The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee met on September 20, 2022 to discuss markup H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2021. If passed by Congress, the bill would fully repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D – MA) opened the hearing by emphasizing the importance of hard-working public servants’ legitimate concerns while also protecting the solvency of the federal Social Security (SS) program.
The WEP affects over 2 million retired public servants nationally, while 65 million people currently receive SS benefits. “Our duty is to ensure the safeguarding fiscal health of SS for all participants,” said Neal.
Representative Kevin Brady (R – TX), who has filed legislation during this Congress and in previous sessions to reform the WEP, said, “Each month that we wait, millions of public servants lose money. . . They deserve equal treatment just as others are treated without creating worse treatment for others.”
Brady added that there are two major reasons WEP reform has failed in previous sessions, including that a solution often goes beyond equal treatment and in many cases grants better treatment to those affected by WEP, essentially flipping the unfairness “off the few to the many.” The other reason is the associated cost of repeal.
Several members of the committee expressed concerns about HR 82 reducing the financial health of SS, which currently is projected to run out of funds by 2034. HR 82 has a projected cost of $182 billion, according to Representative Lloyd Doggett (D – TX), and would speed up the system’s insolvency by at least one year.
Doggett also stated that WEP means a retiree’s SS check can be cut “by as much as 50%.” He agreed, however, that the most practical way to address WEP is using a broader approach to SS reform, referencing Representative John B. Larson’s (D – CT) Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust proposal, also known as HR 5723.
Both Chairman Neal and Representative Brady remarked about previous legislation they had worked on to create a bipartisan solution to WEP reform that does not negatively impact the solvency of the SS fund. Neal stated he is still “committed to finding a path forward to find meaningful relief” for those affected by WEP.
Both Neal and Brady have filed bills during this congressional session to address the WEP. (Brady’s bill is HR 5834 and Neal’s bill is HR 2337). Representative Brady said he will work with Neal “to continue to narrow differences” between their bills, adding that “the clock is ticking.” Brady also stated that it was important to “to marry the good work of HR 82” with the solutions he and Neal have been working on.
Representative Mike Thompson (D – CA) made a motion to move HR 82 out of committee without recommendation to the US House of Representatives. The motion passed. This action is significant as it represents the first vote on WEP and GPO in recent memory, but it also removes HR 82 from the consent calendar and is now progressing more deliberatively through the congressional rules process.
TRTA will continue working with Representative Brady and Chairman Neal in the coming weeks as they work to finalize an agreement between their respective bills.
TRTA supports the full repeal of the WEP and the GPO. We will pursue all actionable solutions on the WEP and GPO, knowing that now is the time for action. We support the process and the work to reach common ground, help future retirees with a fair and proportional formula, provide current retirees with more of their earned Social Security benefits, protect the solvency of the SS trust fund, and help surviving spouses receive a fairer deal on the current GPO reductions. We will exhaust all efforts to win this Congress on these important issues.
Please help us! Join TRTA and get in the fight to fix WEP and GPO!