Association Pushes WEP/GPO Inclusion

FEBRUARY 2, 2013: This past week, the Association took part in the annual National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) Legislative Conference held in Washington, D.C. While a variety of pension, healthcare and Social Security issues were discussed, one issue was on the top of our agenda – WEP & GPO.

As those members who are impacted by the dreaded Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) know all too well, the federal Social Security reductions impose financial hardship on many retirees. For more than a two decades, the Association has been a leading national advocate for the repeal of both the WEP and GPO laws.

Since the offset laws only impact those public retirees, who did not pay into Social Security as a public employee, only a small number of retirees are impacted across the country. Current estimates are that roughly 6 million public retirees and employees are impacted – in a country of over 310 million people.

While legislation to repeal both laws has gained great support in Congress, the proposal is tied to the larger issue of Social Security reform. Given the lack of agreement or political will to tackle the larger issue, efforts to reform WEP/GPO have been stalled.

As Congressional Leaders and President Obama begin a new round of budget and deficit reduction talks, the possibility exists that Social Security reform could end up part of a so-called “grand bargain” between the parties.

“We sent Shawn Duhamel to Washington this past week to make sure that the WEP & GPO are not forgotten. He’s been working with our federal lobbying team, unions and other retiree groups from across the country to ensure that this important issue remains on the radar screen,” said Association President Ralph White. “I personally take many calls from members who have lost thousands in retirement income due to the WEP or GPO. Repealing or reforming both laws remain one of our very top priorities.

“I know it gets tiring to keep asking for our members to contact their US Senators and member of Congress and ask for them to support WEP/GPO repeal and or reform. But right now, with so much at stake, we have to make sure the message is heard in Washington, loud and clear.”

“Our team met with key Congressional staff members, from both parties, this week to renew a dialog about including the WEP and GPO issue in a larger Social Security Reform bill. Right now, no one can predict what may or may not happen during this session of Congress. But, what is agreed on is that things may happen very fast once negotiations resume,” explained Duhamel. “If Social Security becomes part of a larger deal on the budget or federal deficit, then we have to be ready to place WEP and GPO in the mix. Otherwise, the opportunity will be lost.

“As Ralph White has asked, if you are impacted by either the WEP or GPO, please help us by contacting your federal officials. We don’t use form letters, but simply put your situation into your own words. Explain that the law is unfair and has placed you under a financial hardship as a result.”

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Members should look to their future editions of the Voice for further information.