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Senate OKs limited pension cost shift, Quinn lobbying – DailyHerald.com

31 May

SPRINGFIELD — If lawmakers adjourn before their midnight deadline today without a deal to try to curb the state’s $100 billion in pension costs, it’ll be their second straight year facing a summer of gridlock after months of debate.

Their options to avoid such a stalemate today are few. State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and leader on the issue, said this morning that she’s waiting to see what will happen in the next several hours just like other lawmakers.

“I’m in that camp,” she said.

The Illinois Senate handily rejected a package of pension benefit cuts favored by the Illinois House. And the House let the Senate’s favored plan die Thursday night without a vote.

“Truly, I’m angry,” said state Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat. She wants House Speaker Michael Madigan to call the Senate’s union-backed pension plan for a vote.

“Don’t purport that this is the Senate’s fault,” she said. Bush voted against the House’s benefit cuts.

Gov. Pat Quinn is meeting with Senate lawmakers, particularly freshmen, to try to get them to change their minds. But Thursday’s defeat was decisive.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee has approved legislation shifting the state’s university and community college pension costs onto the schools. It heads to the Senate floor and could save the state $18 million in its first year.

But the state’s annual payment is nearing $7 billion in the coming years, so those savings are paltry in comparison.

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, is already calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to keep lawmakers in Springfield past their Friday deadline in an attempt to hash out a solution.

“If the governor believes what he says about the necessity of pension reform, inaction on his part borders on negligence,” Franks said in a statement.

That idea is fraught with political and legal problems, though. More…

via Senate OKs limited pension cost shift, Quinn lobbying – DailyHerald.com.

Help protect retirement for public servants: GPO/WEP fix introduced in Congress | Education Votes

14 May

Click here to contact your US senators and congressman and ask them to support this issue.

Last week, Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 896), previously introduced in the House (H.R. 1795) by Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA). This legislation would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which penalize people who have dedicated their lives to public education and other public service careers by taking away benefits they have EARNED.

GPO reduces public employees’ Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension — nine out of ten people lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years. WEP reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security — hard-working people lose a significant portion of the benefits they have earned themselves.

What this means, in real terms, is that public servants such as teachers, firefighters and police officers are losing the benefits they earned through a lifetime of public service. Loss of benefits can result from moving from private to public employment and vice versa or moving between states that have different GPO/WEP rules.

The bipartisan legislation recognizes and respects the contributions of educators and other public employees by eliminating unfair penalties attached to public service. Nearly 1.2 million NEA members will be eligible for full retirement within the next 10 years. These people are educators that have devoted their lives to students.

The brave men and women serving as police officers and firefighters even have to worry about their spouses being able to receive their survivor benefits if they lose their lives in the line of duty. After dedicating their lives to protecting our nation, we owe them, at the very least, the peace of mind that comes with knowing their families will be able to access the benefits they have worked their entire lives to earn.

AmbulanceThe effects of the unfair GPO-WEP practices have far-reaching implications for education, starting with disincentivizing a career in public service. We should be encouraging the best and brightest from the private sector to enter the teaching profession and help groom the next generation of leaders in this country, not punishing those who aspire to a life of public service. More…

via Help protect retirement for public servants: GPO/WEP fix introduced in Congress | Education Votes.

Educators fight unfair offsets that gouge retirement benefits | Education Votes

1 May

Imagine this. You’ve spent the last 30-years dedicating your life to teaching students Algebra at a local high school. And during those decades in the classroom, to help make ends meet, you’ve worked several part-time jobs—including a 15-year stint as a night auditor at a local hotel. But now, you’re looking forward to retirement—that is, until you learn about a government offset called the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which is going to reduce your Social Security check by almost half.

While it sounds like a retirement nightmare, for hundreds of thousands of educators, police officers, fire fighters and other public service employees, it’s a reality. WEP penalizes people who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities by taking away benefits they have earned. It impacts public employees who work in what’s called, “non-Social Security states”—states where Social Security is not withheld from public sector employees. However, if these employees are eligible to collect a benefit as a result of private sector jobs they may have held, WEP robs them of a significant portion of their Social Security checks.

For example, if the retired teacher mentioned earlier–the one who worked part-time as a hotel night auditor–was eligible for a monthly Social Security benefit of $415 and received $1423 from her monthly teaching pension, under the WEP formula, her Social Security benefit would be reduced to $206. For those on a fixed income, that loss of $209 really hurts.

“I think I should be able to collect what I am due,” said Nancy Allen, a 62-year-old teacher from Alaska—a non-Social Security state—who retired four years ago and is eligible to collect Social Security based on several private sector jobs she held during college and after leaving the classroom.

I am not going to ever receive a large amount of Social Security because I didn’t put large amounts into the plan. But I did put money into the plan, I am eligible, and should be able to receive all that I am due.

