Advocacy Center – Legislative State and Federal Issues

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https://legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx

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https://legis.la.gov/legis/home.aspx

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Reach out to Louisiana legislators and share your thoughts and opinions. Remember: you are their constituents. Check out these letter writing tips and guide for contacting your legislators.
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  • Encourage others to reach out to their legislators. There’s power in numbers!

 

 

Federal

 

The GPO and WEP are Social Security provisions which impact individuals who have chosen to serve their school boards, towns, cities, counties and states in public jobs.  These provisions reduce retired public employee’s individual Social Security and survivor benefits. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) eliminates or reduces the spousal benefit by an amount that is determined using a formula which factors in the amount of a teacher’s retirement benefit. This reduction occurs whether the Social Security receiving spouse is alive, deceased, or divorced. Remember, the GPO only impacts those individuals who were not eligible to retire prior to December 31, 1982 (at least age 55 and twenty years of credible service). The following examples help clarify how the GPO may affect an individual in these different circumstances.

The GPO and WEP affect public employees in states that do not participate in the Social Security system. These Social Security benefit reductions affect public employees in virtually every state; however, those states with the greatest impact, in addition to Louisiana, are Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas.

Non-public employees with private pensions get to keep their entire Social Security benefit and their Social Security survivor benefits.  Take a minute to contact members of your congressional delegation to let them know you do not appreciate being treated differently from your family members and friends who worked in private sector jobs.

Contact a Social Security representative to verify your years of “substantial” earnings and request a calculation of your Social Security benefit. Visit www.ssa.gov for more detailed information on the GPO and WEP, and how these offsets are computed.

What is Being Proposed and What You Can Do

Each year, several bills are proposed by members of the U.S. Congress which address the reduction or repeal of both the GPO and WEP.  The Coalition to Preserve Retirement Security has information regarding these proposals posted on their website, www.retirementsecurity.org.

In addition, a grassroots organization founded in California–Social Security Fairness–has developed a web site that provides updated information on the repeal initiative.  That web site address is www.ssfairness.com.  The web site provides a thorough explanation of GPO/WEP, and suggests steps you can take to further the cause for the repeal of these federal statutes.

You can find the latest information on the proposals before the U.S. Congress by searching for GPO repeal and WEP repeal on the web site of the Library of Congress.  That web site address is http://thomas.loc.gov.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) 

Social Security Fairness Act of 2019 – seeks to repeal WEP/GPO 

Status: Refereed to Subcomittee on Social Security

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Social Security Fairness Act of 2019 – seeks to repeal WEP/GPO 

Status: Refereed to Committee on Finance

Click here to view the list of LRTA legislative priorities.

The Government Pension Offset
The Government Pension Offset (GPO) eliminates or reduces the spousal benefit by two-thirds the value of a teacher’s retirement benefit. This reduction occurs whether the Social Security receiving spouse is alive, deceased, or divorced. Remember, the GPO only impacts those individuals who were not eligible to retire prior to December 31, 1982 (at least age 55 and twenty years of credible service). The following examples help clarify how the GPO may affect an individual in these different circumstances.

Michael collects a Social Security benefit of $800 per month. His wife, Jan, who is a retired public school teacher worked for a school district that did not pay Social Security on its employees. Jan receives a monthly teacher annuity of $1,200. For the purpose of this example, both Michael and Jan are age 65 or older.

Effect of GPO with Living Spouse
Jan’s potential Social Security: Benefit: $800 X 1/2 = $400
Amount Calculated for GPO reduction: $1,200 X 2/3 = $800
Total monthly Social Security benefit: $400 – $800 = No benefit

Effect of GPO upon Death or Divorce
Jan’s potential Social Security Benefit: $800
Amount Calculated for GPO reduction: $1,200 X 2/3 = $800
Total Social Security Benefit: $800 – $800 = No benefit

These examples illustrate a complete offset, whereas in other situations, there may not be a complete offset. It is important to remember that in cases where a complete offset has not occurred, any increase in the teacher’s benefit, even the provision of periodic COLAs from the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, will result in a recalculation of the Social Security benefit. In other words, as the teacher’s annuity goes up, the Social Security benefit goes down.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)
The Windfall Elimination Provision uses a modified formula that may reduce your earned Social Security benefit. The modified formula applies to you when you attain age 62 or if you become disabled after 1985 and first become eligible after 1985 for a monthly pension based in whole or in part on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes.

The modified formula is used to figure your Social Security benefit beginning with the first month you get both a Social Security benefit and a teacher’s retirement benefit. However, you can be exempt from WEP if you retired or were eligible to retire prior to December 1985 or have 30 years of substantial Social Security earnings.

The WEP reduction formula does not totally eliminate potential Social Security earnings. In addition, the WEP reduction is not based on how much you earned from other work not covered by Social Security (e.g., your teacher’s retirement benefit). The formula used for calculating the first portion of the Social Security benefit will be reduced if you have less than 30 years of “substantial” earnings in Social Security. Table A in the sidebar illustrates the amount of earnings Social Security considers “substantial” for various years. Table B illustrates the reduced percentage used to calculate the first portion of your Social Security benefit based on less than 30 years of “substantial” earnings in Social Security.

Contact a Social Security representative to verify your years of “substantial” earnings and request a calculation of your Social Security benefit.

Sample Letter (updated June 2020)

Dear Senator/Congressman:

I am a retired public educator from (insert where you taught), and I am writing you today to urge you to add H.R. 141 to the next stimulus plan or to suspend the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The GPO eliminates or reduces the spousal benefit by two-thirds the value of a teacher’s retirement benefit. The WEP reduces, but does not necessarily eliminate, a portion of an individual’s Social Security earned from other work outside of his/her public employment. These penalties are drastic and cause financial hardship to many public servants and private sector employees who worked in specific public sector jobs.

I am affected by the (insert your personal story here about how the GPO, the WEP or both have affected you).

H.R. 141 (Social Security Fairness Act of 2019) is a bi-partisan bill introduced by Congressman Rodney Davis (R- IL-13) that repeals the WEP and GPO. H.R. 141 currently has 247 cosponsors and support from all of Louisiana’s Congressmen. These penalties need to be repealed now help retired public servants during this economic crisis.

Lawmakers have promised to help seniors with various programs or reforms. These are hard times for seniors living on fixed incomes. The costs of health insurance, prescription drugs and general cost of living expenses continue to increase. Thank you for taking the time to consider my request.  I look forward to hearing from you on how you will help in this endeavor.

Sincerely

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