BY: CLYDE HAMNER, LRTA Legislative Committee Chairman and Second Vice-President
At the request of LRTA’s Legislative Committee, Representatives Garret Graves and Julia Letlow met with the LRTA Executive Board, Legislative Committee, and other LRTA leaders and staff to discuss the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of Social Security via Zoom on August 13.
Members of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL), along with other public servants like police officers and firefighters, who are eligible for Social Security benefits through their spouse or from another job in which they paid into Social Security know all too well about the WEP and GPO provisions that either reduce or eliminate their Social Security benefit.
As part of a bipartisan effort to pass legislation fully repealing the unfair GPO/WEP, both Reps. Graves and Letlow, along with the four other Louisiana Congressmen, have co-sponsored H.R. 82 by Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois. Reps. Graves and Letlow pointed out that in the last eight months, H.R. 82 has received a record number of 208 cosigners. The bill has 211 cosigners at the time of this publication. “A phenomenal achievement”, they said. They both feel confident that the needed votes of 218 to pass the bill will be achieved if they can get H. R. 82 to the floor. However, getting a bill on the floor is another obstacle. To force a bill to the floor, Rep. Graves noted “the magic number” is 290 cosigners. “We are not there yet”, said Rep. Graves, “but we are in the best position we’ve been in to move a retirement bill.”
Rep. Graves said that while he and Rep. Letlow are working to garner support for H.R. 82 in the U.S. House, they are also building additional support in the Senate. That way, should H.R. 82 pass, the bill should not run into issues on the Senate side. To that effort, Rep. Graves pointed out that both of Louisiana’s U.S. senators have cosigned S.B. 1302, the Senate companion bill.
Both Reps. Graves and Letlow noted that because of the advocacy efforts of the members of organizations like LRTA, awareness is growing around the issue of GPO/WEP. This growing awareness has led to the record number of cosigners on GPO/WEP legislation. Rep. Graves called on LRTA to continue efforts to create support through sister organizations in other states where Congressional delegates are not as well informed on the issue, emphasizing that the traction gained across the country is largely due to the efforts of organizations like LRTA.
Rep. Graves noted that there are states, like Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee that are impacted by the GPO and WEP but have not yet had their entire delegation cosponsor H.R. 82. To address this issue, LRTA Executive Director Rodney Watson reported that the Association of State Retired Teacher Executives recently met at their annual conference, where a breakout session was held with the 26 states affected by the GPO/WEP. As outgoing president of ASRTE, Watson conducted the session and urgently called for those 26 executive directors to increase efforts in appealing to their Congressional delegates to cosign the legislation. Watson said he will stay in contact with these executive directors and aid them to build the necessary support. Letlow said she is working on educating delegates from other states as well and thanked LRTA for its efforts in forming coalitions with those states.
“It is going to be a battle”, said Rep. Graves, “but we finally have a chance.” He noted that getting a full repeal of WEP/GPO “is going to be hard, but bear in mind that having 208 cosponsors in just eight months puts us in the most powerful position we’ve had in years.”
LRTA State President Janis Hernandez also attended the meeting and commended the opportunity to discuss retirement issues with Louisiana’s members of Congress.
“I am proud that our Louisiana representatives are focusing their attention on the GPO and WEP issues and continuing to make progress after all these years. As suggested by Congressman Graves, we can help by reaching out to our friends and family, particularly in states where we currently have no cosponsors, to become involved.”
LRTA will continue to monitor the progress of H. R. 82 and keep our members informed on its progress.
To learn more about the GPO and WEP, click here.