Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

An Update on 2023 WEP/GPO Legislation

United States capitol in Washington DC with a Social Security card and money
Photo credit: zimmytws/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include details on new bills that have been introduced since it was originally published.

As the 118th session of Congress continues, lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills to address two provisions of federal law that can reduce Social Security payments to retirees who receive a pension like Colorado PERA.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) both affect Social Security benefits, but in slightly different ways. The WEP can reduce Social Security benefit payments to retirees who receive a pension based on work during which they did not contribute to Social Security (though it does not apply to workers with 30 or more years of substantial SS earnings). The GPO reduces Social Security dependent benefit payments to spouses, widows, and widowers who receive a government pension.

It’s important to note that a person’s PERA benefit is never reduced due to Social Security or other benefits. Read more about PERA and Social Security here.

Did you know?
The PERA Defined Benefit Plan predates and serves as a replacement for Social Security in Colorado, so PERA members do not pay Social Security taxes like most private-sector workers. Because Social Security pays a larger benefit to lower-income workers, the years during which a worker didn’t contribute to Social Security can lead to the worker earning a higher benefit than they would otherwise be entitled to. The WEP and GPO were enacted to counteract that effect.

In January, members of the House of Representatives reintroduced H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act, which would fully repeal both the WEP and GPO. The bill gained wide bipartisan support in 2022 but never made it to a floor vote.

The reintroduced bill has since gained the support of more than 250 members of the House of Representatives, including five from Colorado: Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO-1), Joe Neguse (D-CO-2), Jason Crow (D-CO-6), Brittany Pettersen (D-CO-7), and Yadira Caraveo (D-CO-8).

Since we last covered this issue, lawmakers in Congress have introduced additional bills that aim to either repeal or modify WEP and/or GPO.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced S. 597, the Senate’s version of the Social Security Fairness Act, in March. Like the House version of the bill, S. 597 aims to fully repeal both the WEP and GPO. Sens. John Hickenlooper (D) and Michael Bennet (D) have both signed on as cosponsors.

In addition to the repeal bills, other bills propose changing the WEP formula to lessen its impact on public workers.

In June, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-1) introduced H.R. 4260, the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act. Under that bill, retirees would receive a Social Security benefit based on whichever formula provides the higher amount—the current WEP formula or the new proportional formula.

In September, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19) introduced H.R. 5342, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act. Like Rep. Neal’s bill, H.R. 5342 proposes an updated WEP formula to calculate retirees’ Social Security benefits, but only the new formula would apply to those who become eligible for benefits in 2068 or later.

As in previous years, these bills face a tough road ahead. Lawmakers have introduced bills to modify or repeal the WEP and GPO every session in recent years, but the efforts never make it very far in the legislative process despite gaining many cosponsors from both parties. Lawmakers usually cite the cost associated with the bills — with Social Security facing insolvency in about a decade, many consider it a tough sell at the moment, but expect it will stand a greater chance of success if included as part of broader reforms to the program which Congress may need to consider in the next few years.

PERA On The Issues will continue to track these bills and other Social Security-related legislation and provide updates when available.

Remember to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Windfall elimination provisionA provision of federal law that may reduce Social Security benefit payments to retirees who receive a pension based on work during which they did not contribute to Social Security. The WEP does not apply to those with 30 or more years of substantial earnings in Social Security.Government pension offsetA provision of federal law that reduces Social Security dependent benefit payments to spouses, widows, and widowers who receive a government pension like PERA.Defined benefitAlso known as a pension, this is a type of pooled retirement plan in which the plan promises to pay a lifetime benefit to the employee at retirement. The plan manages investments on behalf of members, and the retirement benefit is based on factors such as age at retirement, years of employment and salary history.


  1. Wanda L Toni says:

    There really needs to be a strong, bold, constant education of America’s youth to stop seeing Social Security as a retirement plan!! When it was initiated, listing the retirement age of 65, the life expectancy at that time was 62! It was a Democrats gimmick to win votes. It is the worst travesty ever because people think they do not need 401k’s etc. Schools, churches, associations, youth program MUST TEACH YOUNG PEOPLE TO INVEST for retirement. And hooray for PERA that it is a mandate, not an option. Every worker in America should be mandated to invest in 401K type options. Social Security is not run by fiscal brilliance; it is not invested for growth; it is a travesty and a sad, useless, alternative to personal investing.

