“You actually get penalized for being a public employee, people who are underpaid, overworked.”
A bill that would repeal a pair of programs that negatively affect social security benefits for government employees in Louisiana, as well as their spouses, is taking strides in the right direction, according to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves.
Graves said H.R. 82, which would eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), now has 280 of the 290 needed co-sponsors to send the resolution up for a House vote. He said 26 states are impacted by those programs.
WEP applies to people who receive a pension from a government job such as a teachers, first responders and state or parish employees in Louisiana. If the employee worked anywhere outside the government job such as a grocery store and contributed into social security, when it comes time to receive SS, that employee is only getting a portion of what he/she put in. Plus, the spouse of that employee is also penalized. Compare that to his/her co-workers who never worked for the government would receive 100% of the social security benefits. GPO reduces the spousal benefits of most people who also get pensions based on government employment not covered by social security.
“In the early 1980s there was legislation that was passed that said if you contribute to a public pension fund (police officer, firefighter, EMS, teacher…etc), effectively, your social security benefits or those of your spouse are going to be cut when you retire,” Graves said. “You actually get penalized for being a public employee, people who are underpaid, overworked.”
The bill was originally filed in Jan. 2021 and must be voted into law by the end of the current year.
“It’s got to be this year,” Graves said. “It has to be in the same congress. Each congress is two years. We’ve been slowly moving along and we’ve been able to make progress. I’m confident and optimistic with the progress we’ve been making. We’ve never ever been near this territory in this period of time.”
Graves said he believes if they can get the bill to a vote in the house, he’s confident it will pass the 218 vote threshold needed.
“If we can get to 290 co-sponsors, it indicates that we’ll have more than enough votes to actually get this thing through the house,” he stated. “The strong momentum from a good house vote would allow us to move this thing over there as well. That momentum will be very important.”
As the bill is written, the cuts made to those who have already retired will be eliminated moving forward. The option for back pay to everyone isn’t included.
“Would it go back and refund everything retroactively? No. Do I think that would be fair? Absolutely,” Graves said. “Under the rules of congress, you effectively have to “pay for” or offset spending. “If we were to go and back pay everyone, it would be tens of billions of dollars that we wouldn’t be able to get the support of the co-sponsors that we’re getting. We would never be able to overcome the budgetary obstacles that that causes.”