Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

WEP/GPO: The Case for Reform

WEP/GPO

We frequently hear
from our readers wanting an update on the latest efforts to repeal or reform
Social Security’s WEP/GPO. This update is current as of October 2019 and
includes PERA’s efforts to advocate on behalf of its members on this important
issue.

Most Colorado PERA members do not contribute to Social Security, but many of them expect to receive Social Security
benefits from their non-PERA employment or through benefits earned by a spouse.
Unfortunately, two provisions in federal laws might reduce those Social
Security benefits for PERA members: the Windfall Elimination Provision
(WEP) and the Government Pension
Offset
(GPO).

These provisions reduce regular Social Security benefits for
workers or their eligible family members if a worker receives a pension (e.g.,
PERA) that is based on non-Social Security covered employment.

Many PERA members rely on Social Security benefits, and WEP/GPO reductions can
have a real financial impact on their retirement income. For that reason, PERA
advocates on behalf of its members for reform to the WEP and GPO.

History

The GPO was enacted in 1977 and reduces Social Security
benefits paid to spouses and widow(er)s of insured workers if that person also
receives a pension. In 1983, Congress enacted the WEP as part of major
amendments designed to shore up the financing of Social Security and provide a different benefit formula to
“remove an unintended advantage that the regular Social Security benefit
formula provided.” According to
information
from the Social Security Administration (SSA), as of December
2018, about 2.3 million Social Security beneficiaries nationwide—including
78,780 Coloradans—had their benefits reduced by the WEP or the GPO.

Prior Repeal Efforts

Proposals
to repeal
these provisions have been steadily
introduced
in Congress without
success for over 20 years. In some years, more than half the U.S. House of
Representatives signed on as co-sponsors, yet a bill never made it out of
committee. The cost of repeal, which the Social Security Administration estimated in 2016
would increase the long-term cost of the program by 0.13 percent of payroll, and
general uncertainty surrounding Social Security’s financial future, have been
roadblocks in Congress.

The latest
projections
included in the Social Security Board of Trustees 2019 annual
report show that Social Security will be unable to pay scheduled benefits in
full and on time starting in 2035. Specific program changes will likely involve
intense debate in Congress, but at the same time comprehensive Social Security
reform is likely to include meaningful discussion of WEP/GPO. Nancy A.
Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, recommends lawmakers “address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a
timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers
and beneficiaries time to adjust to them.”

Current Reform
Efforts

WEP reform efforts have gained momentum recently, including two
proposals from members of the House Ways and Means Committee: Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) just
introduced HR 4540,
Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act (overview),
and ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady
(R-Texas), reintroduced HR
3934
, Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (overview),
in July.

These bipartisan proposals would cost substantially less
than full repeal by replacing the WEP with a new formula designed to offer
relief to affected workers. Combined with the lower cost, focusing on the
inequitable application of the offsets, rather than outright repeal, likely
increases the chance of a successful outcome when Congress takes action on the
issue.

PERA’s Congressional
Outreach

PERA, other public pension plans across the country, state
legislators, and various retiree organizations continue to educate Congress about
the impact of these rules on pension recipients. PERA staff are in the process
of meeting with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to emphasize the
way in which these provisions reduce retirement income that would otherwise be
available through Social Security.

Comments

  1. DLe St Clair says:

    Hope it happens! I ha e over 20 years inSocial Security as a Realtor and put in the entire 12% per year and get a bit over 400$ am th from SS…and I do have PERA but….and I was to,d I would get non of my husband’s SS ifanything happened to him.

    • Chris Richards says:

      It won’t happen until PERA assumes an ACTIVE role in pressing for reform, all they’ve ever done is report on the status quo. I keep asking them why, they have never responded.

      • Barry Thorpe says:

        True….but be careful what you ask for. We have seen PERA continuously look for ways to cut benefits, even for those who retired fully-vested with annual increases guaranteed. I’ve become wary enough to imagine that pushing for WEP elimination and thereby “helping” retirees get more money, might only accelerate PERA further reneging, and justifying ways to reduce benefits. Sad to say, but their retro-active takeaway of the guaranteed Annual Increase has had huge impact on the retirees that first lost it in 2010, and now endure 2 full years of 0%, with future maximum to be basically insignificant at 1.4% in a world where cost of living routinely goes up 4-6%, and considering PERA increase in my healthcare option by 59% in 20019.

