Association Mounts Pressure On Congress

NOVEMBER 2003
- Day in and day out, the Association receives scores of calls, letters
and emails from members who are adversely affected by Social Security's
so-called "anti-double dipping" laws. Many members relate stories as to
the negative impact these federal laws have had on their lives.

Leaving
no stone unturned, the Association has enhanced its efforts to repeal
both the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination
Provision (WEP), by hiring our own Washington lobbyists. This move,
coupled with an intense grassroots effort, marks a turning point in the
battle to reform Social Security for public retirees.

In
August, Association leaders made the decision to retain the firm of
Lussier, Gregor, Vienna & Associates, Inc. Headed by Tom Lussier,
who is the former executive director of the Teachers' Retirement
System, LGV&A is located in Alexandria, Virginia and specializes in
retirement related issues appearing before the federal government.

"With
thousands of members now impacted by either the GPO or the WEP, we made
the decision to take our efforts in Washington to the next level. Our
legislative team is second to none, but we cannot be in Washington
full-time," explains Association President Ralph White. "I have always
maintained that in order to be successful at lobbying you need to be on
the job full-time.

"Tom Lussier is
an established expert on retirement issues. He knows our system and our
members. Most importantly, the people working with Tom know Washington
DC, know the players on Capital Hill, and know how to get things done.
Our members are counting on us to get this problem fixed. I can assure
them that we are not going to rest until we get results."

Our
relationship with LGV&A will in no way detract from our work with
CARE, a coalition of retirement systems and organizations that
regularly meet in Washington at the headquarters of the National
Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE). "CARE has been at the
forefront of the GPO and WEP repeal, but LGV&A will give us another
weapon," White pointed out.

On
September 17, Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel attended a
meeting of CARE, in Arlington, VA, with Richard Fitzsimmons of
LGV&A. Other meetings are scheduled for this fall with coalition
members, as well as members of Congress.

Florida Is Key

Over
the past year, members, who live outside of Massachusetts, have been
asked to contact their Congressmen and US Senators and urge their
support of the GPO and WEP legislation. To date, target letters have
been sent to members residing in Florida, Maine, and Vermont.

Association
officers, in consultation with LGV&A, have decided to place special
focus on three congressional districts within Florida, in an attempt to
gain the support of a handful of influential Republican House members.
The three Congressmen are: E. Clay Shaw (R-Ft. Lauderdale), C.W. Bill
Young (R-St. Petersburg) and Porter Goss (R-Ft. Meyers).

With
Congressmen Shaw, Young, and Goss each holding key chairmanships in the
House (Subcommittee on Social Security, Appropriations Committee, and
the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, respectively), they are
in positions to directly influence the passage of any bill through the
Congress.

What is also unique about
these three Florida Congressmen is the fact that each represents a
district heavily populated with retirees. Association records show that
Massachusetts retirees have taken up permanent residence in the three
districts in large numbers, with each representing no less than 500
members. Since the last several Florida elections have turned out
record close results, the Congressmen in question know that every vote
truly counts.

"While it is important
to continue communicating with our own congressional delegation, it is
crucial to take our message beyond Massachusetts. We need to convince
the people in control of Congress that the GPO and WEP laws need to be
changed," explains Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel.
"Since the White House and both houses of Congress are under Republican
control, Republican Congressmen are who we need to sway our way."

Members,
who live in the districts represented by Shaw, Young, and Goss, are
asked to please contact their respective Congressman and ask that they
support the repeal of both the GPO and WEP laws. Association lobbyists
suggest that you briefly explain, in your own words, why these laws are
unjust and should be changed.

Legislation Gains Support

Efforts
being put forth by the Association and our allies in CARE to gain
support for a full or partial repeal of both the GPO and WEP laws are
paying off. Currently, the focus of CARE and our Congressional
supporters has been on two bills, H.R. 594 and its Senate companion, S.
349.

Both bills seek the complete
repeal of the GPO and the WEP, which would grant those retirees who are
currently penalized their full Social Security benefit from the point
of repeal forward. No retroactive monies would be paid. The cost of a
full repeal is estimated at $65 billion projected over ten years.

Many
congressional observers feel that a full repeal, while the ultimate
goal of CARE, may prove to be too expensive for Congress to pass. If
that proves to be the case, then the bills would likely be amended to
reflect a partial repeal of both laws. However, even a partial repeal
is estimated to cost upwards of $32 billion projected over ten years.

Currently,
H.R. 594 is being reviewed by the House Subcommittee on Social
Security, which is chaired by Representative Shaw. The bill was filed
by Rep. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) and now has 261 cosponsors. All Mass.
Congressmen have signed on as cosponsors. If passed in its current
form, H.R. 594 would repeal both the GPO and WEP laws.

Senator
Diane Feinstein (D-CA) filed the companion bill, S. 349, in the US
Senate with 23 cosponsors. Its cosponsors include several high profile
Republicans, such as Senators Snow and Collins of Maine. Both Senators
Kennedy and Kerry are on the bill.

In
fact, Senator Collins, who chairs the Senate Committee on Governmental
Affairs, held a special hearing in September titled, Penalty for Public
Service: Do the Social Security Government Pension Offset and Windfall
Elimination Provisions Unfairly Discriminate Against Employees and
Retirees?

The Association submitted
testimony to the Committee, which related the problems both laws have
created for our members. Senator Collins is expected to issue a report
on the issue later in the Congressional session.

"More
and more people are becoming aware of the unfairness of both the GPO
and WEP. Progress is being made, albeit slowly," said Duhamel. "We need
to keep up the pressure, educate the decision makers, and never give
up. This is an issue that we can win."

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