House Bill Could Reform Social Security Rules for Public Workers

January 18, 2008 ( - The House Ways and Means Committee considered legislation Wednesday that could reform 30-year-old Social Security laws some say are unfair to public workers.

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the bill, sponsored by Representatives Howard Berman (D-California) and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-California), is designed to ensure public employees in California and 14 other states are not penalized in retirement. “The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) originally were designed to prevent those earning government pensions and Social Security spousal or survival benefits from “double-dipping” – or obtaining the maximum benefits under both systems,” the news report said.

The rules have resulted in retirees in California and elsewhere having their Social Security benefits chopped by about two-thirds if they take up a second career in the public sector after retiring from private employment. Berman and others say the system is unfair and also makes it difficult for states to attract future public employees.

Margaret Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees’ Association, told the committee that the GPO affects 401,200 Social Security beneficiaries – 75% of whom are women and about 42% of whom have lost their spouses.

Representative Michael McNulty (D-New York), chairman of the subcommittee on Social Security, who convened the hearing, contended the rules are no longer working the way they were intended.