        • Chris Richards says:

          Nope, not letting them off the hook for this. Can’t be afraid to speak out, that just makes things worse for those of us who have had sooo many promises broken both by SS and PERA

      • Chris Richards says:

        Almost a month since my comment above, and once again, nothin’ but crickets (from PERA). Only avoidance or deflection when these legitimate questions are posed… thought you were supposed to have our backs. You should be fighting the WEP tooth & nail 24/7, simply commenting on the meager efforts of others doesn’t cut it.

    • Gala L Wenzel says:

      My husband passed recently and they took 2/3 rds of my PERA away from what his Social Security payment was. I receive that plus my PERA monthly.

  2. Susan Josepher says:

    I actually have qualified for full Social Security benefits, but because of PERA membership, my benefits have been reduced. Is that fair?

    • Gary wiley says:

      I am in the same position. I am fully vested in social security but receive a very small amount because I’m a member of PERA. I feel this. Isn’t fair as I paid in. PERA needs to get rid of the WEF.

    • Nancy Owens says:

      Mine are reduced also. There doesn‘t seem to be anything we can do about this either. PERA has their rules and SS has their own too.

    • Helen White says:

      I was only able to work 20 years on a PERA job, because my husband passed away when I was 53 and I found my job when I turned 55. I get just over ‘$200 from his $1500 SS benefits and a 20 year PERA retirement is barely enough to exist on plus every 1 or 2% raise we get 2/3 of that raise is deducted off my meager SS payment.

    • Leyna Bencomo says:

      Its not fair that all the years we put into Social Security get reduced because we put in more years into PERA. I have already worked 45 years of my life and still need to work 5 more years so that I can squeak by in retirement. UNFAIR

  3. Melissa Rickson says:

    Interestingly enough, I was just reviewing last years attempt to introduce the Brady bill yesterday. I appreciate the update and hope for the best. No one has ever been able to adequately predict what the future holds for Social Security except that it is destined to fail at some point. Maybe these actions will be an inroad in stabilizing it for the future. All I know is the WEP and the GPO were really devastating to me and cut my benefit by 2/3rds. I am single with no other income except PERA and the small Social Security income and this was money I earned before I had worked for the government and they kept any interest that this earning provided all of the years I was with PERA. Thanks for all the attempts to make this up to us.

    • Helene says:

      Thanks … you are correct if we earned enough to qualify for full SS benefits we nshould get it !!!

    • Lee Butler says:

      I am single and the WEP and GPO took 2/3 of my SS! I feel this is grossly unfair! I worked for half my teaching career in another state where their public retirement organization continued contributions to SS. Why should those contributions be taken away from me just because I now live in Colorado? We need to change this!!!

  4. wayne olsen says:

    If I currently am getting Social Security and they change the law. Can I then get the larger amount of money?

    • PERA on the Issues says:

      HR 3934 and HR 4540 include provisions designed to provide WEP relief to both current and future retirees. However, there are differences in the amount of benefit increases in the two proposals.

      • Judith Sauerteig says:

        I would have been better off in retirement if I never taught school. I received none of my husbands SS. He made a great deal more money than I did. He took very good care of me in life and I know he would be very upset when the government failed to do the same.

  5. Linda White says:

    Update still gives little hope. My ss was reduced by more than a third. I will need that money that I Earned for my retirement years. The main reason is it shouldn’t go to anyone who has not WORKED for it. No one gets rich under ss and Pera. Good employers, not so good program coordination.

  6. Joseph Dea says:

    Thank you for the update.

  7. Barry Northrop says:

    Thanks for your continued support and reporting on this issue.

  8. David Prok says:

    Seems approaching the off-sets in a gradual percentage manner is reasonable. Perhaps at a 50% level for 5 years to start. Leaving the system alone is totally unfair to those who have worked in more than one retirement plan. EXAMPLE: If I work 20 years and paid money into a pension plan such as PERA, and 10 years in a company while contributing to Social Security, I should be allowed to receive full benefits from both….because of the earned credits. Reducing one or the other does not give the individual credit they have earned through contributions.

