Everyone deserves a secure retirement, especially those who have devoted their careers to public service. When Congress returns from its August recess after Labor Day, it has an opportunity to reverse two changes to Social Security that make everyday life less secure for millions of retired teachers and public employees across the country. The Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset can severely reduce, or even eliminate, your Social Security benefits at retirement.
The WEP unfairly penalizes retirees in 15 states and Puerto Rico who have spent careers in public service but have also paid into Social Security at other points in their careers, whether while working in the private sector or in the public sector in states not affected by the WEP. The GPO denies survivor benefits to retired public service workers whose spouses paid into Social Security. Both penalties disproportionately affect low-income retirees, and the GPO targets women five times as often as men.
With the national teacher shortage reaching crisis levels, allowing the WEP and GPO to continue is lunacy. These penalties disincentivize would-be second-profession teachers from joining the teaching field, when we need to be encouraging qualified candidates to become teachers, not threatening to eliminate their Social Security benefits. There is no context in which hurting the economic security of those who choose to serve their communities is justified.
Social Security must be expanded and strengthened. The AFT is committed to reforms that will enhance and extend Social Security for decades to come; it is foundational to an economy that works for all Americans. Repealing the WEP and GPO is a positive first step in that direction.