The U.S. House of Ways and Means Committee discussed propositions to alter a Social Security provision known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) today. The WEP is an unfair formula that was enacted 1983. It prevents public workers such as educators, firefighters and police officers who pay into state pension plans from receiving their entire sum of Social Security earnings.
For many members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), the WEP has long stood as a barrier to receiving the retirement benefits that they earned through working in other professions that paid into Social Security.
The Ways and Means Committee meeting represented a positive first step towards resolving this long-time inequity. The committee heard testimony from five panelists, including TRTA’s Executive Director Tim Lee, about the history of the WEP, and how Rep. Kevin Brady’s (R-The Woodlands) proposed Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (HR 711) would help restore balance and security to millions of retired workers’ lives.
Congressman Brady began the meeting by expounding on the unfairness of the current, outdated Social Security formula, and explained how his proposed bill would provide fairness to the public workers.
“The (WEP’s) one size fits all approach is unfair,” Brady said. “Our solution takes into account all earnings.”
Social Security’s Chief Actuary, Stephen Goss, was among the witnesses in the meeting. Goss reported that if HR 711 were enacted immediately, 84 percent of retirees impacted by the WEP would receive an additional $77 per month in Social Security benefits.
“The current proposal (HR 711)… would be a more appropriate approach,” Goss concluded.
Tim Lee’s testimony included an appeal to the concern about the future of teaching. Lee stated that without fair and satisfactory compensation packages, many potential teachers would avoid the profession.
Rep. Kevin Kelly of Pennsylvania concurred with Lee’s assessment, and recounted his daughter’s path towards becoming a teacher. His story highlighted her hesitance about the teaching profession due to compensation concerns.
The committee members also discussed a proposal in President Obama’s budget that would mirror very similarly Brady’s proposed bill. However unlike HR 711, Obama’s proposal would take 10 years before going into effect.
Tim Lee urged the committee to consider Brady’s proposal, as the need for many retirees to receive the Social Security benefits is immediate.
Jason Fichtner, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, followed Lee’s statement by saying “justice delayed is justice denied.”
Every day TRTA is fighting for its members in both Texas and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Your membership enables us to fight the good fight. You can learn more about the WEP and how you can get involved here. To read more about the meeting, visit the Ways and Means Committee’s website.