  9. Donna Chrislip says:

    I am so glad there has been some progress on this. Because I worked 24 years for S.S. and approximately 11 years for the State, my S.S. check has been reduced by approximately $300/month. I worked as faculty and administration in higher education my entire professional life. I have a doctorate in Higher Education
    Administration. My husband died in January of this year. I no longer receive his S.S., of course. I struggle every month. Had I been aware of being penalized for working under PERA, I would not have gone to work for the State of Colorado. I always mention this downside to my friends if they are planning to apply for a position with the State of Colorado. How much good talent is lost to other entities because of the WEP? A person who has provided higher education to Colorado residents under both S.S. and PERA should not have to barely make it, month-to-month.

  10. Patrick Dazevedo says:

    Thank you for your work on modifying or eliminating the WEP/GPO programs. My only other comment, one of which you have probably heard many times, is that while I worked under social security and payed into the system like everyone else, I should be eligible for the same benefits as everyone else. It would not be permissible for a bank to decide that X person has enough money so the bank will pay them a lower interest rate than they pay other customers. Why does the government get to decide that certain people won’t get what they were promised while they were paying into the system while the vast majority of people get what they were promised and are treated equally. One more point, if social security is able to reduce benefits for pension participants, why not take it a step further and say anyone making over a certain amount say $100,000 through stocks, bonds, royalties etc. will also have their benefits reduced. It just seems unfair to target one segment of the population for investing in both SS and a pension.

  11. Mary Schwietz says:

    Thank you for advocating for this important reform. I worked for two Pera employers for a total of nearly 30 years. Seven of those years I did not pay SS but I paid into both SS and PERA for the remaining 23. I have not yet begun taking SS and have been waiting in case some form of WEP reform might be implemented. Please outline the best strategies for us members to help with the advocacy effort. Thank you!

  12. Jennifer D Williams says:

    They need to deal with GPO too! Why are they leaving that out? I don’t understand why public employees have to take the brunt of the Social Security shortfall. Why should the distribution continue to be unfair because the shortfall might get worse? Both of these should be repealed and all employees from now on should pay social security. That would take care of any shortfall because of the repeal. And lift the cap on the social security deduction income level. No one should get out of paying for it because they make too much money!

  13. JSOEPHINE GARNER says:

    Thank You for the update….I worked for the District of Columbia government and retired after 30 years. I have sold real estate for 24 years and paid into social security 24 years plus approx. 6-10 years prior to working in government. My social security was reduced to 300.00 dollars per month after medicare. Also, I was approved to receive my deceased husbands death benefits last year but after the reduction, ended up receiving 0 . I will be 80 in two years and still working because I am unable to survive on the retirement check.
    This is the most unfair thing the government could do.

  14. Timothy J Bridwell says:

    I am in Dayton OH where we have OPERS. I retired in Jan. My retirement is $1104 a month. That is before taxes. My SS went from $919 to $500. Then you take $135 for Part B which left me $365 a month. With my SS and OPERS I make $1245 a month. I am now in the 250% of the Federal Poverty Guide Lines. This is horrible. I am 70 years old. I have to go back to work.

  15. Lorraine Janson says:

    When my husband passed away I was working under PERA and received the full spousal benefit under social security. When I retired my benefit under SS was cut by nearly $850 a month. If PERA gives me a cost of living increase SS takes it away. I worked all the quarters required by SS as well as earned my PERA retirement. WEP is so unfair! Thank you for working on a remedy to this situation.

  16. Douglas Morton says:

    I am wondering how we as individuals can help repeal WEP????? Is there a list people who we could call to who need convincing that WEP isn’t fair? Can we help it from getting stuck in a committee do it isn’t passed by virtue of time tuning out?

    WEP coupled with the changes from 3% to 2% and now no % increases for 2 years before re-introducing an increase less than 2% are all terrible and unpredictable outcomes for those of us who dedicated many years of our lives to serve the State.

  17. Karen Connell says:

    A friend who is a retired teacher in Washington state receives her pension and full social security. Are there different state laws that can change WEP?

