Fedweek

The WEP reduces a Social Security benefit the person earned through other employment. Image: Lane V. Erickson/Shutterstock.com

Legislation to repeal the windfall elimination provision and government pension offset reductions to Social Security benefits received by retirees under the federal CSRS system have received another hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, but prospects for action remain uncertain.

The hearing focused on a House bill (HR-82) to fully repeal both reductions, a measure that has more than 300 cosponsors, well more than a majority; a Senate counterpart (S-597) has 53 cosponsors there, also a majority although short of the 60 needed for most votes there. However, even with that level of support in prior Congresses, no bills have been brought to floor votes.

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 $31,275. The maximum reduction works out to above $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.

Their repeal has been a long-time priority of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and also supported by other federal employee organizations. Over the years, numerous possible approaches short of appeal have been proposed and have been the subject of hearings but no bill has ever been brought to a House or Senate floor vote.

Although the latest hearing focused on the current repeal bill, much of the discussion centered on the potential for revisions rather than repeal. Experts said that both reductions were based on limited and even flawed data when they were created decades ago, and that the SSA now has better information that could be used to revise the existing formulas.

Also, some committee members raised concerns about the potential cost of repeal, given that the Social Security trust fund already is on course to be exhausted in about 10 years, after which the program will have only enough ongoing income to pay about three-fourths of currently promised benefits.

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FERS Retirement Guide 2024