Association Enlists Florida Members In Fight Against GPO And WEP

MARCH 2003
- Relief Bills Introduced In Congress - When it comes to relief from Social Security's Government Pension
Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), the Association
will do whatever it can to push this much needed legislation through
the Congress. Last year, we enlisted the help of our Maine and Vermont
members, and now we've turned to our Florida membership.Earlier
this year, several hundred members, living in the Ft. Lauderdale/
Pompano Beach area, met with Association officials. Ft Lauderdale is
also represented by Congressman Clay Shaw, Jr. who has served as
chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee – a critical committee to
any earlier success toward relief.

One
of the hot topics at the Florida meeting was the GPO and WEP. "To be
successful, we need to enlist the grassroots support of our members
living outside the Commonwealth," according to Legislative Chairman
Bill Hill. "This meeting was an excellent opportunity to do just that,
and it appears to have been successful."

It
provided our members, who are hurt by the GPO and WEP, with a forum to
express their dissatisfaction with these laws and demand change. "It's
not right that after I paid into Social Security all those years, I
should be treated (by the WEP) as if I'm trying to get something for
nothing," claims Gloria Bernier who worked at Framingham's Cushing
Memorial Hospital and now lives in Pompano Beach.

"Gloria
is right on point", added friend and former coworker Joan Anderson, now
of Boyington Beach, who is hurt by both laws as a widow. "I wish the
politicians, who pushed through these laws so many years ago, could see
the harm they're causing today."

"When
I worked at the retirement board, I saw firsthand how retirees were
hurt and here I'm witnessing it again," according to Florence Pires of
West Palm Beach, who was the former executive director of the Fall
River Retirement Board and receives nothing because of the GPO. "They
can't wait any longer; the President and Congress must help now."

These
comments are representative of the many heard by Association officials
at the meeting. Members not only had a chance to voice their criticism
but also join together and take action.

"Since
moving here (Florida), I've been frustrated because I can't have the
direct impact that I had when I lived and voted in Mass.," says Harold
Greene of Pompano Beach. "Now I can do my part for my fellow members,
who are being hurt by Social Security, and contact my congressman, Clay
Shaw, to correct the problem."

"We'll be writing to him also," vowed both Bernier and Anderson. "It's time for us to act."

Continue Work With Coalition

"Our
work with our Florida members is part of the Association's activities
in conjunction with CARE (Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity),"
reports Hill. "By way of explanation for our newer members, our
Association has belonged, for several years, to CARE which is dedicated
to eliminating the GPO and WEP.

"Several
national unions and organizations have coordinated their efforts to
abolish the GPO and WEP through the coalition. NARFE (National
Association of Retired Federal Employees) spearheads CARE."

It's
important to note that even though the Congress has the same two-year
session as the Mass. Legislature, the Congress takes somewhat longer to
file bills for the current (108th) session. For example, while the
Association's 2003-2004 legislative package was filed last December in
the State House, congressmen and senators began to introduce bills in
the US Capitol after they convened in January.

In
February (after we went to press), CARE met at NARFE's headquarters to
map out strategy for this year. Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel has
been representing the Association at these important coalition meetings.

Just
before the CARE meeting, the lead sponsors for the GPO relief
legislation, which the coalition has supported over the years, filed
their bills again for the 108th Session. Representative William
Jefferson (D-LA) and Senator Barbara Milkulsky (D-MD) have reintroduced
legislation that will exempt $2,000 of a public retiree's monthly
pension and Social Security benefits from the GPO.

Members
should note that the sponsors have upped the monthly amount – from
$1,200 in last year's bill to $2,000 in the current version. "While the
bills still do not eliminate the GPO, the number of affected public
retirees, who could benefit, has been obviously expanded by raising the
dollar amount," says Hill. "Legislation, repealing both the WEP and
GPO, will also be before this Congress as it has in prior sessions."

Senator
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Howard (Buck) McKeon (D-CA)
have reintroduced their bills to eliminate both the GPO and WEP. A
summary of the major relief legislation in the Congress, including bill
numbers, will be included in the May Voice.

On
the home front, Senator John Kerry and Representative Barney Frank are
filing, once again, bills in the 108th Congress that will offer WEP
relief to those members with moderate retirement income (i.e., pension
and social security benefits totaling less than $3,000 monthly or
$36,000 annually). While the Kerry and Frank bills do not repeal the
WEP entirely, they represent a major step in the relief effort. Both
had introduced WEP relief legislation in the previous (107th) session,
with Frank's bill sponsored by well over a majority of that Congress.

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