Sunday, March 11, 2012

Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) “was enacted as part of the 1983 Social Security Refinancing Act, designed to shore up the financing of the Social Security Trust Fund. That Act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan” (Mass Retirees).  
“The Windfall Elimination Provision primarily affects [a public employee who has] earned a pension in any job where [he or she] did not pay Social Security taxes and also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security retirement or disability benefit” (Social Security website).

WEP reduces any earned Social Security in other jobs because of a state pension benefit. “…Reduction in [a] Social Security benefit cannot be more than one-half of the amount of [one’s public] pension that is based on earnings after 1956 on which [he or she] did not pay Social Security taxes…

“The Windfall Elimination Provision may apply if [the public employee reaches 62] after 1985; or [if he or she] became disabled after 1985; and [if he or she] first became eligible for a monthly pension based on work where [he or she] did not pay Social Security taxes after 1985…” (Social Security website).

According to Mass Retirees, “the WEP affects members who apply for their own (not spousal) Social Security benefits and fail to satisfy certain exceptions. A major exception is that members, who were eligible for their public pension before January 1, 1986 (i.e., 20/more years of service under age 55, or 10/more years over 55) or have at least 30 years of substantial coverage under Social Security, are exempt from the WEP. (There is some relief for those with 20-30 years of SS coverage.”

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) is “a provision in the 1977 Social Security Amendments signed into law by President Jimmy Carter” (Mass Retirees).  

“The GPO affects members who apply for Social Security spousal benefits, based upon their husband or wife’s work record under the program and fail to satisfy two exceptions. Members must either be eligible for their public pension before December 1, 1982 and meet all requirements for Social Security spousal benefits… or be eligible for their pension before July 1, 1983 and receiving one-half support from his or her spouse. Unless a member satisfies one of these two exceptions, then the amount of their Social Security spousal benefits will be reduced by two-thirds of their public pension” (Mass Retirees).

“In other words, [with] a monthly civil service pension of $600, two-thirds of that (or $400) must be deducted from Social Security benefits. For example, [if the public employee is eligible] for a $500 spouse’s, widow’s or widower’s benefit from Social Security, [he or she] will receive $100 per month from Social Security ($500 – $400 = $100)” (Social Security Website).   

For more information on WEP and GPO, check the Social Security website:

As said by the Illinois Education Association, “nine out of ten public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years. The WEP causes hard-working people to lose up to sixty percent of the benefits they earned themselves. Many workers rely on misleading Social Security Administration statements that fail to take into account the GPO and WEP when projecting benefits.

“Some 300,000 individuals lose an average of $3,600 a year due to the GPO - an amount that can make the difference between self-sufficiency and poverty. Impacted people have less money to spend in their local economy and sometimes have to turn to expensive government programs like food stamps to make ends meet. Individuals who worked in other careers are less likely to want to become teachers if doing so will mean a loss of earned Social Security benefits. The GPO and WEP are also causing current educators to leave the profession, and students to choose courses of study other than education.

“The GPO and WEP impact government employees and retirees in virtually every state, but their impact is most acute in 15 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia (certain local governments), Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky (certain local governments), Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas. Nationwide, more than one-third of teachers and education employees, and more than one-fifth of other public employees, are not covered by Social Security.

“The GPO affects federal, state, and local government employees – including teachers and other education employees – eligible to retire after December 1982 or later from a job not covered by Social Security. Approximately 305,000 retired federal, state, and local government employees have already been affected by the GPO. Thousands more stand to be affected in the future.”

There is a Senate Bill that has been introduced to repeal Social Security offsets. The National Education Association (NEA) “supports the repeal of unfair offsets – the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision – that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits that public employees have EARNED. In December 2011, Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Collins (R-ME) introduced the Senate version of the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 2010), which would repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. Representatives McKeon (R-CA) and Berman (D-CA) had previously introduced the bill in the House (H.R. 1332). See if your Representative is a cosponser. Take Action Today: Urge your Senators and Representatives to cosponsor the Social Security Fairness Act” (NEA).

