Majority Of Congressmen Now Support Relief From Social Security

MAY 2002
- For the first time, federal legislation that would provide relief
from the onerous Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP) of the Social
Security law, has garnered the support of a majority in the US House of
Representatives. H.R. 1073, introduced by Congressman Barney Frank of
Newton, now has 219 sponsors out of 435 representatives.

Having
achieved this milestone, Rep. Frank had the following comments. “Now
that a majority of the House has formally joined our effort to provide
some relief to victims of these terribly unfair provisions, I will be
pressing the House leadership to allow the bill to come to a vote. This
nation is far too wealthy to claim that we cannot afford to let people
who worked hard all of their lives receive the Social Security benefits
which they earned – morally and legally.”

According
to Rep. Frank’s bill, a public retiree, who is unfortunately affected
by the WEP (i.e., eligible for public pension after 12/31/85) but whose
monthly pension and Social Security total less than $2,000, would be
exempt from the WEP. In other words, they would receive the full amount
of SS benefits, to which they are entitled, and not receive a much
smaller amount calculated differently under the WEP.

For
those between $2,000 to $3,000 monthly in combined pension and Social
Security, their SS benefits are reduced less than under the WEP, based
upon income. For example, public retirees, earning between $2,000 to
$2,250 monthly, would lose only 20% of their SS benefits that would
have been lost under the WEP, and 40% if their combined benefits are
between $2,250 to $2,500.

Once a
public retiree’s combined pension and Social Security totals more than
$3,000 monthly, then their SS benefits would be reduced by the full
amount under the WEP. While not eliminating the WEP entirely, H.R. 1073
offers relief to many affected members with low and moderate retirement
income.

Other Developments

H.R.
1073 continues to be held in the Social Security Subcommittee of the
House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Florida Rep. Clay Shaw.
Recently, this subcommittee held hearings on H.R. 3497, introduced by
the Florida Congressman.

As reported
in the March Voice, H.R. 3497 contains a proposal to reduce, by
one-half, the actual reduction in spousal SS benefits under the
Government Pension Offset (GPO). One of the strongest national groups
for GPO relief and an Association ally, the National Association of
Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) took the opportunity at the hearing
to push hard for action on the issue.

Shaw,
whose district encompasses parts of Dade and Broward Counties on
Florida’s Gold Coast, won a narrow victory two years ago. District
boundary changes now underway through redistricting would give him a
more favorable voter base in this year’s election.

Over
340,000 local, state and federal retirees are affected by the GPO. Of
that number 80% (almost 272,000) receive no SS benefits whatsoever
because of this law.

“While the
consensus appears to be that a comprehensive Social Security reform
package is unlikely before year’s end, supporters of WEP and GPO relief
remain optimistic that the (Social Security) Subcommittee will act
separately on these issues,” reports Legislative Chairman Bill Hill.
“CARE (Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity) intends to keep up the
fight for change.

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