There are two provisions that have penalized California retired teachers for over 40 years, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). The California Retired Teachers Association continues to work diligently to eliminate these in order to restore fairness. California is one of 15 states currently penalizing their teachers of Social Security benefits.
The rationale for WEP: Social Security is intended to provide a greater level of income replacement for poorer members of society. The formula could not differentiate between those who worked in low-paying jobs their entire career and those who appeared to have received low pay because they worked for many years in jobs not covered by Social Security. Congress believed that the non-Social Security pension benefit would be an adequate retirement even if the earned Social Security benefit was cut.
In reality, many teachers have paid into Social Security while in school or in another profession prior to or after teaching. Despite paying taxes into the system, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces Social Security benefits for a retired teacher by 50 percent of the earnings. Teaching is not a highly paid profession and imposition of the WEP formula results in significant losses of earned retirement income. Most agree that the amount of the reduction was an arbitrary figure, and it is a highly regressive formula. It does not take into account the actual income of the recipient. As one teacher, Linda L. states, “If I had changed jobs in the private sector and entered a new retirement plan, I wouldn’t have lost the previous one or had it reduced. Why doesn’t that apply to public servants?”
WEP also significantly reduces the ability to recruit private industry workers to bring their skills and knowledge to California classrooms. This transfer of knowledge is particularly important in some of the high technology areas for high schools and community colleges.
The rationale for GPO: The GPO, which passed in 1977, was imposed to stop highly paid federal civil servants from being able to double-dip into Social Security and other pensions.
In reality, the GPO deprives retired educators of their spousal and survivor benefits under Social Security. It affects married people. If you are married to someone who is earning Social Security, you will lose all Social Security spousal or survivor retirement benefits due to you, paid by your spouse during the marriage.
Typically, spouses of Social Security recipients receive half of the amount of their partner’s benefit if they do not qualify for Social Security on their own or if they are not a teacher. Under the GPO, there is no death-survivor benefit for educators. It is not uncommon for teachers to find out about the loss of their Social Security death-survivor’s benefit until their spouse dies. A spouse of an educator may work while paying into Social Security with the belief that half of their Social Security benefit will be provided to the spouse upon death. Teachers retiring from State Teacher’s Retirement and the spouse who earned it are denied this benefit.
On Fairness Fridays, every fourth Friday of the month, teachers and supporters are urged to call or email Senators and House of Representatives to support H.R. 1205 and S. 915, intended to repeal WEP and GPO, and secure Social Security solvency.
Contact Senator Diane Feinstein by calling (202) 224-3841. Contact Senator Kamala Harris by calling (202) 224-3553.
CalRTA Napa Valley distributes a bi-monthly newsletter and holds a bi-monthly lunch at the Elk’s Lodge, where updated information regarding progress on the repeal of WEP and GPO is provided, along with the support of active and retired teachers in our community. CalRTA supports local scholarships and the Teacher Resource Center of North Bay, along with several fund-raisers.
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CalRTA luncheon dates for 2019-2020 school year are as follows.
Sept. 17, 2019. Reservations due by Sept. 7.
Nov. 19, 2019. Reservations due by Nov. 9.
Jan. 21, 2020. Reservations due Jan. 11.
March 17, 2020. Reservations due March 7.
May 19, 2020. Reservations due by May 9.
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Marsha Foster Parker