  18. I’m disabled and I worked for the state and for the numerous other out of state employers as a single parent. Now as a single person disabled, it would be valuable to have this financial issue treated with a positive outcome for state employees as we went many years carrying our state when it could have easily went bankrupt without us carrying it. We didn’t get raises we got lower pay and our overall payment for retirement is affected because of it. So it’s be a nice way to repay employees who did take care of the state through the hard times and helped it recover from being in the red ! I remember years of no raises and taking a day off a week no pay! With all we did for our state with no repayment in our retirement plan or who being like a punishment for trying to survive the lean times , I think it’s only the right thing to do.

  19. Bill Hibbard says:

    I worked for the State of Colorado and retired with 31 years of service time with PERA. During this same time period I also worked a second job that I worked and paid into SS. I have worked since I was 13 years old and have paid into SS during this time period. Since retiring from Colorado State Govt., I have continued to work a full time job and pay into SS. I just recently turned 65 and I applied for my Medicare Part A and Part B. I was informed by a SS representative that I could only apply for my Medicare but not for any owed or due financial benefits until I turn 67. The representative also informed me that in order to receive full financial benefits, that I would have to wait until I am age 70. The representative continued with, but since I was a State worker and received a pension from PERA, that I could not receive any full benefits, regardless of my age or when I applied for the financial benefits. I could apply for financial benefits, but I can only receive a reduced monthly payment and this would be based on all of my payments to both SS and PERA. I have paid into SS for 52 years. I paid into PERA for 31 years, yes simultaneously, but still separate of each other. I don’t understand why my PERA pension should have any effect on my SS or my SS payments affect my PERA pension. They are both separate and independent of each other. Why shouldn’t I be entitled to the full SS benefits and the full PERA pension. I worked and paid into both just like every other person in these two programs. I’ve based my entire working career and free time to working and paying all of this SS and PERA towards my retirement time, when I was going to need it and can’t work any longer. As it is, I have to continue working, just so I can pay the outrageous costs for prescriptions and medical health insurance and the out of control cost of living increases, especially if you’re living in the State of Colorado. Let’s not forget we aren’t getting any cost of living increases through PERA. SS recipients get a minimal cost of living increase. We, retired State Employees, are definitely in a stressful financial situation.
    I am grateful for my PERA pension, I do appreciate the PERA board of continuing to advocate for our PERA members, I just keep hoping that something effectual will come of it. I hope I will get to see the gains of their efforts and that I didn’t waste an entire lifetime of doing nothing but work.

  20. Robert Kaufmann says:

    I had no idea the repeal movement is in its 20th year. It is incredible that retirees have been forced to live under this tyranny live for so long. The individuals who passed the legislation were definitely tyrants. I live in CT and all of my representatives in favor of the repeal. IDK if they are also in favor of the modified repeal initiatives, which I can only assume will be less than fair but better than nothing. Any suggestions on what the grass root proponents can do to help move this along?

  21. Carole Wright says:

    HR 4540 does not deal with GPO. In many cases GPO is devastating to low PERA benefit retirees, and it is pushing them into near poverty income indicators. Please advocate for these members as you reach out to Colorado’s delegation.

  22. Eugene Williams says:

    If they don’t penalize government employees who retired from the government they get their Social Security why shouldn’t we get our Social Security just a thought

  23. Jan Baulsir says:

    I have over 20 years in SS credits, most accumulated when I worked 2 jobs as a teacher. After 35 years in education, I was planning on the SS benefits, in addition to PERA, meaning I could afford to retire. When I realized that was not the case, I spent 20 yrs working in real estate, after retiring from teaching. I continued paying into SS every year, but got none of the benefit. I loved teaching but think the ‘windfall’ act is grossly unfair.

  24. Christopher J Richards says:

    Open question to PERA: Reporting on the issue isn’t the same as actively working to correct it, Please explain exactly what you are doing to fight this blatant injustice. You should be fighting this tooth-and-nail on a daily basis, instead you seem to be content to simply observe. I’ve asked this many times in the past, you’ve never once responded.

    • PERA on the Issues says:

      As the article states: PERA staff are in the process of meeting with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to emphasize the way in which these provisions reduce retirement income that would otherwise be available through Social Security.

      • Gerald McHugh says:

        The Brady Bill 3934 no text no summery in progress really, The Neal bill 4540 no text no summery. One of neals bill to change SS had all the people affected bur WEP & GO was to repay toSS 8000 that didn’t fly so it was changed to $3000. Now no Summery?

