Baton Rouge Event Highlights Harm to Public Retirees

Monday of Thanksgiving week, a House Ways and Means Committee Field Hearing on “Social Security’s Disservice to Public Servants: How the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset Mistreat Government Workers” took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was the first Congressional public hearing on the topic since 2016.

The hearing was held by the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. It was co-chaired by Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Social Security Subcommittee Vice Chairman Mike Carey (R-OH). The hearing was streamed live and can be viewed on our website www.

In addition to the public hearing, the Committee requested that written testimony be submitted for the Congressional record. Mass Retirees, along with a countless number of Association members, have submitted written testimony documenting the unfair impact of these laws.

In a statement posted online prior to the hearing, the Committee said “America’s public servants are mistreated by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). These unfair Social Security rules not only harm their retirement but can often take seniors by surprise. Today, the Committee has traveled to Baton Rouge, LA to hear from retired public servants about how WEP and GPO have affected their lives.”


The Ways and Means Field Hearing was held in Baton Rouge for two reasons. First, a large portion of Louisiana’s public workforce is not covered by Social Security and therefore impacted by WEP and GPO. Second, the lead sponsor of H.R.82 is Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA), whose district includes Baton Rouge. With more than 300 House cosponsors, H.R.82 proposes to fully repeal both the WEP and GPO. At the hearing, Graves called Congressional action to fix the 1983 federal law “long overdue.”

We should point out that while the focus of the four official witnesses was on full repeal of both the WEP and GPO laws, the hearing itself spotlighted the unfairness of the laws and did not delve into the details of any specific legislative fix.

Leading off the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Mike Carey’s described the WEP and GPO as flawed, complex formulas that tend to overcorrect. He explained that today’s hearing “is the first step to identify meaningful relief for our public servants.”

Chairman Smith, who will ultimately play a key role in whether or not a WEP/GPO bill passes the House during the current Congressional session, said the following in his opening remarks: “Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset have prevented millions of Americans from getting the Social Security benefits they deserve, and these policies will harm millions more, unless Congress acts. While not likely known to most Americans, these two parts of the Social Security program have real consequences for public employees. It means seniors get smaller checks and could struggle to afford their food, medicine, and heat their homes.

“Decades ago, in an effort to keep Social Security from overpaying certain retirees – which would be unfair to other seniors – Washington stepped in and created new formulas and a new process. Unfortunately, those solutions have proven ill-equipped to solve the original problem.

“Seniors aren’t only harmed by these unfair policies. They’re often blindsided by them. Most state and local employees do not know that they’ll get a smaller Social Security benefit until it’s too late to adjust their plans. People spend decades working, saving, planning for retirement, and find out only at the point of retirement, that things were not as they thought. And given the complexity of the entire system, trying to work with the Social Security Administration to determine what they are owed can be extremely difficult and frustrating. “

At the core of this issue is fairness. Congress must find a bipartisan way to provide public servants with the fair treatment that they deserve.”


In total, four official witnesses who are retired public servants gave public testimony during the hearing. Their powerful testimony dramatically conveyed the urgent need to address WEP/GPO.

  • Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, testified that not a day goes by when he does not hear from retired police officers who have been harmed by the WEP and/or GPO. He stated that there is deep frustration for law enforcement officers who lose a large portion of their earned Social Security benefits due to WEP. Seventy percent lose their entire spousal or survivor benefit due to GPO. This “discourages anyone from pursuing a career in public service,” said Yoes.
  • Ann Dugas, a retired Louisiana State Employee, testified that after being widowed at a young age, she began receiving Social Security survivor’s benefits. Due to the GPO, those benefits were eliminated once she retired and began to collect her public pension. Mrs. Dugas stated, “The decision to retire was not an easy one for me to make. Approaching the age of seventy-seven (77) with twenty-five (25) years of employment with the State, I faced the reality that I would not be able to work much longer and I felt that I needed to begin to look into my options for retirement.
  • Bernie Piro, a retired firefighter of 35 years, testified that he expects his Social Security benefits to be cut by about 60 percent due to WEP. He described the provisions as a betrayal and “an injustice that must be corrected now.” He explained how the WEP has been a tremendous hardship on his family, and they have eliminated spending where they can, including internet service and a landline at their home.
  • Paula Porter, a retired school teacher from Louisiana of 38 years, testified that her husband passed away at age 61 from cancer and never collected any Social Security income. Mrs. Porter worked parttime jobs throughout her career after his passing to support their five children. Porter is now 80 years old, and she has been denied her husband’s benefits. “I still live a simple life—I don’t travel, I don’t go to movies. You lead a very, very simple life.”

Chairing the hearing, Congressman Carey made the following observation. “While this is an issue that is especially pronounced in Louisiana, it is not just a Louisiana problem. It affects more than one hundred thousand public servants in my home state of Ohio, as well as those in Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, California, and every other state across the country. “

America’s hardworking and dedicated public servants deserve relief from the WEP and GPO’s unfair treatment.

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