Teachers, public employees could soon benefit from joint resolution

Sen. Scott Wilk

A resolution by state Sen. Scott Wilk seeking to help teachers and other professionals in the public sector retain their Social Security benefits during a career change unanimously passed the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement this week.

Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, authored Senate Joint Resolution 3 to petition Congress and President Donald Trump to repeal two federal retirement benefit laws that can affect the Social Security benefits of public employees and their spouses, according to a news release from Wilk’s office.

The targeted laws include the Government Pension Offset, or GPO, which cuts benefits when an individual receives a government pension and their spouse is eligible for Social Security from non-government employment, and the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP, which cuts an individual’s benefits when they are eligible for Social Security and government pensions from separate employers.

Both the GPO and WEP were passed in the 1970s with little statistical analysis in an effort to prevent “double-dipping” from Social Security and other government pensions, the resolution’s analysis states, mentioning more than 300,000 California retirees have had their Social Security benefits diminished or eliminated by the WEP and GPO in the 30 years they’ve been enacted.

“Pure and simple, this is a matter of fairness. The federal government has not allowed its public servants to get their fair share of benefits and it’s time they finally change that,” Wilk said. “Because of these federal policies, many low-income and middle-class workers have seen their retirement benefits cut for no good reason — causing significant financial hardship in later life. It is well past time to repeal these laws.”

Wilk added the practice is unfair for a number of reasons — especially considering: 

  • If one had a non-public-sector career but wanted to become a teacher later in life, then the Social Security benefits they earned from their original career would be eliminated or slashed.
  • The ramifications of the penalty are usually discovered when a spouse dies and a widow’s household income is dramatically reduced because Social Security benefits are gutted.
  • If you work in the private sector, pay Social Security and are the spouse of a person who is eligible for a pension that does not pay into Social Security, then the benefits you rightfully earned will be diminished, sometimes by up to 50 percent.

There have been no arguments in opposition of the amendment, but it does have support from a number of education and law enforcement associations, including the California Teachers Association, the California Retired Teachers Association, the Peace Officers Research Association and the Statewide Law Enforcement Association, according to Wilk’s office. The measure now moves to the full Assembly for a vote.

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