(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 []



                            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