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WATCH: Graves Fights for Emergency Personnel, Teachers, Public Servants in Tax Reform 2.0

September 26, 2018
Press Release


WATCH: Graves Fights for Emergency Personnel, Teachers, Public Servants in Tax Reform 2.0

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) and Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis introduced an amendment to Tax Reform 2.0 today that would put an end to an obscure Social Security law that unfairly reduces benefits for emergency personnel, teachers and other public servants.

The legislation would eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – two titles of the Social Security Act that decrease or eliminate Social Security benefits for millions of Americans who have devoted much of their careers to public service.

“Current policy gets it wrong, and it needs to be fixed,” said Graves. “We shouldn’t penalize police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other public servants who put their lives on the line for our communities; or teachers, who pour their lives into students in the classroom and who play such an important role to the future of our country. They don’t deserve to have their benefits reduced, and we’ll continue to working until this policy gets changed.”

The amendment is the same legislative text as the Graves-sponsored H.R. 1205, the Social Security Fairness Act. That bill has 190 cosponsors and is supported by the Senior Citizens League, National Education Association, National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Letter Carriers, International Association of Fire Fighters, and National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

“I have heard time and time again, from teachers in my district and across the country, how important this legislation is and today, we're bringing this issue into the national spotlight again," said Davis. "For decades, members of Congress, from both parties, have committed to repealing this provision and by offering this amendment today, we will hopefully get one step closer to fix this provision that unfairly punishes public servants in states like Illinois. While this is admittedly a major hurdle, I will never stop trying to move this important legislation forward." 

Background Information

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. For example, educators who do not earn Social Security in the public schools but who work part-time or during the summer in jobs covered by Social Security have reduced benefits even though they pay into the system just like others. The WEP also affects people who move from a job in which they earn Social Security to a job, such as teaching, in which they do not.

The WEP substantially reduces benefits workers included and counted on when planning their retirement and it substantially penalizes lower paid public employees. These provisions also discourage qualified, talented individuals from entering into public service professions, hindering efforts to attract new math and science teachers from the private sector unwilling to sacrifice earned Social Security from prior careers.

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects the spousal benefits of people who work as federal, state, or local government employees—including educators, police officers, and firefighters—if the job is not covered by Social Security. GPO reduces by two-thirds the benefit received by surviving spouses who also collect a government pension. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years.

The WEP and GPO provisions do not eliminate a windfall for workers, they penalize public service employees by taking away benefits they earned throughout their careers.