  25. Traci Collins says:

    It is an argument that rarely gets made but my PERA pension is already smaller than it would be if I hadn’t worked at Social Security jobs for those years. That should be punishment enough. By reducing both my PERA benefit and my Social Security benefit I am doubly penalized for having spent those years working at jobs that were covered by Socual Security.

  26. Dewayne Mayo says:

    I’ve been told that because I contributed to SS for over 30 years I was eligible for WEP and would receive a full SS benefit when I reached retirement age (for me 66 and a few months). My PERA after working for 10 years in education will only be 25% of the last 3 years averaged salary (not much $$$). So are these politicians trying to sink my retirement, not surprised.

  27. David Brick says:

    I keep hearing people making the argument that Social Security was only meant as a safety net for retirees. But it has been “sold” to the public in recent decades as a retirement benefit. It is true that the full benefit amount is little more than a supplement given today’s high cost of living.

    But there is no reason why two people who have worked in the private sector for the same number of quarters, both making at least the minimum for significant income, and both contributing to Social Security, should not be able to draw the same amount in SS payments. Yet, if one of these people worked in a government job, not contributing to SS in that job, and if they worked in that job long enough to earn a pension, the WEP can reduce their SS payments by 1/3 or more.

    Meanwhile, even if the other employee works no more than those same number of quarters and contributes no more to SS, they will draw the full benefit the other employee was eligible for. How is that fair? It isn’t fair.. but it is socialism.

  28. Kathleen Isberg says:

    I am stunned by the number of stories I’m reading here. I have been following progress on reforming or eliminating the WEP/GPO offsets ever since learning about them over 20 years ago. I have written to both of the congressmen mentioned in the article above as well as two or our Colorado senators. The only one who even acknowledged receipt of my letter was Mark Udall who sadly was replaced by a Republican in the 2016 race. As for me, I worked in various jobs from age 16 to 35 before going into PERA employment. No one ever informed me that my Social Security benefit was in jeopardy of being reduced so drastically. I retired after 20 years of teaching and have been working at least part time ever since. I can’t afford to live on my annuity alone. If my husband pre-deceases me I will lose that income entirely. In the intervening years I have paid steadily into Social Security and filed and suspended 4 years ago.Soon I will be forced to take whatever SSA will determine I am entitled to and it makes me very nervous. I have been patiently waiting and watching all these years hoping it would have changed by now. I fear that even if it does, those of us who have had our benefit determined by SSA will lose out even if some reform actually happens.

  29. Wendy Rice says:

    If I move from Colorado to retire to one of the 38 states that do not penalize/withhold because of WEP, will I be be paid full social security?

    • PERA on the Issues says:

      Your location won’t matter, just whether or not you worked for a non-Social Security employer and qualify for a public pension as a result of that employment. Note there are exceptions to the WEP, including having at least 30 years of substantial earnings in Social Security. More details can be found here: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf

  30. Michael Jones says:

    Why do some states allow retires to collect both their PERA and Social Security, while other states do not???? I know educators that left Colorado and went to other states to finish their years in education and are now collecting both. Look at it this way if you paid into the SS fund and have money in it that should be yours to collect in retirement in the full amount, as a lot of us age we will never get the total amount that we should have received!

  31. Mike says:

    I worked for both PERA and Social Security and when I was eligible to retire I was let down by both. I hope PERA takes a very active role in this injustice, like they and the politicians did in gutting my PERA retirement. FAT CHANCE

  32. Janet Wackel says:

    I am like many others in that I was not informed that I would not receive full SS benefits. I see and hear about so many people receiving benefits that have never paid into SS. PERA has given me nothing for cost of living
    rising, insult on top of injury. Interesting isn’t it that the increase in SS is less than the increase in Medicare ? I am approaching 70 and still making house payments. My lender and every other lender increases the percent of interest I pay since my loan amount has gone down. Why must I go deeper in debt just so I can afford to stay in my home ? I had hoped that my PERA would be enough once I had my mortgage paid off. I have thought about going back to work but very few employers want us older people and SS would probably reduce what little I do get from them or take it away.

