Social Security Offsets Felt Nationally

Association Continues Building Support For Repeal

JULY 2009: As talk of reforming America’s retirement safety net continues to grow, Association officials have stepped up efforts to build a strong and broad national coalition of organizations to support a repeal of both the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The goal of our Association is to fully repeal both offset laws affecting current and future retirees. While the pending federal legislation (HR 235/S484) does not allow for the retroactive payment of lost benefits, when and if the law is changed, the Social Security benefits of currently affected retirees would be adjusted accordingly from that point forward.

And, while the individual impact of the WEP and GPO are certainly felt by a growing number of Massachusetts retirees, the financial devastation, brought about by the two Social Security laws, is becoming a national issue.

Groups, such as the AARP and the National Conference on Aging, who, in the case of the former, originally supported the WEP and GPO offsets, now openly support repeal efforts and have placed the issue on their national agendas.

Since groups, such as AARP, represent a broad cross section of retirees, from both the public and private sectors, their interest in the issues of WEP/GPO may be a sign that nationwide support is growing for repeal of the two laws.

"We have to view this as a step in the right direction. For years these national groups either ignored the offset issues or even worse, thought that it was OK to cut Social Security benefits for governmental retirees," explained Association President Ralph White. "Our outreach efforts on WEP/GPO reform have educated people on just how unfair these laws are. At the invitation of the National Conference on Aging, we sent our Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel to their national conference, as a guest speaker on WEP and GPO repeal.

"Through these efforts, the Association has been able to connect with other national groups, including retired teachers in Missouri and Maine who are victims of the these laws. WEP and GPO are not just a seven state issue."

Coalition Strengthens

A key component of our Association's lobbying effort in Washington, DC is the work that is done through the Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity (CARE), which is comprised of public employee labor unions and associations from across the country. CARE is spearheaded by the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE).

In addition to NARFE, the National Educators Association and National Federation of Teachers, along with the International Association of Fire Fighters, continue to work directly with our Association to advocate for WEP/GPO repeal.

Like many retired Massachusetts teachers, retired Missouri teacher Martha Karlovetz is a victim of the WEP. After spending over 30 years as a classroom teacher, Martha retired in 2003 and found that her Social Security benefit would be reduced by $370 a month based on the WEP.

Similarly, after teaching in Raymond, Maine for thirty-three years, Tom Curran lost nearly 40% of his Social Security benefit also due to the WEP. Curran had been the president of the local teachers union. He has remained active with the union since retiring and is a NEA-Retired Vice President.
Karlovetz, who also served as president of her local teachers union, holds a seat on the NEA-Retired Advisory Council. A major focus of the Council is advocating for the repeal of the WEP and GPO.

"It is nice to know that we are not alone in this fight," said Karlovetz. "In Missouri, some public employees pay into Social Security, others don't. Our teachers have a separate pension system and do not participate in Social Security. So we have the same problem as Massachusetts retirees, the dreaded WEP and GPO."

"We have found pockets of retirees, from all fifty states, who are impacted by the WEP and GPO. For instance, Nevada is mostly a non Social Security state, but due to their small number of employees we do not include them as one of the seven highly effected states," explained Duhamel. "However, Nevada could be critical in our lobbying efforts. The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, represents Nevada. Like Speaker Pelosi in California, Senator Reid's support is critical to our progress."

In addition to the Association's continued efforts to grow our national coalition, individual members, living outside Massachusetts, are encouraged to contact their local federal Senators and Congressmen and ask that they support the repeal of the WEP and GPO.

"This can't be viewed as simply a problem for Maine, Massachusetts or Missouri individually. The only way these laws get changed is by us working together and showing Congress that WEP/GPO are an unfair national issue that must be fixed," says Curran. "It's great to know that we have strong allies in Massachusetts."