National Advocacy Campaign Resumes

November 2020 Voice: Following six months in which the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have commanded the full attention of the US Congress, the national advocacy campaign to reform the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) has resumed in earnest.

Last fall, Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal filed much awaited legislation (H.R. 4540) aimed at ending the WEP law. The bill would provide up to $150 a month in relief payments to current retirees who have had their Social Security benefits reduced by the WEP, as well as create a new fair benefit formula for future retirees. 

With similar legislation filed by Republicans in the House and US Senate, the issue of WEP reform enjoys bipartisan support within both branches of Congress. However, in the past support for WEP reform or repeal has been strongest from lawmakers representing states with large populations of public retirees and employees that are outside of the Social Security system.

Why Massachusetts public retirees are impacted by the WEP law is the fact that Massachusetts’ public employees do not participate in Social Security. CA, CO, IL, LA, OH and TX are the states that, together with Massachusetts, have the highest percentage of public retirees and employees working outside of Social Security.

Nationally, nearly 2 million public retirees have had their Social Security benefits reduced due to the WEP (see related article, p. 15). Some 74,000 Massachusetts residents are directly impacted, which is why Neal and the other eight members of that state’s Congressional delegation and two US Senators support WEP reform.

A year after it was first filed, Neal’s H.R. 4540 has 146 cosponsors including nearly every Democratic member of the House Ways and Means Committee – which Neal now chairs. His Republican counterpart, Texas Congressman Kevin Brady, has filed his own version of a WEP reform bill (H.R. 3934). And while similar to Neal’s, Brady’s bill would restore up to $100 a month in benefits for current retirees, as opposed to the $150 offered within Neal’s proposal.

As members know, Mass Retirees continues to work in concert with retiree organizations from across the country to coordinate efforts and advocate for broad support of WEP reform.

“Massachusetts and Texas are natural allies when it comes to WEP. My members are equally harmed by this law as are members of Mass Retirees. The only way we will bring about much needed change is by working together. None of us can win this fight alone,” says Tim Lee, Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. “What we have come to realize is that we need to extend our efforts beyond our home states and involve everyone across the country who has been harmed or will be harmed by WEP. We know there are retirees living in all 50 states impacted by WEP. Well those retirees have as much at stake as do retirees from Massachusetts or Texas.” 

“About a year ago we reported that Mass Retirees and the TRTA had come together to form the Public Retirees Alliance, which is aimed at promoting WEP reform across the country. Our work with the Alliance had just begun to ramp up in March when COVID-19 hit and the focus of the country turned on a dime,” explains Mass Retirees CEO Shawn Duhamel. “While the situation over the past six months could not be helped, we have worked hard at getting our efforts surrounding WEP reform back on track.

“Fortunately, Congressman Neal won the Democratic Primary and faces no opposition in the General Election. Our members know how important Richie is to passing WEP reform and worked hard to help ensure that he continues to represent the 1st Congressional District. 

“With Congress now focused on passing a handful of ‘must pass’ bills before the end of 2020, we have rapidly restarted our national campaign to promote WEP reform. The goal is to gain additional bipartisan support within the House and Senate that leads to a deal getting done this year.”

The current Congress remains in effect until January 2021.

Click here to locate and contact your local member of Congress and ask that they support and make the passage of WEP Reform a priority.