The good news is that one of Allen’s U.S. Senators, Mark Begich (D-AK), is expected to introduce legislation later this week to repeal WEP. A similar bill–sponsored by Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA)–has already been introduced in the House. Both House and Senate versions will also target another offset that’s penalizing public employees in non-social security states. It’s called the Government Pension Offset, or GPO.

Because of GPO, 9 out of 10 public employees lose their entire Social Security survivor’s benefit, even though their late spouse may have paid Social Security taxes for years. In fact, some 300,000 people lose, on average, about $3,600 a year due to GPO—that’s an amount that can make the difference between self-sufficiency and poverty for those loved ones left behind.

“If you have a spouse and you’re Social Security is based on their benefit because they are deceased and you lose that benefit—that could really have a serious negative impact on people,” said Allen, who fears good educators and retired private sector employees looking at public education as a second career will steer clear of those states impacted by GPO/WEP. “I think the Social Security formula should be the same for everyone, and there shouldn’t be 15 states that are affected by this.”

But unfortunately, this problem is not just limited to the 15 non-Social Security states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas. Because people move from state to state, there are people impacted by GPO/WEP who live everywhere within the country, and that number continues to grow as more reach retirement age. However, thanks to federal lawmakers like Senator Begich and others, Allen sees a ray of hope extending from Capitol Hill.

“I feel good about what Senator Begich is doing,” said Allen. “Not everyone is willing to introduce a bill like this and I am very proud that Mark Begich feels he can do that.”

To find out more about GPO/WEP and other issues impacted educators, click here.

via Educators fight unfair offsets that gouge retirement benefits | Education Votes.

Support retired educators: Lobby Congress on social security offsets GPO and WEP | Education Votes

22 Mar

Many retired educators, firefighters and police officers have found themselves asking a simple question, “Why can’t I get the benefits I’ve earned?” The Government Pension Offset GPO and Windfall Elimination Provision WEP currently allow the government to reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for those who receive a government pension.

The GPO reduces public employees’ spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension. What this means in real world terms is that 9 out of 10 public employees impacted by GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though that spouse has been paying into social security their entire career. Why shouldn’t educators, firefighters and police officers enjoy the same social security benefits those in the private sector do?

WEP, on the other hand, reduces or eliminates social security benefits expected from another job for anyone who will receive a public pension. Want to switch from a private sector job to a life of public service? Better think again. WEP means that even if your life of public service entitles you to only a $1 a month public pension, your social security that has been accumulating your entire career will be reduced or eliminated entirely. More…

via Support retired educators: Lobby Congress on social security offsets GPO and WEP | Education Votes.

Response from Senator Durbin on Social Security Fairness Bill

12 Jan
Thank you for contacting me about the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the government pension offset (GPO). I appreciate hearing from you.
The WEP and GPO are provisions that reduce Social Security benefits to people who concurrently receive a pension from employment that did not require contributions to the Social Security system. Federal, state, county and municipal employees are included in this category. The WEP reduces Social Security benefits to recipients of non-covered pensions who also worked a different, covered job and contributed to Social Security. The GPO reduces Social Security payments received as spousal retirement, disability or death benefits to those persons who receive a non-covered pension.
I cosponsored legislation to help level the playing field for federal employees and ensure they receive appropriate pensions and retirement benefits. The Social Security Fairness Act (S. 484), introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California in the 111th Congress, would repeal the government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions to correct inequities in existing laws. A comparable bill, H.R. 1332, has been introduced in the House during this Congress. I will keep your thoughts in mind as this issue is considered in the Senate.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.
Sincerely,
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Social Security Offset: WEP/GPO Explained > MassRetirees

10 Jan

Over the course of the years that our Association has been fighting to repeal Social Security’s GPO (Government Pension Offset) and WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision), we have received hundreds of communications from our members and other interested parties. Here are some of the most frequent questions and our answers to them.

WHAT IS THE GPO?

The GPO affects members who apply for SS 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 SS spousal benefits in effect in January 1977 (i.e., husband received one-half support from his wife), 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 SS spousal benefits will be reduced by two-thirds of their public pension. For example, if your pension is $9,000 and you’re eligible for $6,000 in SS spousal benefits, two-thirds of your pension ($6,000) would unfortunately reduce your SS benefits to zero. Note: Even if you do not receive actual benefits, you can still be covered by Medicare.

WHEN DID THE GPO BECOME LAW?

The GPO was a provision in the 1977 Social Security Amendments signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, at a time when the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. The provision originated in the Senate Finance Committee, then chaired by Sen. Russell Long (D-LA). House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Al Ullman (D-OR) pushed through an amendment in the House to provide a five-year transition period so that the GPO was not effective until 1982. Subsequent amendments changed the effective date to 1983, and applied the $1-for-$1 offset against two-thirds of the pension, instead of the entire pension used as the offset in the original provision.

WHAT IS THE WEP?

