The Unfairness of the WEP & GPO

Date:

Social Security Penalties

Why am I being penalized as a retired teacher?

Tim Mathos | Retired LAUSD Teacher/Administrator 2nd Vice President, CalRTA, Division 33

I began my teaching career in January of 1978, having previously worked for 12 years in a variety of jobs in which I contributed to Social Security. While teaching, I also worked odd jobs to make up for the rather low pay and for those summer “vacations” in which we, as teachers, were not paid. Little did I know upon retirement I would be penalized by Social Security, and that my future wife would not be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits. How unfair!

Don’t get me wrong. I loved being a teacher even though the pay was not great, the spillover hours into one’s personal life were much more than anyone could have anticipated, and teaching itself was not what I had expected. Yes. I have a state pension to which I also contributed. But why am I being penalized for my previous contributions to Social Security? I contributed. Wasn’t that the agreement?

It turns out that around 1983, Congress felt that those retirees from state pension systems were making enough and shouldn’t be able to receive two pensions. It would be a “windfall” for them. So, they passed the “Windfall Elimination Provision” (WEP), which reduces up to 50% of what teachers, firefighters, police officers and some nurses in 15 different states receive from Social Security, despite their having contributed just as everyone else did. And then a few years later, they passed another unfair penalty called the Government Pension Offset (GPO). This also penalizes teachers, firefighters, police officers and some nurses in those same 15 different states, but this time it affects their spouses, widows and widowers, by eliminating the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of those who also get a pension based on federal, state, or local government employment NOT covered by Social Security.

Tim Mathos CalRTA 2nd Vice President | Courtesy Photo of CalT

There are those who feel that this is not right. The California Retired Teachers Association (CalRTA) is a group of about 35,000 California retired educators whose aim is to 1) protect our State Teachers’ Retirement System, 2) advocate for retired and active educators’ pensions and other retirement benefits, 3) and support public education in our communities. We are a non-partisan group that also studies and promotes or opposes state and national legislation affecting the interests of retired educators. Currently we are fighting for the repeal of these two unfair and arbitrary penalties: House Resolution H.R. 82, which will repeal both the WEP and GPO, and its Social Security Fairness companion bill in the Senate, known as S. 597.

To learn more about the WEP and GPO or even join us in our efforts at repealing H.R. 82 and S. 597, check out this page on the CalRTA website: https://calrta.org/repealing-wepgpo-current or go to this website to join us in our fight: https://calrta.org/join-us.

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