WEP & GPO: The twins that eat Social Security checks

Suppose your specialty is making horror movies, or maybe a shocking TV series series, and your looking for something new. And if possible, real. Impossible? Not really.

In addition to finding the money, you need to get another threatening creature — vampires are out, zombies are fading — to interest a jaded public. With lots of competition facing you from other horror film-makers. What you need, in this crowded market, is a threat that is both horrifying and real. That is believable and truly evil. And that preys on old people. Decent citizens who worked hard all their lives and hoped to live out a long and prosperous retirement. Where to find such a creature?

Then your golden opportunity knocks. You discover the equivalent of the Rocky Horror Show for many of the nation’s retired government employees. The equivalent of a captive audience of more than 3 million former feds, retired cops, firefighters and school teachers. And the the monsters are real: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). Two very real creatures created by Congress. And for decades, including up until now, WEP and GPO have made monthly raids on the Social Security benefits of millions of retired civil servants from the state, local and federal service.

Best of all (for your series, not for the poor retirees) is this:

Somebody comes to you with not one, but two, horrible creatures and a guaranteed audience of millions. Plus these demonic twins have the added plus of being real. And the audience is people the evil twins prey on. Every month from the time they retire to the day they draw their last breath. The victims are all good, hard working people. Most of them spent full careers either working for the federal, state or local government. And the evil twins also go after their surviving spouses. As long as they are in retirement, the blood-sucking twins take some, most or all of the government pension benefit the retiree or a spouse earned after years of service. Many of them are federal government retirees, or they worked for a state or local government. Or married somebody who did. That’s a lot of pockets being picked in broad daylight.

The villains are right out there in plain sight. Congress created them in the 1970s. At the time, critics said the former feds or spouses were getting more than they deserved based on their work history under Social Security. And the horror is the bite is real. Someone subject to WEP can have up to $498 per month taken from their Social Security benefit. Under the Offset rule, a surviving spouse (mostly widows) can lose their entire Social Security spousal benefit. Each month. And for life.

Under the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) workers paid into the federal retirement fund but not into Social Security. Many state and local government employees were also outside of Social Security. But they got government pensions/annuities (that were often more generous because of their contributions) than they would have under Social Security. But congressional watchdogs discovered that some of the government retirees were “gaming’ the system by spending a full career in government then working a few (5) years in the private sector, which also entitled them to Social Security.

According to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association, WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of federal, state or local government retirees who worked in a job covered by Social Security who also get a federal annuity for their federal service under the CSRS, which ended in the mid-1980s. Feds now pay into Social Security as well as in to a federal retirement Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) that produces a less generous benefit than CSRS. The GPO can reduce and often eliminate government retirees from collecting their own annuity AND Social Security benefits based on their spouse’s private sector work in a Social Security-covered job. Complicated stuff. But a nightmare for millions.

The National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees Association is one of many groups that have been waging an uphill battle in Congress to repeal or modify WEP and GPO. They have gotten some promising bills introduced in Congress and hope they can drum up enough grass roots support to get Congress to act. And hopefully get the support of the Biden administration. Our guest Wednesday on our Your Turn was Jessica Klement. She’s VP for advocacy at NARFE and an expert on WEP and Offset. She also talked about the numbers of people involved and what a powerful cohort they would make — if they linked arms. To listen to that show click here.

In the eyes of millions (and their families) these are real Nightmares On Main Street preying on elderly, law-abiding Americans. How bad is it?

Opponents of WEP and GPO are pushing legislation that would modify (but not repeal) the power of the evil twins. Backers believe they have the best shot at modification in years because of the makeup of Congress and with the Biden administration in power.

Meantime…

Check out this state-by-state listing of retirees impacted. And make sure your Senator or member of Congress sees it too!

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

To make a single 12 oz. jar of peanut butter requires about 540 peanuts.

Source: National Peanut Board

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