Support for Social Security WEP Reform Grows

Support for Social Security WEP Reform Grows

Active Employees Join with Retirees in National Campaign

APRIL 29, 2021: Our all-out drive to pass a reform of the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is showing early signs of success, as a growing number of state and national organizations are publicly backing the passage of H.R. 2337.

To date, 50 state and national groups representing public retirees, active employees and retirement advocates have publicly endorsed the WEP reform legislation sponsored by Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA). Neal, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, has also garnered the support of 146 of his House colleagues as cosponsors – including the entire Massachusetts delegation.

The number of cosponsors continues to grow as retirees and active employees subjected to the WEP law contact their local member of Congress. In Massachusetts alone some 83,000 residents currently have had their Social Security benefit reduced by the WEP. Nationally, the number of impacted retirees is on the cusp of surging past 2 million. This number grows daily as new people retire and begin to collect their earned Social Security benefits.

Here in Massachusetts, at least nine public employee unions have joined with Mass Retirees and the Retired Educators Association of Massachusetts (REAM) in support of H.R. 2337. The unions have begun their own campaigns to educate their members on the impact of the federal WEP law on future Social Security benefits and advocate for the passage of reform. 

“We are incredibly grateful for the active support we have received from a growing number of public employee unions. In the past, we have successfully worked together as a coalition to defend our collective members rights when it comes to health insurance and pension benefits. Working together in a united front increases the likelihood of success,” said Mass Retirees CEO Shawn Duhamel, who remains the Association’s point person on federal issues. “The WEP is just as much an issue for active employees as it is for retirees. Without the passage of a reform, every single current employee will likely be impacted by the WEP if they qualify for Social Security. It is in everyone’s best interest to pass Mr. Neal’s reform bill while we have the opportunity to do so.”

What Does the Reform Do? 

If passed by the House and US Senate, then signed into law by President Joe Biden, H.R. 2337 provides relief for anyone now eligible for Social Security who is subject to the WEP and creates a new Social Security formula for future beneficiaries aimed at accurately and fairly calculating Social Security benefits based on time and earnings under the federal system.

For those currently impacted by the WEP (age 62 or older with at least 40 quarters) the bill increases monthly Social Security benefits by up-to $150 a month, indexed to inflation. The “up-to” reference applies to those retirees with a WEP reduction of less than $150 a month. This scenario applies to those with more than 20 years of substantial earnings under Social Security, but less than the 30+ years needed for full exemption from the WEP.

Social Security beneficiaries with less than 20 years (80 quarters) under Social Security receive the full impact of the WEP, up to just under $500 a month for those retiring in 2021. A sliding scale for the WEP reduction exists for those retirees with 20-30 years of credit (80-160 quarters) under Social Security. Click here for more information on how the WEP is calculated. 

Reform of WEP vs. Full Repeal

A common question posed to Mass Retirees is why the Association is supporting a reform of WEP, rather than a full repeal of the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which applies to spousal Social Security benefits.

From 1983 through 2013 – a thirty-year span – Mass Retirees was among the organizations at the forefront of the fight for full repeal. Early in 2014, following a series of meetings with Congressional leaders from both parties and talks with key national stakeholder groups, we reached the conclusion that full repeal is highly unlikely.

“When I was elected Association President in the fall of 2013, one of the first things I set out to do was to take a fresh look our advocacy efforts surrounding WEP and GPO. This came as a direct result of input from a growing number of members who were impacted by the WEP and GPO laws,” recalls Frank Valeri. “Shawn and I spent the winter of 2014 meeting with a number of stakeholder groups and key members of Congress. The clear takeaway was that the level of support needed for full repeal simply does not exist. Despite years of best efforts, we do not have the votes to pass such a law. 

“That left us with a choice: Either continue to fight for something in principle that is unlikely to ever happen or find middle ground to pass a compromise reform bill that will bring much needed relief to our members, as well as fix the WEP for future retirees. Since empty promises and rhetoric do not help our members, the choice to focus on the passage of a reform bill was the right one to make.” 

“In terms of the GPO, it is not included within H.R. 2337 because consensus does not exist on how to reform the spousal benefit. While we certainly believe that the GPO law is unfair, there are many who disagree with our position. This is a different situation than the WEP,” adds Duhamel. “That said, we are not giving up on the GPO. We will find a reasonable compromise, but it is going to take longer to get a deal done. This will likely happen through future legislation.”

Endorsements of the Public Servants Protection & Fairness Act of 2021 (HR 2337)

National groups:

  1. Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA)
  2. American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  3. Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)
  4. International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
  5. International Union of Police Associations (IUPA)
  6. National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)
  7. National Association of Government Employees (NAGE)
  8. National Association of Retired ASCS/FSA Office Employees (RASCOE)
  9. National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO)
  10. National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM)
  11. National Conference of State Social Security Administrators (NCSSSA)
  12. National Education Association (NEA)
  13. National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA)
  14. Public Retirees Alliance
  15. Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
  16. Social Security Works
  17. United Postmasters and Managers of America (UPMA)

State and local groups – Massachusetts:

  1. Mass Retirees
  2. AFT-Massachusetts 
  3. Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass COP)
  4. Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (MCOFU)
  5. Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists (MOSES)
  6. Massachusetts Teachers Association
  7. Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM)
  8. Retired Educators Association of Massachusetts (REAM)
  9. New England Police Benevolent Association (NEPBA)

State and local groups – California:

  1. California Teachers Association
  2. California Teachers Association/National Education Association—Retired
  3. Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA)
  4. Oakland Police Officers’ Association (OPOA)
  5. Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)
  6. Brentwood Police Officers’ Association
  7. Foothill-De Anza Community College District Police Officers Association
  8. Vallejo Police Officers’ Association

State and local groups – Texas:

  1. Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE)
  2. Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA)
  3. Texas State Teachers Association 

State and local groups – Louisiana:

  1. Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police (LACP)
  2. Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT)
  3. Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association (LSA)

State and local groups – other states:

  1. Colorado Education Association
  2. Illinois Education Association
  3. Illinois Federation of Teachers
  4. Kentucky Education Association
  5. Maine Education Association
  6. National Education Association—Alaska 
  7. National Education Association—Rhode Island
  8. Ohio Education Association
  9. Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS)
  10. Western States Sheriffs’ Association

Editor’s Note: As mentioned above, we are aware of at least nine Massachusetts public employee unions on the record in support of H.R. 2337. If you are a labor leader and your organization is inadvertently missing from the list, please contact Nancy McGovern or Shawn Duhamel directly.

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