Social Security

What is GPO and WEP?

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) eliminates or reduces the spousal benefit by two-thirds the value of a teacher?s retirement benefit. Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces, but does not eliminate, a portion of an individual?s Social Security earned from other work outside of his/her public employment. The greatest penalty is fifty percent-- you will only receive half of what you should ahve received.

Who is Affected?

GPO and WEP affect public employees in states that do not participate in the Social Security system. The GPO and WEP affect public employees in virtually every state; however, those states with the greatest impact are Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas.

The Call for Repeal

The National Coalition for GPO/WEP Repeal is calling for an immediate and complete repeal of both the GPO and WEP. These Social Security provisions discriminate against individuals who have chosen to serve their communities or country in public jobs by reducing retired public employee?s Social Security or survivor benefits. Non-public employees with private pensions get to keep their entire pension and receive their full Social Security or survivor benefits.

What is being proposed and what you can do?

Several bills have been proposed to address this issue; however, there are two that deserve our support. U.S. Representatives Rodney Davis(R-IL) introduced HR 1795 that calls for complete repeal of both the GPO and WEP. Sen Mark Begich(D-AL) introduced S896 as a companion bill in the Senate. Contact your U.S. Senator and Representative and ask them to co-sponsor these initiatives.


What you need to know.

Government Pension Offset

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) eliminates or reduces the spousal benefit by two-thirds the value of a teacher's retirement benefit. This reduction occurs whether the Social Security receiving spouse is alive, deceased, or divorced. Remember, the GPO only impacts those individuals who were not eligible to retire prior to December 1, 1982 (at least age 55 and tens years of creditable service or twenty years of creditable service and any age). or those who were eligible to retire by July 1, 1983. If you fall in the 1993 category contact Marie Ardito to see if you qualify at mardito@retireesunited.org The following examples help clarify how the GPO may affect an individual in these different circumstances.

Michael collects a Social Security benefit of $800 per month. His wife, Jan, who is a retired public school teacher worked for a school district that did not pay Social Security on its employees. Jan receives a monthly teacher annuity of $1,200. For the purpose of this example, both Michael and Jan are age 65 or older.

Effect of GPO with Living Spouse
Jan's potential Social Security: Benefit: $800 X 1/2 = $400
Amount Calculated for GPO reduction: $1,200 X 2/3 = $800
Total monthly Social Security benefit: $400 - $800 = No benefit

Effect of GPO upon Death or Divorce Jan's potential Social Security Benefit: $800
Amount Calculated for GPO reduction: $1,200 X 2/3 = $800
Total Social Security Benefit: $800 - $800 = No benefit

These examples illustrate a complete offset, whereas in other situations there may not be a complete offset. It is important to remember that in cases where a complete offset has not occurred, any increase in the teacher's benefit will result in a recalculation of the Social Security benefit. In other words, as the teacher's annuity goes up, the Social Security benefit goes down.

The Windfall Elimination Provision

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) uses a modified formula that may reduce your earned Social Security benefit. The modified formula applies to you when you attain age 62 or if you become disabled after 1985 and first become eligible after 1985 for a monthly pension based in whole or in part on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes.

The modified formula is used to figure your Social Security benefit beginning with the first month you get both a Social Security benefit and a teacher's retirement benefit. However, you can be exempt from WEP if you retired or were eligible to retire prior to January 1,1986 or have 30 years of substantial Social Security earnings.

The WEP reduction formula does not totally eliminate potential Social Security earnings. In addition, the WEP reduction is not based on how much you earned from other work not covered by Social Security (e.g., your teacher's retirement benefit). The formula used for calculating the first portion of the Social Security benefit will be reduced if you have less than 30 years of "substantial" earnings in Social Security.

What Constitutes Substantial Earnings?

The following is a chart provided by Social Security. You are considered to have a year of substantial earnings if your earnings equal or exceed the figures shown for each year in the chart below. For the years 1937-1950 the total earnings from these years are divided by $900 to get the number of years of coverage to a maximum of 14 years.