    • Susan DeMeules says:

      Wanda, I recently watched a 3-night special on FDR and I disagree with your statement that it was introduced as a gimmick to win votes. FDR was extremely compassionate and empathetic to those who faced personal struggles including poverty. (This was most likely enhanced due to his own struggles with polio that left him nearly paralyzed in his legs.) He firmly believed that the elderly should not live a life of poverty and for this reason, he introduced the legislation that became Social Security.

    • William A. says:

      Wanda, there is no disagreement that social security has been run poorly throughout its existence, however it is definitely not useless. As a career govt employee (retired), I need every little pot of money I have to exist without the fear of having to go back to work. That is the travesty. Any person who works there entire life needs to be without fear they will run out of money. Even the smartest and best among us cannot predict what the future will bring. Unless you are independently wealthy, social security just helps keep the financial boat afloat for most of us.
      I do agree that young people need to understand that social security is NOT the only answer to retirement needs. Building a 401 and having a lifelong savings plan go a long way to having a successful retirement. Eliminating the WEP and GPO provisions will not make anyone wealthy, but every little bit helps once you retire. Good luck with your retirement.

      • Rich Wilke says:

        You are so right, in my case, I had Twenty years of SS withheld. With WEP, the threshold foe SS rose enough to penalize my years served. Then, after WEP was passed, I lost 45% of SS. After, I had the: audacity to fall into total disability at age 62! Another 25% of SS withheld. Reversing the WEP sure would help me support my second family through my declining years!

    • Joy says:

      Yès, parents, schools etc need to educate reference investing/ saving etc. But your statement that it was a gimmick and just a useless travesty reeks of ignorance ?

  2. Linda Duncan> says:

    I do not understand if a person worked 25 years under Social Security and then went to PERA for 25 years, why is her Social Security at such a diminished rate nor was she allowed Survivor benefits when her husband passed.

    • Jan Parker says:

      Linda, Thx for sharing. Many people do not understand what WEP/GPO does to people. There is hope of repeal. Just a few years ago, a new law was passed that says if a supermajority of cosponsors is reached, the Ways & Means Committee cannot keep the bill from going to a vote (which is why it never went to a vote before). Last year, it reached a supermajority & the Ways & Means slowed it down, but could not kill it. The problem was that is was only a few weeks before the end of that congress & time ran out. Now we only need 11 more cosponsors to reach a supermajority, but there is a year & a half left in this Congress to get it to a vote. We need your help. Plz call your Congressman. If your Congressman is one of the 3 Republicans, ask him to join H R 82, The Social Security Fairness Act, as a cosponsor. Tell him what happened to you. If your Congressman is a Democrat, thank him for being a cosponsor. You may follow what is happening by Googling H.R. 82 or S 597. You may also go to, then find H.R. 82 of 2023. 118th Congress.
      Thank you for your support.

  3. Chicken Little says:

    I am so over the constant attention PERA gives its members over the chatter the Government makes to eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision. Enough already, when the moon turns to cheese and the earth stops spinning is when it’ll happen. If you believe in fairy tales, maybe you believe PERA will reinstate the 3.5% annual increase (COLA) you were promised upon retirement. The COLA for most State employees in July 2023 will be a paltry 1%. How’s that for a dose of reality?

    • Just Terriffic says:

      Yes, they will not address the big elephant in the room. They only comment on tangible issues related to anything but PERA!

    • TL McBride says:

      However, eliminating WEP is important to those of us who have not only put in our time with PERA (32 years for me!), but also had a career before state employment, side hustles during statement employment, and a new career after retirement. I have more than 40 quarters in with Social Security. It seems like since I paid in, I ought to be able to draw out. Also, if something were to happen to my spouse, why shouldn’t I be able to an amount of his social security? I very much appreciate the fact that PERA does cover the WEP issues.

      • Chicken Little says:

        Mr. McBride,
        You’ll be the first to know WEP was eliminated when you see a big increase in your social security check. Plus Congress will toot their own horn for doing something meaningful for hardworking government workers. I’d love to receive what I rightfully earned too but it ain’t gonna happen. Sorry folks it’s a fool’s folly but keep the faith!

        • Ken Holmes says:

          Student Loan Forgiveness, Universal Basic Income and Medicare for All are three much touted, hoped for programs that probably have priority over eliminating WEP/GPO. There are only a handful of states that do not offer their employees Social Security. Colorado is one of them.

    • Jackie Snyder says:

      If you had worked a part time job along with a PERA teaching job, you would understand how I deserve social security because I paid into it for 28 years!

