New Tactic To Spur GPO/WEP Repeal

MAY 2006 - Coordinated Efforts With Congressional Delegation - Following a series of winter meetings in Washington, DC, the Association has launched a new campaign aimed at spurring action on the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO).

Coming off a year when a series of devastating hurricanes and the war in Iraq derailed much of the country's domestic agenda, retiree lobbyists are working closely with members of the Bay State's congressional delegation on a grassroots effort designed to bring the issue to the House floor.

Last year, the focus was on including a GPO/WEP repeal provision within an overall reform of the Social Security system, while at the same time protecting Massachusetts from being forced to join the federal program. As members know, the Commonwealth is one of seven states (CA, CO, IL, LA, MA, OH, and TX), in which all or a vast majority of public employees do not participate in Social Security.

Now, most political observers agree that Congress is unlikely to take-up a major Social Security overhaul bill before the 2008 presidential election. With 308 cosponsors signing onto H.R.147 (GPO/WEP repeal bill), it is obvious that the votes exist for the bill's passage once it reaches the House floor.

"We went to Washington intent on coming up with a plan to move the GPO/WEP issues forward. Congressman Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) approached us with a plan to build a national grassroots effort in order to bring the issue to a head," explains Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. "A group of us also met with Representative Richard Neal (D-Springfield), who serves on the Social Security Subcommittee. He has been very helpful from within the committee in trying to move a bill forward."

Grassroots Action

A source of frustration for members, Association officials and the congressional delegation has been the unwillingness of the leadership in Washington to advance a GPO/WEP bill beyond the Subcommittee on Social Security.

The linchpin of Capuano's approach is to work with a nationwide coalition of retirees and employees from the impacted states, along with the various non-Social Security districts, authorities and other entities around the country to lobby individual congressmen. Successfully applied, individual congressmen from both parties will feel the pressure in their home districts to act on a bill.

"By targeting certain districts and individual congressmen from across the country, we can expand our reach beyond Massachusetts. To a person, all ten of our congressmen and the two senators have been working hard on this issue for many years," said Association Legislative Chairman Bill Hill. "The problem is that they cannot do it alone. This is an expensive national issue with ramifications well beyond our state.

"But, by working with other groups, like the National Educators Association (NEA), we can take this fight to individual school districts in states all across the country. Mike Capuano has stepped up and asked to take a leading role, for that we thank him."

Members, who are impacted by the GPO or WEP, are encouraged to continue their grassroots efforts on the issue. Contacting your local congressman, as a reminder of how important the issue remains, is key to the success of the legislation.