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Social Security WEP Hearing Called a Success
Brady/Neal Credit Mass Retirees For Advocacy
MARCH 25, 2016: On Tuesday of this week the House Subcommittee on Social Security held a special hearing on H.R. 711: Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act.
Association President Frank Valeri and Legislative Director Shawn Duhamel were present at the hearing and also met with key Congressional leaders from both parties, as well as Ways and Means Committee staff.
As members are aware, H.R. 711 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), replacing it with a new Social Security formula for all American workers. The new formula would be equally applied to all public and private sector retirees, ensuring equal treatment based on the retirement credit earned under Social Security.
Future retirees would retire under the new formula, while those current retirees already impacted by the WEP would have their Social Security benefit adjusted. Under the current version of H.R. 711, the adjustment would restore up to 1/3rd of the lost benefit, amounting to an average increase of roughly $77 to $125 per month. Discussions are now underway with the hope of further increasing the adjustment beyond original estimates.
H.R. 711 is sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA). Neal is a senior Democrat member of Ways and Means.
Both Brady and Neal offered public testimony at the outset of the hearing, calling the proposal a fair and equitable solution to a long-standing problem. Both publically thanked Mass Retirees for our work on this issue, as well as helping to lead the national coalition largely responsible for the creation of H.R. 711.
The Association’s good friend and close alley Tim Lee testified on behalf of coalition members. Lee is the executive director of the 80,000-member Texas Retired Teachers Association. He is also a close supporter of Brady, as well as Social Security Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX).
“Being from Texas, Tim was the perfect witness to appear before the Committee. He did a great job on behalf of our members, as well as all 1.6 million retirees currently impacted by the WEP,” says Duhamel. “His testimony was very well received by the Committee members. There appears to be a growing bipartisan consensus in the US House that the WEP needs to be reformed.”
In addition to Lee, the Committee heard testimony from the Social Security Administration, an economist from George Mason University and the President of the AARP. Each supports H.R. 711 and explained why they beleive it offers a fair and workable solution for current and future retirees.
In addition, the issue of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) was also discussed at length. While a general consensus does exist that the GPO is also in need of reform, a firm proposal remains elusive at this time.
“The GPO was very much on everyone’s mind at the hearing. One problem we have is determining who might be impacted by a reform of the GPO and what the cost might be. From what we understand, reforming the GPO is more costly than the WEP,” explains Valeri. “That said, we made it crystal clear that both the WEP and GPO are greatly important to us. And it is critical that we find a way to provide relief to those spouses most harmed. That relief might have to come in a separate bill, following H.R. 711, but we are confident that it will come.”
Now that H.R. 711 has had a full hearing, the next step for the Committee is to fine tune the language of the bill based on the information they have received from various sources. Association and coalition officials hope the bill can be brought to a vote before the US House of Representatives prior to the summer Congressional recess.