  33. Sara Lampe says:

    I’ve worked both in the private sector (pd SS) and in the school district of Colorado (pd PERA). When I finally retired at 65, I was told by SS that because I retired from the school district under PERA I would be under the WEB and lose 2/3 of my retirement from PERA but could still collect SS under myself. I received a small about from SS. Then I found out I could apply under SS for half of my husband SS (even though he was alive and his SS was more than mine), so I reapplied to SS under my husband. Now I’m subject to WEP and GPO. Now I have 4/3rds taken away from me because both WEB & GPO have been applied to me because I didn’t apply under my husbands SS the first time. Not fair at all. If I’d originally applied under my husband SS I would only be subject to WEB. Unfair – Unfair.

  34. Sara Lampe says:

    I’ve worked both in the private sector paying SS and in the Colorado Schools paying PERA. When I retired at age 65, I went and applied for SS. I was told by SS that I would lose 2/3rd of my PERA retirement under the WEB program, but could still collect SS. So I applied. Later at age 66, I found out I could apply for SS under my husband SS for half of his SS even though he is alive and when he passes I will be able to collect his full SS. So I reapplied. Now I’m penalized by both the WEB and GPO. SS is now penalizing me by taking away more money than my PERA retirement check. I’m now giving up 4/3 rds rather than 2/3 rds. SS told me if I had originally applied under my husband I would’ve only been subject to GPO. This is totally unfair and unbalanced. I’ve talked with my Congressman (who has helped somewhat) and PERA and I’ve even filed a grievance with SS to be heard by a judge ( that was over a year ago) – NO Answer. Something needs to be done!! I’ve been told contact Congress as they make the laws. So everyone lets continue calling, writing to our representatives in Congress – WE NEED TO BE HEARD !!! and they need to understand our circumstances.

  35. Ben says:

    It seems that we are all in the same boat here with PERA and SS. My question is why are there several government employees, i.e.
    Judges who are entitled to both Pera and SS. How does PERA define this,I’m sure we all work just as hard.
    This has been a thorn for many years. It’s time that something is actively done about all this not just words. We should get both full SS and full PERA!

  36. SWM says:

    I do not participate in PERA, however I do receive a survivor benefit from the program. Will WEP or GPO affect me when I am eligible to start receiving SS from my own work credits?

  37. John Paton says:

    Well we should all wait until “they” come up with the “plan” first before we jump for joy. Typical gov smoke screen for semi-pacification of all of us so effected by this WEP! Nothing will stop the over powering effects of political “greed”!

  38. Glen William Newton says:

    If the government replace all the money they reallocated out of the program when they probably would not be a shortfall in the retirement funding at all.

  39. What is the plan? We expect answers to so many valid questions that have gone unanswered for 20 years. PERA and Social Security Administration get your act together. Stop using funds paid into the Social Security Fund for other needs. (Aka line item transfers)

    PERA, stop making decisions that impact retirees. We were loyal employees and retired in good standing. Many retirees anticipated regular COLA increases. Wow, we cannot trust you to manage the funds in future. I guess in a way you do manage the funds by consistently reducing our annual COLA increases.

  40. Helen White says:

    I was only able to work 20 years on a PERA job, because my husband passed away when I was 53 and I found my job when I turned 55. I get just over ‘$200 from his $1500 SS benefits and a 20 year PERA retirement is barely enough to exist on plus every 1 or 2% raise we get 2/3 of that raise is deducted off my meager SS payment.

  41. Theresa Lane says:

    I say if they are not going to change the WEP and GPO they should give me back all of my social security contributions over the years plus interest! I could have had this money in my 401k.

  42. Susan says:

    With my PERA check and my husband’s social security check we had figured we would have a decent lifestyle, but unfortunately my husband passed away before he even started taking his SS checks. He was waiting for full retirement at 66. They have taken 2/3 of his check and he had paid into SS for over 40 years. I have also paid into SS for 22 years. If I switch to taking my social security the check will be higher especially if I wait until I’m 70 so I will continue to take the spousal social security benefits until then but both checks have been drastically reduced. We didn’t consider that we would lose most of the other’s benefits if one of us passed. I always thought PERA was the best ever, but I have different feelings about it now.

