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, 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 !!!

Sun, Dec 16, 2018 Maxine Cohen

As a retired Fed employee who falls into the WEP trap. This reduction affects my survivor benefit to my husband's SS. He collects $2500 monthly, The WEP reducion will apply. If, i NEVER WORKED, I WOULD COLLECT MORE. not FAIR

Fri, Nov 30, 2018 Ann M California

GPO doesn't affect as many as WEP BUT is just as devastating and totally against Federal law allowing SS entitlements. Why should a loyal federal retiree be punished for having a federal career when, if having had a private sector one instead, would have been eligible to Social Security as the law allows? So, so unfair and hurtful to so many!

Fri, Nov 30, 2018 Ed phillips kansas

Republican Congress always kills any bills and will continue to do so.

Thu, Nov 29, 2018

Would like to see the FERS cost of living increase addressed to make it equivalent to those received by CSRS and Social Security recipients. Particularly since CSRS annuitants received substantially better benefits than FERS employees. Why are spousal benefits (unearned) being increased as well? Certainly, benefits that were promised (SS) to the worker need to be delivered without sneakily reducing the benefit with taxes.

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