Update for WEP & GPO (April 28, 2013):

Update for WEP & GPO from Mass Retirees (November 15, 2014):

"If passed, H.R. 5697 would repeal the current WEP law and replace it with a new Social Security formula that would apply to all Social Security recipients - both public and private sector. Current retirees, impacted by the WEP, would see their Social Security benefit recalculated. The result would be a restoration of roughly 1/3 of the original WEP reduction.

"'The goal of H.R. 5697 is to create a fair Social Security calculation that accurately reflects the years paid into Social Security vs. the years paid into a pension system outside of Social Security,' explains Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. 'If passed into law the benefit change would take effect in 2017, once Social Security launches their new enforcement system that will ensure everyone is collecting the benefit in which they earned.'"

Federal Legislation to Repeal Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) Introduced November 2014 (Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana):

“H.R. 5697, if passed, would permanently repeal the current Windfall Elimination Provision and replace it with a new and fair formula that treats public servants like the rest of American workers. Guarantee public servants receive the benefits they earned while they paid into Social Security. Reduce the WEP by up to a third for current retirees, and up to half for future retirees – increasing lifetime Social Security benefits by between $20,000 and $32,400 (as estimated by the Social Security actuary). It would not impact the Social Security trust fund.

Click here for more information.

Update for WEP & GPO from the Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana (May 5, 2015): 

“…U.S. Congressmen Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA) have co-authored H.R. 711, known as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act.  If passed, this federal legislation would repeal the WEP in its current form and enact a new formula which would recognize actual earnings history.  At a recent meeting Ms. Rougeou attended in Washington, D.C., Congressman Brady asserted that the legislation has bipartisan support, is cost neutral, and he believes it has a real chance at passage...” 

Click here for more information.

Update (June 17, 2015):

The 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.

Congressman Richard Neil (D-MA) and Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) are continuing their efforts to pass HR 711, a measure to reform the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision.   

This measure is continuing to progress slowly through the process and has continued to draw bipartisan support since its introduction in February. The legislation has garnered the support of 27 co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee.

HR 711 proposes to reform the Windfall Elimination Provision by replacing the existing WEP formula, which uses an arbitrary reduction percentage with a formula that takes into account the actual wage history for the public employee. The WEP was enacted in 1983 as part of a large reform package designed to shore up the financing of the Social Security system. 

We are asking retirees to contact their members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor HR 711. To log in and send your message, please Click Here. [This link has been deactivated... Not sure why. Contact the IRTA].

Updated (June 29, 2015)

Dear Mr. Brown:

Thank you for contacting me to voice your support for repealing the Windfall Elimination and Government Pension Offset Provisions in current law. I appreciate your active participation in our legislative process. Your involvement helps me more effectively represent you and the Eleventh District of Illinois.

I agree with you, and you will be pleased to know that after hearing form constituents such as yourself I joined as a co-sponsor of H.R.973, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2015. Introduced on February 13th, 2015, by my colleague Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL), this measure would repeal the government pension offset requirements for Social Security that apply to the insurance benefits of spouses, widows and widowers, and mothers and fathers. The bill would also repeal windfall elimination requirements used to calculate an individual’s primary insurance amount under Social Security.

As you know, when Social Security was first created, public employees were intentionally excluded because they already had pension programs in place. Unfortunately, this rule has resulted in millions of hardworking public employees and their families being penalized when they retire. H.R.973 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Please know that as a co-sponsor of this bill, I plan to vote for it if I have the opportunity to do so in the House of Representatives.

I apologize for the delay in responding to your concerns. It is my policy to respond to every one of the thousands of emails, faxes and letters I receive each month. Hearing from the people I serve is vital to doing my job right. Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns and I hope you keep in touch with me on this or any other issue you feel important. To stay informed of my work, or to sign up for my electronic newsletters, please visit my website at It is an honor to represent you.

