In recent years one aspect of the debate surrounding the Social Security WEP and GPO laws has been the issue of reform of the two federal laws vs. full repeal of the laws.

The well documented position of Mass Retirees is that, while we would prefer to see both the WEP and GPO fully repealed, we do not believe it to be a realistic possibility. Not only does the national support for full repeal not exist, but organized opposition to the proposed legislation has also become increasingly vocal.

As we prepared to go to press with the September edition of The Voice in late July, a statement from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget regarding the full repeal of the Social Security WEP and GPO was brought to our attention.

The Committee includes full repeal of WEP and GPO within a list of four current federal legislative proposals they deem to be “fiscally irresponsible policies”.

Repealing Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision – WEP and GPO are meant to prevent double-dipping of Social Security benefits. WEP/GPO aren’t perfect, but repealing them without a replacement would make Social Security less fair, cost $150 billion over a decade, and advance Social Security’s insolvency date by about a year.”

According to its website, “The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact.

“Our bipartisan leadership comprises some of the nation’s leading budget experts, including many past heads of the House and Senate Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office.”

While supporting reform of WEP and GPO, the CRFB says “(W)hile neither formula is perfect, the goal is to avoid treating those with a limited number of years covered by Social Security as if they were low-income workers for purposes of Social Security’s benefit formula.” This is the same rationale used by Congress in justifying the creation of WEP and GPO in 1983.

Since its creation in 1935, Social Security was designed to provide a greater benefit to those viewed as low wage workers. Due to this benefit design, public retirees with less than 30-years of substantial contributions to Social Security were incorrectly considered to be “low wage workers” under the formula and thus received an inflated benefit. It is this anomaly that the WEP was intended to correct.

Other non-profit public policy organizations, such as the highly regarded Bipartisan Policy Center, have taken similar positions in opposing full repeal but supporting reform of the current laws. In the past, opponents of full repeal have also included retiree advocacy groups such as the AARP.

“It’s clear that full repeal of WEP and GPO is, at best, a long shot. The recent statements of the CRFB are a reminder of the political reality we must face. However, there remains an opening for reform of both WEP and GPO,” said Mass Retirees CEO Shawn Duhamel. “Even the most fiscally conservative watchdogs agree that the current WEP and GPO formulas are flawed and need to change. These are the reasons why we are focused on reform and not full repeal. It does not help retirees to pursue legislation known to be a dead end. Our focus continues to be on getting results for our members, regardless of how long it might take.”

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