"The effect is that spouses or surviving members are being unreasonably penalized because they earned a pension to help them in retirement."
- Rep. Gatto
Relating to supporting the repeal of the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provisions from the Social Security Act.
There are those Alaskans who, whether retired or nearing retirement, are examining the issues on income in retirement and measuring it against expenses. Generally retirees consider two major sources of retirement income, pensions and social security. Added together retirement becomes a better alternative to continuing on the job, especially when the job was a long career in public service. There are a pair of flies in the ointment, and very large ones at that. The flies in the ointment are two federal social security requirements that effectively say that if you receive a pension, the social security you have come to believe you deserve is reduced or eliminated. The effect is that spouses or surviving members are being unreasonably penalized because they earned a pension to help them in retirement.
The Government Pension Offset reduces public employees' Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension. The Windfall Elimination Provision reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. Too many of these retired individuals whose spouses had chosen careers as teachers, policemen, firemen and other public service positions find that at the age of retirement that they are unfairly being penalized by an offset that takes away their Social Security benefits. For many retired and widowed members this reduction in spousal or survivor benefits can mean the difference between retirement that allows you to be at a level of self-sufficiency or at a level of poverty. This offset has the harshest effect on those who can least afford it: widowed lower-income women.
Estimates indicate that 9 out of 10 public employees affected by the Government Pension Offset lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their deceased spouses paid Social Security taxes for the required number of years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Pension Offset reduces benefits for some 300,000 individuals by more than $3,600.00 a year. The impact of this offset in benefits is felt primarily in states which public employees like educators are not covered by Social Security, this includes15 other states widespread from Alaska to Maine. This impact affects at least one-third of America's education workforce.
At a time when we are faced with a national teacher shortage the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision directly impacts not only the efforts for recruitment of quality teachers but also discourages qualified professional people from changing career paths to enter into the teaching profession. A critical effort to reduce class sizes, and meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act necessitates the need for additional teachers. Estimates for the number of new teachers needed nationally range from 2.2 to 2.7 million by the year 2009.
We ask for your support for House Joint Resolution 30 so that our Congressional Delegation can take swift action to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. We ask this on behalf of the many retired and respected public service members of our community, our firemen, police officers, educators and other public employees that should not be penalized for their years of dedication and public service.