Tracking the Government Pension Offset
Margaret L. Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees’ Association (NARFE), favors a new bill proposed by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and George Voinovich (R-OH). They have introduced the Government Pension Offset Reform Act which would benefit a number of federal government retirees.
The bill would amend the Social Security Act by lessening the burden of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) on retired public servants, including federal retirees.
The offset has been in effect since 1983. It prevents government retirees who were first eligible to retire in 1982 and later from collecting both a government annuity and Social Security benefits based on their spouse’s work. Two-thirds of the amount of the government annuity that the retiree has earned is used to offset whatever Social Security spousal or survivor benefits that might have been payable.
According to NARFE, In December 2003, approximately 394,000 Social Security beneficiaries were affected by the GPO. Of these, about 75 percent were women, approximately 40 percent were widows or widowers, and 20 percent had a non-covered pension of less than $1,000 per month.
In a press release, Baptiste highlighted NARFE’s ongoing work with other organizations to persuade Congress to address the economic impact of the GPO on federal retirees. The loss of earned survivor Social Security benefits can result in poverty among elderly women, despite their years– and their spouses’ years– of work. “There is no legitimate reason for a certain segment of seniors being denied their Social Security benefits for which full Social Security taxes were paid” said Baptiste.