of the more than 7,700 bills introduced this Congress, only 18 have more cosponsors — and it’s time for the House to vote.”

Their letter continued, “The Social Security Fairness Act would remove both the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) from the Social Security Act. The WEP and the GPO have substantially reduced more than 2 million retired public sector employees’ Social Security benefits, affecting about 4 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries. In 2020, the WEP reduced benefits for 48,697 Virginians and 99,640 Illinoisians  — and the GPO reduced benefits for 7,849 Virginians and 48,046 Illinoisians.”

The push from Spanberger and Davis is supported by several organizations representing America’s police officers, firefighters, and other public sector employees.

“The Social Security Fairness Act really is about fairness,” said Patrick Yoes, National President, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). “Fairness to public employees who served their communities and happen to be working for local governments that chose decades ago to construct a retirement system separate from the Social Security Act, but earned a Social Security benefit through other work. This particularly impacts police officers, who retire earlier than other government employees and begin second careers which require them to pay into the Social Security system. No one should be penalized because of their public service.”

“The Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset have unfairly punished retired public servants through reduced Social Security benefits for far too long,” said Ken Thomas, National President, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). “With this bill, Reps. Davis and Spanberger have provided hope for the millions of retirees and survivors currently affected by this inequitable practice. NARFE urges swift consideration of the Social Security Fairness Act to repeal these harmful policies and improve fairness for future retirees.”

Currently, the WEP reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. For example, educators who do not earn Social Security in the public schools but who work part-time or during the summer in jobs covered by Social Security have reduced benefits, even though they pay into the system just like others. Likewise, the GPO affects the spousal benefits of people who work as federal, state, or local government employees — including police officers, firefighters, and educators — if the job is not covered by Social Security. The GPO reduces by two-thirds the benefit received by surviving spouses who also collect a government pension.

Click here to read their letter. Full text of their letter is also below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Chairman Neal, and Ranking Member Brady:

We write to urge you to discharge H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act, from the Ways and Means Committee and bring it to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible. Passing the Social Security Fairness Act will immediately benefit millions of retired police officers, federal employees, first responders, and other public servants. H.R. 82 has significant bipartisan support – of the more than 7,700 bills introduced this Congress, only 18 have more co-sponsors – and it’s time for the House to vote.

The Social Security Fairness Act would remove both the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) from the Social Security Act. The WEP and the GPO have substantially reduced more than 2 million retired public sector employees’ Social Security benefits, affecting about 4 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries. In 2020 the WEP reduced benefits for 48,697 Virginians and 99,640 Illinoisians and the GPO reduced benefits for 7,849 Virginians and 48,046 Illinoisians.

When Congress passed the provisions in 1983, it intended to remove a “windfall” for retirees who spent time in jobs not covered by Social Security and also worked in other jobs where they did pay Social Security taxes. In practice, the two provisions dramatically reduce the benefits of low-paid public employees and create an inequity for those public sector employees who also spent time in jobs covered by Social Security.

Worse still, the WEP and GPO use arbitrary and regressive formulas to calculate their reductions to a retiree’s benefits. The WEP reduces benefits for a retired worker with a public service pension by as much as $498 per month in 2021. Since the WEP formula applies to the first bracket of the Social Security wage replacement formula, it causes a relatively large reduction in benefits to lower-paid workers. The GPO reduces Social Security benefits for spouses or survivors who also earned a pension by up to two-thirds of their monthly pension benefits. The decision to reduce spousal benefits by two-thirds was not based on any analysis, but an arbitrary amount decided in conference between the two chambers in 1983.

Bipartisan legislation to repeal the WEP and the GPO has been introduced in every Congress since at least 2001. Nearly 40 years after Congress passed these provisions, the 117th Congress should be the one to finally fix this long-standing inequity and protect the benefits of individuals who made careers out of public service by voting on and passing the Social Security Fairness Act.

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