House Postpones Consideration of WEP Reform Bill

By on July 13, 2016 in Retirement with 59 Comments
Image of Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX)

Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX)

The House Ways and Means Committee failed to advance a bill today that would have reformed the Windfall Elimination Provision as it applies to the Social Security benefits of federal employees.

H.R. 711, The Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act, was sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX). It would have replaced the Windfall Elimination Provision with a formula designed to treat employees in public service who paid into Social Security the same as other American workers.

Brady described the original bill this way:

“Our bill strengthens the solvency of Social Security while guaranteeing our public servants receive the full benefits they earned when paying into the program. Those who teach our children and protect and serve us everyday deserve equal treatment when they retire. Social Security benefits should be based on your real-life contributions, not some arbitrary formula. Our dedicated public employees have paid into Social Security and they are entitled to their full benefits, just like any other worker.”

However, Brady said today that the bill will be tabled for now because “public servants are not in agreement about this legislation.”

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) is one of the federal employee groups that disagrees with the bill in its current form. NARFE said it previously was strongly in favor of the bill but subsequently withdrew its support. NARFE President Richard G. Thissen said in a statement:

“NARFE supported H.R. 711 in its original form, as it would help mitigate the effects of WEP by providing some relief for both current beneficiaries, through a reduced WEP penalty, and for future Social Security recipients, by improving the formula going forward. It wasn’t full repeal, but it was progress.

“However, we are strongly opposed to the last-minute changes in the bill and mystified as to why they are being made. The newest version of H.R. 711 limits the relief afforded to current beneficiaries until 2026. The original bill would have provided current WEP-affected individuals with a rebate of 50 percent of the WEP penalty; the substitute reduces that amount to a mere 14 percent, for an average of $40 month, through 2026. That’s better than nothing, but it’s a big step backward that NARFE cannot support.”

Brady’s full statement from the Committee hearing about the legislation follows below.

“The other Social Security bill noticed for this markup was H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act – bipartisan legislation I authored with Congressman Neal.

“For over 30 years, Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision – or ‘WEP’ – has arbitrarily reduced the monthly benefits of some teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public servants.

“Today, over 1.7 million people are subject to the WEP’s flawed benefit calculation formula, which can reduce their Social Security benefits by over $400 a month.

“It never seemed fair to me that public servants who earn a pension at work and also in Social Security – whether it was a second job, summer job, or a second career – that they should be docked Social Security benefits. These are those who teach our child, those who keep us safe, those who race to our rescue when in need.

“The Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act would have repealed the current WEP and put in place a formula that is fair by calculating benefits using a teacher’s, firefighter’s, or police officer’s actual earnings history.

“This bill is about getting equal treatment for public servants. However, it has become clear over the past several days that public servants are not in agreement about this legislation. We need the community to come together on what they can all support or the consequence, unfortunately, is to see the current WEP harm people on a daily basis that frankly don’t deserve being harmed. Meanwhile, we will postpone consideration of H.R. 711 until that agreement is found.”

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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