The WEP affects members who apply for their own (not spousal) SS 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.)

If a member doesn’t satisfy the exceptions, then they are subject to the WEP, meaning that their SS benefits will be calculated using a different formula. Under that different formula, instead of receiving 90% of the first $606, which the member earned on the average each month (in this case, $545.40), the member would receive only 40% of their first $606 ($242.40) – more than 55% less in benefits.

WHEN DID THE WEP BECOME LAW?

The 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, after being adopted by the Democratic-controlled House where Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) chaired the House Ways and Means Committee and the Republican-controlled Senate, where Sen. Robert Dole (R-KS) chaired the Senate Finance Committee.

WHAT STATES HAVE RETIREES HURT BY THE GPO AND WEP?

In addition to Massachusetts, there are 26 states that have public retirees and employees who could be hurt by either the GPO/WEP. Like the Commonwealth, the first 6 states, listed below, have almost all or a large majority of their employees not contributing to Social Security, and, therefore, potentially affected by these laws as retirees. The remaining 20 states are ranked in terms of the percent of employees who may be impacted (66-16%). They are: California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas, Florida, New York, Nevada, Connecticut, Kentucky, Minnesota, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Washington, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Maine, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico and New Hampshire.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

As with any issue – be it at the federal or state level, it’s vital to keep informed.

Second, timing is critical. Over the years, we have called upon members, in specific parts of the country (i.e., Florida, Maine, Vermont, etc.), to contact their congressmen and senators on the GPO/WEP. While we do not discourage individual initiative on these issues, please act if and when we contact you – that’s when we believe you can have the greatest impact.

via WEP/GPO Explained | MassRetirees.

Save our Social Security: New bill to repeal GPO-WEP > SSFairness

10 Jan

Just before the Senate went on recess in mid-December John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a companion bill to the House Social Security Fairness Bill (HR1332).

The new Senate bill specifies repeal of both the GPO and the WEP. It is number S 2010 and is co-sponsored by Susan Collins (R-ME). 

We are delighted!

The best way we can thank these two Senators is to get their colleagues to sign on as co-sponsors! The National Education Association has set up a quick and easy way to email both your Senators and your Congress Person. This is open to everyone and you do not need to sign up for NEA emails to use the service.  Click here and also pass this link on to your friends:

http://capwiz.com/nea/issues/alert/?alertid=59458501

 It is not likely that these bills will be passed this year, but they are a vehicle for explaining to legislators why these offsets are WRONG. When any changes are made to the Social Security retirement formulas, we want to make sure that lawmakers know that this is a problem that must be fixed!

 From our recent sign ups, here is another story of outrageous injustice:

My mother (a public school teacher) was blindsided by this unfair legislation. She is constantly having to explain to people why she does not receive survivor benefits, when most of her peers (84 years old) do receive them. It feels so punitive to me. It’s as if they are saying, “You worked so we are now going to punish you for it. And, your husband died so now we are going to rip up your life even more. Ha!” The concept of double dipping was inaccurate, as if someone were stealing. They built their lives and family, contributed to society, and paid taxes, together.  California.

Thank you for staying with us as we fight for change!!!

via SSFairness.com

 

NEA – Sign Petition to Repeal Social Security Offsets

16 Nov

The White House is soliciting petitions from the public on their website. A petition has been started to urge repeal of the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. The petition needs a lot of signatures in order to get the attention of the President. Sign today! Note – you will be asked to create an account before signing to prevent duplicate signatures. Once you create your account, you will receive a confirmation e-mail and will be able to sign the petition. To start the process, click here.

NEA supports 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. Representatives McKeon (R-CA) and Berman (D-CA) have re-introduced legislation (H.R. 1332) that would fully repeal these unfair laws. See if your Representative is a cosponsor.

Take Action Now: Tell Members of the House to cosponsor and support passage of this important legislation.

via NEA – Social Security.

NEA – Social Insecurity

16 Nov

How (and why) GPO and WEP can eat up your pension.

By Mary Ellen Flannery and Alain Jehlen

In 1968, Lois Grenfell’s husband died at the age of 31. Her children were seven and 11. “Our family was devastated emotionally and financially. I had no savings, very little life insurance, and no job,” she recalls. Grenfell, who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, returned to college part-time while supporting her family, earned a teaching degree, and began teaching in 1976. She was rebuilding her life—but there was more bad news to come.

“I soon learned that I would never receive one penny of my Social Security widow’s benefits after I retired, even though my husband had worked continually from the time he was 16 until his untimely death,” she wrote to This Active Life. What happened to her widow’s pension? The Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO/WEP). More…

via NEA – Social Insecurity.

NEA – Quick Quiz on Social Security and Public Employees

16 Nov

Quick Quiz on Social Security and Public Employees

See how much you know about how the Social Security Offset might affect your retirement. Click below to take the quiz:

NEA – Quick Quiz on Social Security and Public Employees.

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