Bill Foster
Member of Congress

For a promise that Obama did not keep, click here. 

Updated (February 24, 2016)

“There is a lot of talk about expanding and improving Social Security, but no one is saying anything about getting rid of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Despite the repeal bills currently in Congress, (H.R.973 and S.1651), there is nothing being said about how badly these offsets affect the FULLY-EARNED benefits of retired public employees...

“GPO—At least 615,000 retirees are affected by the GPO; 74% of those affected have lost ALL their Social Security retirement benefits; 81% of those affected are women. Women affected by the GPO have lower pensions than men… The GPO is a direct attack against families.  Parents who stay home and care for children usually lose all their spousal benefits, and they often don’t get any survivor benefits as well.

“WEP—More than 1.5 million people are affected by the WEP. It harms low-income retirees more than those with larger pensions. Everyone knows that the formula and premise are wrong.  People are punished by not earning Social Security in their work as public servants, and then they are punished again when they retire by losing what they had already earned in other work (Congressional Research Report).


“Below is a list of addresses. Please MAIL each of these organizations a personal message or email them from the links below…”

National Policy Council
Association of Retired Americans
601 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20049
AARP has a National Policy Council that makes decisions about what legislation to support. They used to be against repeal. We helped them change their position. They are currently neutral about the offsets. They need to know more. They need to know how the offsets affect retirees. YOU can be a member of the National Policy Council! Go to and apply by February 28.

Social Security Works
Nancy Altman
Social Security Works
815 16th St NW Fourth Floor
Washington, DC 20006
Social Security Works is an activist group supported by a number of unions. They have not paid attention to our issue. They need to know more about GPO/WEP and what happens to us.

National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare
Max Richtman, President
10 G Street NE Suite 600
Washington DC 20002
This group has studied the GPO and WEP and has endorsed the current repeal bills. Thank them and let them know how you have been affected.

Alliance for Retired Americans
Richard Fiesta, Executive Director
Alliance for Retired Americans
815 16th St., N.W., 4th floor
Washington, D.C., 20006
This is a group of active seniors who have ratified a resolution to support the repeal of the offsets. They need to know how the offsets have affected you. Please encourage them to do more!

Older Women’s League OWL
Margaret Hellie Huyck, President
Older Women’s League
1627 Eye St., N.W. Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20006
This group is particularly interested in issues affecting older women. They have been understanding, but they need to hear more stories.

American Association of University Women
Patricia Fae Ho, Board Chair
1111 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
202.785.7700   800.326.2289

If you belong to another group that should be supporting this cause, please let us know at . You can also respond on the Social Security Fairness blog: click here. Thank you!

For additional information, click on the GPO/WEP icon under this blog's masthead.


  1. I have heard this movement for years, but our idiotic Congress does nothing about it. All they have to do is raise the cap on SS to make up for any kind of "shortfall" for screwing over teachers and other public employees. I am absolutely scared SS is going to cheat me out of my full benefits when I receive only 300 a month in PERS working five years in public employment in Nevada, around four years as a teacher. Why should I have to work until I am 70 or 75 years old because Congress screwed up years ago? And that is assuming I ever can work full-time again, and at 57 I am not.

  2. I am a Civil Service employee. Last year received notice that if I retired after 37 years my pension would be $1,400. President Reagan harmed low-paid civil service employees. I am a clerk, late in age, and must keep working. Where at my age will I get the difference to pay up my monthly bills? I would have to go out to work to make the difference of at leat 1,500-3,000 more to live on. This is a sin. State employees get their pension plus their Social Security. I would be homeless if I stop working at my late age.

  3. I too am a Civil Service Employee. Retired at 86 years old to live. A low-paid Clerk in the Federal Government. The Windfall harms low-pensioned employee. Only God, Almighty, can help us to help the low-paid government pensioned employee.