    • Roon Dog says:

      Yes, the diminished COLAs are a raw deal for those who worked hard and faithfully, many times in lower paying positions than they could have found in the private sector, and were promised better by PERA and the State Government. Those who were close to retirement or already retired from PERA never should have been asked to help make up the shortfall in funding the PERA Trust Fund.

      When the State first started contemplating reducing COLAs and limited our pay increases to 8% per year, etc., I actually heard PERA employees say out loud they would rather lose a little than for the whole system to go bankrupt. Well, they got exactly what they bargained for. The responsibility for making the system whole was with the State taxpayers and employers — not the employees who had been promised better.

      That being said, for those who were extra industrious and held SS jobs in addition to their PERA positions and paid into SS just as much as others were doing and for the same number of quarters, our SS payments are being unfairly diminished by the WEP.

      It would seem the harder or longer you work, the more you are penalized.

      So those affected by WEP have an even more raw deal, and like with the COLAs, not enough is being done to correct the situation.

    • Steve says:

      Dear Sir: As with other financial projections, factors change. We are living longer. Projections that were based, at that time, on published actuarial tables, were not “wrong.” That was what was known, at that time. Adjustments need to be made. Perhaps they should have increased the inflation factor to account for this probability. They probably did consider it, but obviously not enough. When I was a teenager, (1960’s) a gallon of gas was 0.32 cents; a button-down shirt was under $5.00. On and on…
      Therefore, I worked extra jobs to earn money, probably like yourself. When I was a teenager-young adult, there was no WEP/GPO. So, I had the reasonable expectation that I would receive –that portion–of Soc. Sec. Then, that was wiped out by federal legislation.
      The only way to change things is to actively write, call, your local Colorado Rep and Senator, asking them to increase payments to PERA. PERA provides a unique forum for PERA recipients to converse, and I appreciate the detailed information provided by PERA, that is not covered by local news.

  4. Ramona says:

    What they need to do is stick these two issues in with a debt limit bill or something else as additional ‘pork’. We all know that here is a bunch of stuff in all those bills that do get passed that has nothing to do with anything. Remember ACA? There was so much ‘pork’ in that bill it’s not even funny.

  5. Kevin says:

    Thank you PERA, for keeping us informed about this issue. Many in Colorado are adversely affected by these two bills and don’t even know it. For more information about GPO/WEP and how to get them repealed, check out the National WEP & GPO Repeal Movement Facebook page:

    • Joëlle NIZARD says:

      I get a small TRS (same situation as my tiny Colorad Pera) pension and am the sole support for my adult disabled son. Because I took care of him (while working and studying) and i believed my ex husband of thirty years when he told me “not to worry about retirement and to take care of our children his would be good and we would share” (it did not happen on the contrary)
      I took the Jobs that allowed me to focus on my son’s care and education while getting my PHD. I was shocked when I found out my social security benefits were reduced to a paltry by two thirds. Fortunately during the last few years of our marriage I had doubts about his honesty so I contributed as much as I could to investment plans, not enough to offset. Now at 66 I am struggling even though I worked all my life. The full about of social security would make the difference. It is deeply unfair.

  6. Lance R says:

    My wife looses approximately $400 a month due to WEP. No small change to a retiree. A certain political party wants to take away my VA service connected compensation and/or apply a WEP. And Social Security is not broke if the government returns the money “borrowed,” read stole from the fund to balance a budget.

    • Roon Dog says:

      If you have the required minimum number of quarters of substantial earnings in Social Security, then you should be paid the entire amount anyone else would be paid who worked those same numbers of years and contributed the same amount you did. But because of the WEP, SS takes away money you are owed from SS because you worked in PERA or some other defined benefit pension program in addition to the quarters making SS contributions, and did not make SS contributions during your PERA period of time.

      In other words, there are people who worked only during temporary periods of their careers in SS jobs, with the same number of quarters of substantial earnings that I had, making the same contributions I did to SS, have no pension because they didn’t work in a pension job, and are being paid substantially more each month from SS than what I am. Because they were not as smart or as industrious and hard-working as I was when I additionally sought out and found work in PERA employment where I was earning a pension, I lose about 1/3 of the SS benefits each month that I should be entitled to.

      • Ken Holmes says:

        It’s kind of ironic that many hardworking PERA retires, who spent decades of their lives working in both public and private sectors, are being forced to help bail out two poorly funded retirement systems – Colorado PERA and Social Security. It’s patently unfair and unethical.

