In the decades since the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) went into effect, lawmakers in Washington, DC have repeatedly introduced legislation to modify or repeal the two provisions.
The WEP and GPO, which are part of federal law, can reduce Social Security benefits for recipients of public pensions like Colorado PERA. It’s important to note that a person’s PERA benefit is never reduced due to Social Security or other benefits.
Read more on copera.org: PERA and Social Security
Despite bipartisan support and even President Joe Biden expressing his support for WEP repeal, lawmakers have not made any changes to either provision since their inception. Legislators often cite the cost of administering additional Social Security benefits as a barrier to changing the law.
Nonetheless, there are currently several bills before Congress that would either change how the WEP and/or GPO affect Social Security, or eliminate them entirely.
H.R. 82 and S. 1302: Social Security Fairness Act
H.R. 82, titled the “Social Security Fairness Act,” was introduced in the House of Representatives in January 2021. It aims to eliminate both the WEP and GPO. Since the bill was introduced last year, lawmakers have referred it to the Subcommittee on Social Security, but Congress hasn’t taken any further action.
In February, the bill’s lead sponsors, Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) and Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) wrote a letter to House leadership urging a floor vote on the bill, arguing that it has more bipartisan support than most of the other 7,700+ bills introduced in the current session.
That bill has more than 250 cosponsors, including representatives Jason Crow (D-CO-6), Diana DeGette (D-CO-1), Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7) of Colorado.
A bill with the same title was introduced in the U.S. Senate, with senators Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D) as cosponsors. That bill, S. 1302, was referred to the Committee on Finance in April 2021, and Congress hasn’t taken any further action on the bill.
H.R. 2337: Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021
While the two bills above aim to eliminate the WEP and GPO, H.R. 2337, the “Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021,” seeks to instead modify the WEP with an alternate formula for calculating a person’s Social Security benefit. Advocates have sometimes argued that changing the law to reduce its impact on retirees is a more politically realistic goal than full repeal.
Representatives Crow, DeGette, Neguse and Perlmutter are also cosponsors of this bill, which was introduced in the House in April 2021. Like the above bills, Congress has not taken any action to move the bill further along in the legislative process.
Having your voice heard
Colorado PERA, along with other public pension plans across the country, retiree organizations and other groups continually meet with members of Congress to educate them on this issue of great importance to retired public employees.
In addition to those efforts, one of the most effective forms of advocacy is for PERA members and retirees to contact their senators and representatives in Congress to let them know how the WEP and GPO affect them.
For updates on these bills and other important pieces of legislation affecting Colorado’s public employees, subscribe to the biweekly PERA On The Issues newsletter.
More PERA On The Issues coverage of this issue: