This month: Learn about COLAs, health care eligibility and the latest WEP news
By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System
Sept. 30, 2022 – Members and retirees often ask us questions through our social media channels that others could benefit from. Periodically we post these questions and answers in our PERSpective blog.
This month we’re addressing questions about COLAs, health care eligibility and the Windfall Elimination Provision.
Q: Do I need to retire before a certain deadline to avoid a one-year wait to receive a cost-of-living increase?
A: There is no deadline that determines the one-year waiting period for COLAs. All new OPERS retirees currently receive the adjustment, when it’s issued, beginning one year after their retirement effective date.
Q: How old do you have to be to become eligible for OPERS health care?
A: Health care eligibility depends on a few factors in addition to age, including your years of service credit, whether you’re retiring with an unreduced or reduced pension, and which retirement group you’re in.
Your retirement group is always printed on your OPERS annual Member Statement, which you can find in your OPERS online account. Because the minimum age to be eligible for health care also depends on these other factors, we can’t say definitively that you can be eligible at any specific age.
Refer to the OPERS website to see when you can become eligible for health care under various scenarios.
Q: I saw something about Congress considering reform of the Windfall Elimination Provision. What’s going on? Is it possible things could change soon?
A: There are a few bills pending in Congress regarding reform or elimination of that Social Security provision, some also including the Government Pension Offset, or “GPO,” which affects Social Security spousal benefits.
For background, the Windfall Elimination Provision, or “WEP,” is a Social Security rule dating to 1983 that can result in a reduced Social Security benefit for those who have spent time contributing to Social Security and also have earned a public pension based on non-covered employment. Because public employees in Ohio generally do not contribute to Social Security, many of them are or will be impacted by the WEP.
One of the bills that would repeal the WEP and the GPO is called the Social Security Fairness Act of 2021 (HR 82). It has received more than 300 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, a fact that some backers thought might force a floor vote.
However, the House Committee on Ways and Means acted last week to prevent HR 82 from moving forward, citing the significant costs associated with repealing the WEP and GPO. Instead, the committee has opted to consider other options, such as reforming the WEP so that it more accurately reflects individuals’ work histories.
Committee leaders later suggested that they are hoping to advance a solution after this year’s midterm elections. OPERS staff is regularly monitoring this issue and will share any updates as they become available.