Association Continues Push For Social Security Penalty Relief

NOVEMBER 2002
- Out-of-State Members Also Take Action - As the Congress approaches the end of its current (107th) session,
the Association's legislative team has intensified its effort to prompt
congressional action now on relief from Social Security's Windfall
Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).

"Even
if our work this year does not produce the WEP and GPO relief that
we've been fighting for, we have laid a solid foundation for next
year," comments Legislative Chairman Bill Hill. "And we don't intend to
stop trying before December 31."

To
that end, Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel has been
attending strategy meetings of the Coalition to Assure Retirement
Equity (CARE). Held at the Washington headquarters of the National
Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), the CARE meetings are
attended by representatives from several national unions and
organizations whose members also want to see the eventual repeal of the
WEP and GPO.

Vermont & Maine Respond

"With
only limited time remaining, coupled with cost considerations, the
coalition decided to focus on one bill - S611, the GPO relief bill
filed by Maryland's Senator Barbara Milkulski," reports Duhamel. A
recent analysis by the Social Security Administration places the cost
of a total repeal of both the GPO and WEP at $3.4 billion in 2003,
while the cost of implementing S611, which exempts the first $1,200 of
monthly pension allowance and SS benefits from the GPO, is $600 million
- a more manageable sum in today's economy.

"To
coordinate the effort, each group agreed to take on specific tasks.
Since both Senators Kennedy and Kerry are already supporting S611, we
turned our attention to our out-of -state members, first those in
Vermont where Senator Jeffords' support has been deemed crucial."

Based
upon calls to the Association, our members in Vermont are responding.
"Believe me, I didn't hesitate to write Senator Jeffords," said Frank
Hyman of Rutland, a Mass. D.P.W. retiree. "Something must be done now,
not later."

We not only reached out
to Vermont, but then our Maine members. According to Duhamel, "It's
apparent from the coalition meetings that a Republican senator,
spearheading S611's passage along with Democratic Senator Milkulski,
could only enhance the bill's prospects. Since Senators Snowe and
Collins both cosponsored the bill and are also Republican, we asked our
Maine members to urge their senators to do what they could."

Not
surprisingly, our Maine members have responded, like their brethren in
Vermont, and contacted their senators. "We know our members will act
when called upon and we are always thankful for that," states Hill.

WEP Update

In
addition to our coalition activities, the Association continues its own
efforts on these issues. That includes our work with Congressman Barney
Frank and his staff. Rep. Frank's WEP relief bill (HR 1073), as well as
his strong statements against this unfair federal law, have been well
chronicled in past Voice issues.

"Of
course we would prefer to see the GPO and WEP eliminated altogether.
However, in the current political climate, a partial repeal of the WEP
may be the only viable approach for now," comments Duhamel. "With that
in mind, Representative Frank's bill is a good first step."
Over
the past months, the main stumbling block has been the House Social
Security Subcommittee and its chairman, Florida Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Ft
Lauderdale). "When we met with our members in the Ft Lauderdale area,
earlier this year, we asked them to contact Rep. Shaw and they did,"
reports Hill.

"And
according to his staff, Rep. Frank has also contacted Chairman Shaw to
get his bill out of the committee. But so far Rep. Shaw has been
unwilling to separate the issue from a more comprehensive Social
Security package. Unless more pressure is applied, we may have to wait
until next year and a new Congress."

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