  7. Feeling cheated says:

    I have 40 years in ss but only 23 count I have been over working myself to make up the other 7 and each year the substantiation gets higher so I am currently a state employee and have to work other jobs to make $30,000.00 a year in order to gain my years I have lost in ss to reach my 90% of my money I have put in to ss for the last 45 years while I see people becoming new U.S. citizens or maybe they are not get ss or disability and love our country where I love our country also but worked most of my life includeing as a young child and dont see the fairness make WEP fair for us also who have put into ss dont penalize us for being state workers or survivors

  8. Gary J. says:

    All new Colorado public employees need to be firmly confronted with the reality of WEP/GPO before they begin work for state or local governments. Yes, there’s finally now a form about it they have to sign upon employment, but it’s easily ignored with the excitement of new employment. Only when we get older do we realize that WEP/GPO will severely reduce our other Social Security covered employment benefits. PERA retiree spouses are hurt the most! They usually get nothing.

    • G. M. Santo says:

      Yea, one of the PERA reform bills required new hires be notified about WEP and GPO a couple of years ago, but like you say, new hires are inundated with paper work and excited about a new job etc.

      Additionally, I’d point out to retirees and long-term employees that the WEP/GPO laws weren’t effective until 1985, which by then, many of us had already worked in both PERA-covered and FUTA taxed employment… so the WEP and GPO are essentially EX POST FACTO LAWS… not unlike the 2010 state law eliminating annual increases of 3.5%, that were replaced by COLAs (not to excede 2%) that were later eliminated by legislation in 2018 (resulting in the current UN-COLA of only 1%).

      I probably don’t need to tell you any of this… but for those who might read all these comments, they might find it interesting?

      Cheers – Guy (a/k/

  9. Jan Parker says:

    Let’s correct one of the myths about WEP. The truth is that low income workers can NEVER receive a higher benefit than what they are entitled to. The entire WEP reduction is taken out of the lowest income bracket. Thus, ONLY the lowest income workers can have a 50% WEP reduction. The lowest income workers can have their total benefit reduced by 50%. Many of the workers who are reduced by WEP or GPO have paid into SS for over 35 years plus paying into PERA. Social Security is NOT mandatory. It is a federal entitlement program & we are ENTITLED to the benefit we PAID for. As of today, there are only 11 more cosponsors needed for the 290 super majority. 3 Colorado Representatves still have not joined as cosponsors. Colorado is one of the 15 states most affected by WEP/GPO. Plz call your Republican Representatives (the 3 who are not yet cosponsors) & ask them to cosponsor H.R. 82 to repeal WEP/GPO so we can get the full Social Security benefits we paid for. Congressman Graves (R-LA) is doing a fantastic job as sponsor of this bipartisan bill.

  10. Douglas Morton says:

    I worked well over 20 years and was aiming for 30 years in the private sector, on top of my government service, when I became disabled in an unfortunate car accident where i was hit by a log truck. Because of the accident I am now unable to finish those years and will never be able to collect full Social Security unless the WEP is changed or repealed. When I retired, I did not realize that my retirement increases would be changed so drastically. I might have held back on retiring a few more years had I known. Lets all call our representatives and let them know how serious this issue is and how it can sway our votes.

  11. Kristy says:

    By statute, court stenographers are allowed to be paid for transcripts ordered by the parties to a case. The costs to produce a transcript involves: steno machine and dedicated software, computers, printers, ink, reams and reams of paper, ink, postage, general office supplies, costs to attend seminars to keep our certifications. We also pay state and federal income taxes, and Social Security. Essentially, we are put in the position of being a small business because of our employment with the State. We also pay into PERA.
    I would fall to my knees in thankfulness if I could receive Social Security from the transcript income, which if I had not paid I would have been in serious trouble with the IRS.
    I would have rather donated to most anything else but Social Secuity for 28 years.

  12. Russell B says:

    This effort comes a little late. With the House controlled by the Republicans this bill is dead on arrival. Note that Colorado Congressional supporters are all Democrats. There is a lesson here for voters.

    • Alan A. says:

      You are so right Russell, it is a little late. Democrats had the house, senate and president the last two years and did nothing. Same with immigration reform.

      • Rich Wilke says:

        That is correct! The Democrats had it all under Obama., also. And they did nothing! Small surprise! All talk, no action!

    • Paul says:

      And similarly at the local level, Democrats control both houses of the state legislature and the Governor’s office but they continue to fail to do nothing to address our need for a COLA. As a lifelong Democrat, it pains me to say they are in bed with the Republican legislators when it comes to this issue.