  43. Karen says:

    I have 4 questions:
    1. If wep/gpo are federal laws, why don’t they apply to federal government workers, only to state employees?
    2. Why did I lose the social security that I earned before the law came into effect? (SS earned from age 16-40)
    3. If it’s a federal law, why doesn’t it apply to all states?
    4. Medicare premiums rise every year, so my social security drops every year. I am now down to $75/month. When Medicare eventually takes all of my ss will I be forced to pay Medicare out of my own pocket?

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks for the questions. Here’s what we know:
      1) The difference-maker is whether you paid Social Security taxes during none, some, or all of your working years. Federal employees pay social security taxes while employed at a federal job whereas nearly all members of Colorado PERA don’t pay this tax (employers ultimately decide whether to participate).
      2) If you have 30 years of “substantial earnings” paying Social Security taxes, you aren’t subject to WEP/GPO. Even if you don’t have the full 30, your adjustment gets less and less as you get closer to 30 years. It looks like this situation might apply to you as you spent many years paying Social Security taxes. Check with Social Security to find out. The reduction takes place because Social Security calculates your benefit in a certain way – the lower your average salary was during your entire working years, the higher percentage you receive in a Social Security benefit. When you work at most PERA jobs and don’t pay Social Security taxes, Social Security assumes you are making $0 during those years. They later find out that your average salary during your working years was higher than they originally thought, so they change the percentage you receive.
      3) These laws apply to anyone who has a job in which they don’t pay Social Security taxes. Some states have their employees contribute to both a pension system and Social Security. In Colorado, most PERA employers don’t participate in Social Security. Other states are similar.
      4) Yes, you would pay the difference for whatever portion of your Medicare premium is not covered by Social Security.

  44. Kevin says:

    I’m glad to see so many people interested in repealing GPO/WEP, but just writing to this forum is not enough. You MUST contact your congressional representative and it WILL make a difference.
    Both the House & Senate have bills in the works to repeal GPO/WEP. Currently House Bill HR82 has 223 cosponsors and Senate Bill S1302 has 34 cosponsors. These numbers go up EVERY time I look at them. They are only going up because SOME people are contacting their congressional representatives and asking them to support these bills. If you don’t ask, they won’t cosponsor. It’s as simple as that.

    At one point, neither Congressman Neguse nor Senator Hickenlooper were cosponsors of these bills. I contacted both of them and shortly thereafter they became cosponsors and they replied to my email. I have already shared Congressman Neguse’s reply on this forum. I will also share the response I received from Senator Hickenlooper below. Senator Bennett had already signed on as a cosponsor before I even got a chance to contact him.

    It is extremely important to note the following: 1. These bills are garnering BIPARTISAN support. 2. These bills directly impact working class Americans. 3. President Biden has already made it clear that he will sign a GPO/WEP repeal if it makes it to his desk.

    Both of our Colorado Senators cosponsored S1302. So far all except one of our Democratic Congressional members have cosponsored HR82. Diana DeGette has not signed on as a cosponsor. This is likely because she has not had enough of her constituents contact her. The other option is that she doesn’t care about middle class Americans or public servants or working to pass a bipartisan bill. Hopefully it is the first option, and if enough of you contact her, she will become a cosponsor.

    None of Colorado’s Republican congressional representatives have cosponsored HR82. Since this is definitely a bipartisan bill, I’m hoping that more of you who live in the districts represented by these Republican Congresspeople will reach out to them and educate them about how important this repeal is to you and to Colorado and to middle class America.

    As promised, here is the letter I received from Senator Hickenlooper:

    September 17, 2021

    Dear Kevin,

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). We always appreciate hearing from Coloradans, as it helps us better represent our great state in the United States Senate.

    The Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset reduce the personal and survivor Social Security benefits for individuals who receive other benefits, such as a pension from a state or local government. While both provisions were intended to adjust benefits for higher income earners, they are harming middle-class retirees and their survivors; the very people Social Security was designed to help.

    I am a proud cosponsor of the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act, which would repeal both the WEP and GPO and ensure public sector workers and their families can receive their full Social Security benefits. Public service employees and their partners should not be penalized by a reduction in Social Security benefits after having preformed valuable work for our communities.

    We always value hearing directly from Coloradans and hope you will continue to share your thoughts as we work together for Colorado and our country. For more information about our priorities, please visit our website at http://www.hickenlooper.senate.gov. Again, thank you for reaching out.
    Sincerely,

    John Hickenlooper
    United States Senator

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