Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led a group of colleagues in introducing legislation that would ensure public sector workers and their families can receive full Social Security benefits after two previous statutes reduced them. The Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) from the Social Security Act.
“Public servants from across the country have dedicated their professional careers to the service of their country, yet many face reduced retirement benefits due to the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset,” said Senator Collins. “I held the first Senate oversight hearing on this issue and have continuously worked to correct it. This important, bipartisan bill would eliminate these unfair provisions that have enormous financial implications for many public service employees, such as retired teachers and police officers. It would also give current public sector employees the peace of mind to know that they will be able to receive their full Social Security benefits when they reach retirement age.”
“These Ohioans worked their whole lives teaching our children and keeping our communities safe – there’s no reason law enforcement officers and teachers shouldn’t be able to retire with their full Social Security benefits,” said Senator Brown. “Social Security is one of the bedrocks of economic security in this country, and everyone should be able to share in the benefits. This small fix will help these families have the peace of mind that their Social Security benefits will be there for them when they retire from a life of dedicated service to our communities.”
“The Social Security Fairness Act is about fairness and supporting those who devote their lives to public service, like our 1st Responders. Many of our members have worked in secondary employment in the private sectors to take care of their families and paid into Social Security for many years in addition to their careers in the fire service. But because of the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset, their Social Security benefits are severely reduced or even eliminated altogether. These two provisions amount to a penalty for public service as it only affects public employees in Maine and a number of other states. Firefighters should not be denied their earned benefits because they chose a career in public service. The PFFMaine applauds Senator Susan Collins for her continued leadership and for supporting the women and men, our 1st Responders who keep our communities safe by sponsoring this critical legislation to repeal the WEP and GPO and we urge Congress to pass the Social Security Fairness Act now and help retired public sector employees and their families nationwide,” said Professional Fire Fighters of Maine President Michael J. Crouse.
“Local school districts that wish to recruit staff from private sector employment who are or will be beneficiaries of the Social Security system find it difficult to attract such staff or experienced personnel because these individuals fear the loss of other benefits earned under the Social Security System. The Maine School Boards Association view the passage of the Social Security Fairness Act as a very important work force enhancement which will have the effect to more greatly allow portability between and among retirement systems. In addition to increasing the number and quality of educational professionals, this Social Security Fairness Act will also have the positive impact of improving the financial status of education retirees by allowing them to draw from Social Security contributions they made during time when they needed to enhance their income based on reduced wages earned as members of the education community,” said Maine School Management Association and Maine School Boards Association Executive Director Steven Bailey.
“On behalf of the Maine Fraternal Order of Police, I am encouraged to learn that efforts are continuing by Senator Collins and others to correct the unfairness and long term harm done to Maine’s police officers and police officers nationwide by the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset. For decades, Maine and a limited number of other states have been penalized by these provisions, causing irreparable financial harm to retired public servants and has helped in hampering recruiting and retention efforts for new officers. Senator Collins, a long time and fierce supporter of Maine’s first responders is applauded for her efforts and we hope that the rest of Congress will support her and Senator Brown’s bill,” said Maine Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director Michael Edes.
“The Maine Education Association knows that both the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision are unjust laws that have severely impacted retired educators in Maine and other states for decades. Many educators have second jobs to provide for their families, or enter education as a second career after employment in other fields, and lose most or even all of the social security that they have paid into, or lose a spouse’s social security benefit that they needed. We are hopeful that the Social Security Fairness Act, introduced by Senators Collins and Brown, will at long last see forward movement and become a reality,” said Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt.
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), enacted in 1983, reduces the Social Security benefits of workers who earned both Social Security and a pension from federal, state, or local government employment not covered by Social Security. The Government Pension Offset (GPO), enacted in 1977, reduces Social Security spousal benefits for spouses, widows, and widowers who receive pensions from a federal, state, or local government job not covered by Social Security. Together, these provisions reduce Social Security benefits for nearly three million Americans – including many teachers, police officers, and firefighters.
The Social Security Fairness Act would repeal both the WEP and GPO statutes, ensuring public sector workers and their families receive their full Social Security benefits.
In addition to Senators Collins and Brown, the legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).