PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WEIGH IN ON WEP/GPO

OCTOBER 10, 2008: While the Association has not taken a position or endorsed either presidential candidate, members have inquired about Senator McCain and Senator Obama’s position relative to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

 

As part of our efforts to repeal both regressive laws, the Association works closely with a number of national organizations and coalitions. One of our closest allies on the national level is the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), which recently conducted written interviews with McCain and Obama regarding their positions on Social Security, Medicare and other issues impacting retired public employees.

 

A complete account of NARFE’s 2008 Presidential Candidate Survey can be found here.

 

The following statements relative to the WEP and GPO is an excerpt from NARFE’s questioners to the candidates. The wording is as it appears in NARFE’s 2008 report, which focuses primarily on retired federal employees, most of whom are hurt by the WEP/GPO like many MA retirees. Since these issues do directly impact many retired Massachusetts public employees, we felt that the information should be shared with our members.

ISSUE: SOCIAL SECURITY OFFSET (GPO & WEP)

There are two provisions of the Social Security Act that have a dire financial effect on many retired public employees. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects federal, state and local government employees who retire after 1982 from a job not covered by Social Security by reducing or eliminating their spousal Social Security benefits that ordinarily would be payable. The government retiree’s Social Security spousal benefit is reduced by an amount equal to two-thirds of the annuity. The GPO is particularly discriminatory against women with shorter or intermittent public service careers.

 

Public-service employees who retire after 1985 from jobs not covered by Social Security can have any Social Security they otherwise earned reduced by as much as 50 percent as a result of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Female retirees, particularly, are often dealt a double whammy on their planned retirement income by losing Social Security spousal protection due to the GPO, then find they also have their own earned Social Security benefit drastically reduced by the WEP. Both of these offsets are applicable to retirees simply because they spent part of their careers in public service.

 

NARFE: Would you support legislation to revisit and reform these two offsets, which affect millions of government and public-service retirees?

 

Sen. McCain: As president, I will seriously consider any re- form legislation relating to Government Pension Offset or Windfall Elimination Provision that hits my desk. My primary goal on this front, however, will be comprehensive reform of Social Security on a bipartisan basis to preserve it for future generations.

 

Sen. Obama: Barack Obama has and will continue to sup- port repealing the WEP and the GPO. He is a cosponsor of the Social Security Fairness Act, which would repeal them both. These provisions severely limit (or completely eliminate) the Social Security income for many retirees who receive a federal [or MA Public] pension. No such provisions apply for those who receive private- sector pensions. We have a responsibility to take care of workers who have devoted their lives to public service. We need more of our young people going into public service, not less, and we should not discourage them by telling them we won’t be living up to our side of the bargain when they retire.

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