The House Ways and Means Committee has advanced for House floor voting HR-82, to repeal two reductions in benefits applying under the federal CSRS retirement system, the windfall elimination provision and the government pension offset.
That is apparently the first time since those provisions took effect in the early 1980s as part of the Social Security reforms of that time that a congressional committee has acted on proposals to soften or eliminate them that have been offered repeatedly since that time.
The WEP reduces a Social Security benefit the person earned through other employment—typically before or after a federal career but in some cases during a career through work on the side—if the person had less than 30 years of earnings above a designated level that this year is $27,300. The maximum reduction works out to about $500 a month and is not as severe for those with between 20 and 30 years of such earnings.
The GPO reduces Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by $2 for each $3 the beneficiary receives in an annuity from a retirement system that does not include Social Security. In many cases, the effect of the GPO is to eliminate a spousal or survivor Social Security benefit through a spouse’s Social Security-covered employment.
Neither affects those under FERS because Social Security is part of that system, although those eligible for a Social Security benefit on their own as well as for a spousal/survivor benefit through a spouse’s employment get the higher of the two but not both.
Backers of the repeal bill have recently been pressing to bring it voting, pointing out that it now has some 300 co-sponsors—well more than enough to pass the House—and raising the prospect of using a special procedure to force a House vote if the committee didn’t act.
“Blocking further progress on this issue in the face of this overwhelming support in the House has become untenable. I urge House leaders to commit, this month, to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” said Ken Thomas, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, which has made repeal of the provisions a top priority for many years.
Should the House take up and pass the bill, it still would have to clear the Senate, where a counterpart (S-1302) has only 40 sponsors and has been pending in the counterpart Finance Committee since it was introduced last year.