November 22, 2002 - Issue: Vol. 148, No. 152 — Daily Edition107th Congress (2001 - 2002) - 2nd Session
GOVERNMENT PENSION OFFSET AND WINDFALL ELIMINATION PROVISION
(Extensions of Remarks - November 22, 2002)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E2131-E2132] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] GOVERNMENT PENSION OFFSET AND WINDFALL ELIMINATION PROVISION ______ HON. MAX SANDLIN of texas in the house of representatives Friday, November 22, 2002 Mr. SANDLIN. Mr. Speaker, in the waning moments of this Congress, the House of Representatives almost adopted a bill that would have devastating consequences to teachers and public employees across the State of Texas and the country. Instead of helping teachers and government employees secure a better retirement, H.R. 4070, Social Security Program Protection Act of 2002, as amended, would have left hard working teachers worse off rather than better off. In these uncertain economic times, this Congress should be adopting legislation to make sure everyone has access to the retirement benefits they have earned over a lifetime of work and service. Two little known amendments to the Social Security Act are dramatically and unfairly slashing the retirement benefits of hundreds of thousands of Americans--teachers and other public school employees, firefighters, police, social workers, and other civil servants--who are being penalized for their public service. These provisions are just plain unfair, and I am committed to working to end the injustices of these two provisions. The Government Pension Offset, GPO, requires that an individual who receives a pension from work that was not covered by Social Security has his or her Social Security spousal benefit substantially reduced. The law allowed an exemption from the GPO if he or she worked in a job that was covered by Social Security on his or her last day of employment. Under the Senate-passed version of H.R. 4070, an individual would be required to work in a Social Security-covered job for the last 5 years of employment to be exempt from the GPO. The amendment is being characterized as closing a loophole. This is not a loophole but rather a mechanism for individuals to obtain the benefits for which they have paid. It is an unnecessary and unjust hurdle. Instead of raising the bar to achieve these earned benefits, Congress should be eliminating the barriers completely. In addition to the GPO, teachers and certain other workers are subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). This provision unfairly harms public servants by reducing--sometimes by as much as 55.6 percent--the Social Security benefits of federal, state, and local employees who retire from government jobs that are not covered by Social Security. [[Page E2132]] For teachers, the cost is significant. The Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision affect at least one-third of America's education workforce, concentrated in 15 states, including my home state of Texas. But, because people move from state to state, there are affected individuals everywhere. I know from personal experience the penalty hard working teachers pay. My own mother, who spent nearly 30 years serving as a teacher in the public schools, has been adversely affected. We need to attract more people to teaching and public service. Adding onerous and additional unfair requirements to obtaining their retirement benefits will not solve the crisis we are having in attracting and retaining teacher professionals. Since my election to Congress, I have worked to eliminate these two provisions. On March 1, 2001, I introduced H.R. 848, the Social Security Benefit Restoration Act. This bill will bring equity to retirement benefits. It will eliminate the public sector penalty and will allow civil servants to draw full Social Security benefits. I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 2638, the Social Security Fairness Act. This bill eliminates the Windfall Elimination Provision as well as the Government Pension Offset. Finally, I, along with an overwhelming majority of Members, have cosponsored H.R. 664, which also eliminates the Government Pension Offset. My bill and the other legislation to eliminate these unjust provisions have been languishing in the House Ways and Means Committee. These bills are but another example of the long list of things the Republican leadership of the Congress has failed to address. To pass a bill that would make retirement less accessible for those who teach our children is unconscionable. We need to be doing more to strengthen the teaching profession and not adopt laws that make teaching less attractive to current and prospective teachers. When the 108th Congress convenes next year, I will reintroduce my bill and work with my colleagues to eliminate these unfair provisions. Thousands of Texans who have devoted their lives to teaching and public service are entitled to the benefits they have spent a career earning. Basic fairness demands that Congress repeal these provisions and allow teachers and other public servants to collect all of their retirement benefits.s ____________________