Bills aim to lessen Social Security's WEP penalty

Two bipartisan pieces of legislation aim to reduce the impact of the Social Security “windfall elimination provision,” which reduces benefits for those who also draw benefits from a retirement program that does not include Social Security, such as CSRS.

Enacted into law in 1983, the WEP formula was created to adjust Social Security worker benefits because retirees sometimes earned a higher retirement benefit than their work history supported, consequently giving them a "windfall" of benefits.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.) have introduced companion bills in the House and Senate that will permanently repeal the use of the formula—that the lawmakers call unfair to public service workers—and replace it with a new one.

Cruz and Brady wrote a joint opinion piece in the Dallas Moring News explaining the need  to eliminate the use of WEP.

“The WEP was originally put in place with the intention to prevent this windfall from happening. Instead of creating a fair formula, however, the newly-created WEP forced all public servants who also paid into Social Security into an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all reduction in benefits, with not all public employees being treated equally,” they wrote, adding that, “Additionally, retired public servants often did not know that they would be affected by the WEP until they claimed Social Security benefits, since the reduction did not show up in their Social Security statements. This is a poor way to compensate the dedicated men and women who are engaging in the important work…”

The lawmakers have proposed the use of a new formula that calculates worker benefits using each worker's total lifetime earnings, and then adjusts for the proportion of earnings that came from a job that pays into Social Security.

Also included in the legislation is a call to offer rebates of $100 per-month for workers already affected by WEP, and $50 per-month for those receiving a spousal benefit from Social Security. 

The Senate version of the bill here, and the House version is available here.

Reader comments

Fri, Apr 26, 2019 International Civil Servant and WEP VA

I was appointed as an International Civil Servant outside the USA for a period of 5 years. The pension I am getting is impacted by WEP to the maximum amount allowed. I have less than 20yrs of work counting as substantial earnings even though I did pay SS. I also worked in other countries for American Firms and this will also cut my benefits. Why, after 40+ years of employment does one find out about this situation when applying for benefits, reducing me to leave at poverty level? This is outrageous, discrimination and punitive for those who seek to represent US interests around the world. REPEAL!

Tue, Mar 26, 2019

Please just repeal the WEP and GPO. No one, not OPM or Social Security can give me any amounts of which I am entitled to when I retire because it is too confusing for them. I tried for myself and just can't do it.

Mon, Mar 4, 2019

I've paid into both public employee and social security at the same time. I've worked 40 years under ss but only approximately 15years did I make substantial income since it goes up every year but my pay didn't keep pace with the increase. I've been an elected official for 21 of those years and paid into PERS all those years also and will have a small pension but because of it I will lose some of my ss. It's not fair that I paid ss the whole time and will lose some of it just because I had a low paying job

Tue, Jan 22, 2019 Jeanette Scanlan FL

It was illegal to pass the WEP bill and steal our money. Now is the time to make things right but I know it will never happen. It never does. So sad.

Fri, Jan 4, 2019 PAM Missouri

"REPEAL: WEP AND GOVERNMENT PENSION OFFSET ! AMERICAN WIDOWED WOMEN WHO TEACH...NEED THEIR SOC SEC .....SURVIVOR BENEFITS....TO AVOID POVERTY !!!" Support: HR 1205, S 915, John Larson's HR 1902 and Linda Sanchez's POWR HR 1583. NANCY ALTMAN...needs to be in CHARGE of Soc Security !!! She knows and shares...the TRUTH !!!

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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