Year ------------------------Earnings
1937-50 ---------------------$900
1951-54 ----------------------900
2008 -----------------------18,975
2009-2010---------------- 19,800

If you have 30 or more years of substantial savings the first factor of 90 percent is the same for you as it is for those not affected by the WEP. The following is a chart provided by Social Security of the percent of the first factor.

Years of Social Security Earnings--------------------First Factor
30 or more-----------------------------------------------90 percent
29---------------------------------------------------------85 percent
28---------------------------------------------------------80 percent
27---------------------------------------------------------75 percent
26---------------------------------------------------------70 percent
25---------------------------------------------------------65 percent
24---------------------------------------------------------60 percent
23---------------------------------------------------------55 percent
22---------------------------------------------------------50 percent
21---------------------------------------------------------45 percent
20 or less------------------------------------------------- 40 percent

Updated Status of Co-Sponsors of Bills

To check on who has signed on to co-sponsor a bill go to:
http://thomas.loc.gov It will ask you which bill to search for and
type in the bill number. Click on search. Find about an inch down light boxes--click on the third one which says bill summary and status or
some may get a page without the boxes but click on anything that says
bill summary and status. It will open up to a page that has a list of things-- click on cosponsors
and you can see which of your Congressmen signed on so you will know
which ones to haunt! This page is usually updated every couple of weeks if there is movement on a bill.

Sample Letter

Dear Senator/Congressman:

I am a retired public educator from (insert where you taught) writing about two unjust Social Security provisions that affect hundreds of thousands of retired educators and other public employees across the country. These provisions are known as the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). I urge Congress to enact legislation repealing these two Social Security provisions.

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) eliminates or reduces the spousal benefit by two-thirds the value of a teacher's retirement benefit. The WEP reduces, but does not eliminate, a portion of an individual's Social Security earned from other work outside of his/her public employment.
I am affected by the (insert your personal story here about how the GPO, the WEP or both have affected you).

U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (D-CA) introduced HR1332 that calls for complete repeal of both the GPO and WEP. U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-CA) introduced S.2010 as a companion bill in the Senate. I am asking that you support this legislation and to repeal GPO and WEP.

The repeal of the GPO and the WEP would greatly benefit thousands of public servants now being penalized for their live's work. Lawmakers have promised to help seniors with various programs or reforms. These are hard times for seniors living on fixed incomes. The costs of health insurance, prescription drugs and general cost of living expenses continue to increase. Thank you for taking the time to consider this issue. I look forward to hearing from you on how
you will help in this endeavor.



Letter Writing Tips

1. Remember proper format including date and appropriate titles:
Today's date
The Honorable (name -U.S. Senator)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable (name -U.S. Rep.)
U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Senator or Representative (Insert Last Name):

2. The first paragraph should be a short introduction of who you are and that you are requesting your Senator or
Congressman to sign on as a cosponsor of either S2010 or HR 1332.

3. The second paragraph should be a brief explanation of the issue on which you are writing.

4. The third paragraph (or section, if needed) is an explanation of how the GPO, WEP or both are impacting you. Include as much information as you feel comfortable sharing, such as how long you taught, how many years your spouse may have worked to earn his/her Social Security, how much money you are losing on a monthly/yearly basis, how many years you worked in education and in other employment to earn the Social Security, etc.

5. The concluding paragraph should thank them for their time and consideration on this issue. Ask to be sent a written response to your letter and to be kept on a mailing list regarding this issue. Remember to be factual and direct.
Limit your letter to one page.

Address the envelope to U.S. Senator as: The Honorable (insert name of U.S. Senator)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Address the envelope to U.S. Representatives as:
The Honorable (insert name of U.S. Representative)
U.S. House of Representatives, Washington D.C. 20515

Social Security

Age To Receive Full Social Security Benefits
(Called "full retirement age" or "normal retirement age.")

Note: If you qualify for benefits as a Survivor, your full retirement age may be different.

Year of Birth* Full Retirement Age

1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943--1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67
If you were born on January 1st of any year you should refer to the previous year.
The earliest you can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits will remain age 62.

This page updated May 2013