Last week, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) filed HR 5342 (entitled “the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act”), which would reduce the negative effects the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) has on retired teachers’ Social Security. The bill, however, would stop short of total repeal of the WEP. Instead, Arrington’s bill would replace the existing WEP formula with a formula that less severely harms retired educators.
The WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of people who have worked in jobs in which they did not pay Social Security taxes. First passed by Congress in 1983, the WEP is an austerity measure intended to eliminate the so-called “windfall” received by people who worked in jobs that do not pay into Social Security and have a public pension. The retirees negatively affected by the WEP/GPO are some of our country’s most critical employees: teachers, firefighters, police officers, and many other public employees. These employees are underpaid during their careers, and the WEP/GPO are further shortchanging them in retirement.
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) estimates that 96% of its members do not pay into Social Security, so 96% of TRS members will have their Social Security benefits negatively affected by the WEP. The WEP cuts up to 60% of a TRS retiree’s Social Security benefits simply because they taught in Texas and, thus, worked in a job that didn’t pay into Social Security.
Texas AFT and national AFT have long supported the total repeal of the WEP and a similar provision, the Government Pension Offset (GPO). At last year’s national convention, AFT members passed a resolution stating that “only a full repeal of the provisions can fully address that unfairness going forward.” That call was echoed this year in a resolution passed at Texas AFT’s biennial convention.
HR 82, which is co-sponsored by 289 of the 425 representatives in Congress, would fully repeal the WEP and GPO, whereas Arrington’s bill would reduce WEP’s negative impact, not erase it.
Arrington’s bill has 18 co-sponsors. Arrington has not yet signed on to co-sponsor HR 82, which would fully repeal the WEP and GPO.