      • G. M. S. says:

        I think H.R. 82 has a better chance of passage than any relief for PERA retirees from Colorado’s statehouse DINOs … because some “red” states have large populations of affected citizens (mostly retired teachers), and other states like Arizona and Florida may have retirees that are impacted too. As for Colorado state lawmakers … they border on criminal (there must be something worse than criminals, which Colorado’s politicians are, and being criminal would be an improvement).

        STATE ……….. % of Current Employees FUTA Exempt*
        California 42
        Colorado 76
        Connecticut 64
        Georgia 22
        Illinois 42
        Kentucky 29
        Louisiana 87
        Mass. 100
        Missouri 20
        Nevada 100
        New Jersey unk.
        Ohio 100
        Texas 35

        Footnote * – Figures estimated as of 2010, and percentages do not include former state workers yet retired or current retirees.

  13. Carol Savallisch says:

    I paid into Social Security the years I worked in a northern state. I retired after teaching twenty-three years in Texas. Upon moving to Colorado, I was a substitute teacher for ten plus years. When I retired, I never dreamed that I would not receive the full SS based on what I contributed. Less than a thousand dollars would make a significant difference to someone on a fixed income. I will have to pass away before my husband if I cannot collect spousal. I contributed, so I should be compensated for that.

  14. Steve says:

    As and addition to “JAN PARKER,” and “RUSSELL B.” ABOVE, is a partial response from REPUBLICAN Congressman Ken Buck, TO ME, 05.05.23. If you read between the lines (my opinion), he won’t vote for the WEP/GPO. Soc. Sec. certainly needs reform, but putting it “on our backs” is not fair, either. It reminds me of my Mom saying,”two wrongs don’t make a right.” We don’t get appropriate Soc. Sec., and; we have to suffer, because congress won’t reform Soc. Sec.?

    Email to me dated 5.5.23. Partially… copy and pasted here.
    While both the WEP and the GPO provisions were intended to balance out the benefits received by retirees, they run the risk of reducing the benefits of hard-working public servants who need them the most. I believe Social Security retirement benefits should be maintained for hard-working Americans who have paid into the program, but I am also cognizant that Social Security benefits are expected to run out by 2037 if we don’t reform the program. Should legislation regarding this issue come to the House floor for a vote, rest assured that I will consider it with your thoughts in mind.


    Rep. Ken Buck
    Member of Congress
    I echo comments to write to Republican Reps., to get them accurately on the record, pro or con.

    • G. M. Santo says:

      Thank you for the information, Steve –

      THAT PASS THE BUCK DOUBLE TALK… smacks of how PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) sold cuts to our benefits, by eliminating a COLA. We all remember that “shared sacrifice” line and how we had to do that to save the system, etc.

      Not only should PERA members keep contacting Bobbo, Buck, and Lamebrain, but I would suggest contacting AARP and ask why they’re silent on H.R 82? Threaten to end your membership if they don’t get with the program (or if you’re not a member, let them know that’s why).

      • Jan Parker says:

        AARP has come out in support of H.R. 82. I am compiling a list. I just want to know why PERA is not on it.

    • Jan Parker says:

      Thx. Plz stay in touch. I have volumes of info & had planned on visiting Ken Buck, as I taught school in his district some years ago. I have visited with numerous Representatives & Senators, over the years & and have yet to walk out without seeing them join on a a cosponsor. I have even called Congressman Graves several times.
      My immediate intent is to change PERA’s misguided stance on repeal.
      Last congress, I heard that there was a Republican who WOULD vote for repeal, so don’t cross him off just yet.
      Keep those comments coming in. Someone reads them. You & I did.

  15. G. M. Santo says:

    Thank you Steve for the additional info. in your post above…

    Although the reply you got sounds like double talk and passing the buck… it also sounds a little familiar, as when PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) pitched cutting our benefits, by eliminating a COLA. We all remember that “shared sacrifice” line and saving the system, etc. …

    PERA members should keep contacting those three Republican representatives until they get the message; and stop spewing their misinformation; BUT I WOULD ALSO SUGGEST CONTACTING AARP and ask why they’re so silent on H.R 82? Threaten to end your membership if they don’t get with the program (or if you’re not a member, let them know that’s why).

  16. Virginia says:

    Even if bills were passed to eliminate WEP and GPO, my guess is that those of us who have already retired under those two laws would not be eligible for the changes. I am glad that an effort is being made to inform new hires.

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