Congressional Support for WEP Reform Continues to Grow

Congressional Support for WEP Reform Continues to Grow

H.R.4540 Reaches 124 Cosponsors

February 11, 2020: Work to make reform of the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) a true nationwide issue is paying off. At this time,124 members of Congress now officially cosponsor H.R.4540.

The bill, crafted and filed by House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), reforms the WEP by creating a relief payment of up to $150 per month for current retirees whose Social Security benefits are reduced by the WEP. Filed in late September 2019, H.R.4540 quickly gained the enthusiastic support of all 9 Massachusetts members of Congress.

In late January, Mass Retirees called upon the nearly 7,000 members living outside of Massachusetts to contact their local member of Congress and ask that they support H.R.4540. Over the past three weeks the bill has gained an additional 32 cosponsors. These members of Congress are spread throughout the country and were directly contacted by Mass Retirees members.

Click here to view a list of all cosponsors of H.R.4540.

“Our members heeded the call to action and personally contacted their local member of Congress. We’re seeing the immediate result of this grassroots work. Not only are the number of cosponsors growing, but we’ve also helped create a needed buzz around WEP reform on Capitol Hill,” reports Mass Retirees CEO Shawn Duhamel. “Chairman Neal’s office reports that activity around H.R.4540 is up, which is exactly what we were hoping to achieve.

“We have said all along that we can’t solve the problem of WEP by ourselves. Nearly 2 million retirees across the country are harmed by WEP. We need to engage with them and get their active involvement in this fight with us. In doing so, we will win relief for our members.

“A big thank you to everyone who has personally helped. You have made a tremendous difference in moving WEP reform forward. Now we just need to keep it up!”

Together with the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), Mass Retirees is helping to lead a national effort aimed at reforming both the WEP and Government Pension Offset (GPO) laws. While present reform efforts are strictly focused on the WEP, work to formulate a reform of the GPO is ongoing and will be addressed through future legislation. The GPO applies to a public retirees’ ability to collect spousal Social Security benefits.

WEP Relief for Eligible Retirees

A frequent question from members is whether or not they will be eligible for a WEP relief payment if H.R.4540 becomes law. As drafted, H.R.4540 pays up to $150 a month ($1,800 a year, indexed to inflation) to any retiree eligible to receive Social Security prior to 1/1/2022. 

In order to be eligible to receive Social Security someone must be at least 62 years of age AND have at least 40 quarters of credit under Social Security. Remember 40 quarters is equivalent to 10 years of work under the federal system. Whether or not the individual chooses to collect Social Security benefits before 1/1/2022 is not relevant, only whether or not they are eligible to collect.

It should be noted that 40 quarters of contributions is the minimum service required in order to qualify for Social Security benefits. Even without the WEP being applied, Social Security benefits for those with the minimum required quarters are likely to be very modest.

A full career contributing into Social Security is likely to amass in excess of 120 quarters (30 years or more). Average service under Social Security for many Mass Retirees members runs between 60-80 quarters (15-20 years).

If passed into law, H.R.4540 creates a new fair proportional formula for those first eligible for Social Security on or after 1/1/2022. The new formula has a hold harmless clause attached, which will protect retirees with more than 80 quarters (20 years) of service under Social Security from any inadvertent reduction in benefits caused by the new formula.

Reform vs. Repeal

Another frequent question asked of Mass Retirees officials is why the Association is focused on passing reform legislation (H.R.4540), when another bill exists that would fully repeal both the WEP and GPO laws. Filed by Congressman Rodney Davis (D-IL) on 1/3/19, H.R.141 now has 238 cosponsors – 20 votes higher than needed for a simple majority in the House.

“At first glance members may look at H.R.141 and question why we are not focused on passing full repeal in 2020. The answer is simple. After 37 years of attempts, we do not believe that full repeal is achievable in the current political climate,” explains Association President Frank Valeri. “Past versions of full repeal bills had more than 300 cosponsors – a super majority – and still the bills never made it out of Committee. Full repeal sounds great but has proven, time and time again, not to be a viable option.

“On the other hand, H.R.4540 represents a well-thought-out compromise that, we believe, is viable for passage in 2020. Once passed, our members will receive up to $1,800 a year in relief from the WEP. We can then work on improving the benefit going forward. After 37 years of failed attempts, we cannot afford to continue to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Otherwise, our members will continue to needlessly suffer.”

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