OPERS endorses WEP reform bill

We’re asking Congress to pursue a solution that will help our members

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

May 4, 2021 – In 2019 the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System endorsed two pieces of federal legislation that would reform the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision and provide a measure of relief for our members and retirees who have been impacted by the offset.

Although neither bill progressed into law, one of the sponsors – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) – recently reintroduced his legislation as the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021 (HR 2337). (A summary is included here.) As we did in the past, OPERS has sent a letter supporting the legislation and urging action on an issue that undermines the retirement security of so many Ohioans.

We have heard from many of our retired members that WEP relief is one of their most pressing issues, because it often results in a reduced Social Security benefit for those who also have worked in the private sector. OPERS’ Government Relations staff has been active on this issue for decades. As we continue to engage with members of Congress, we are encouraged by the current efforts to modify the WEP formula and bring much-needed relief to our retirees and the millions of public employees around the country who are impacted.

OPERS has chosen to support Rep. Neal’s bill because we believe it offers a workable solution to a problem that harms more of our members every day. The bill changes the way Social Security benefits are calculated so that non-covered earnings are taken into account, but it also specifies that no worker will be worse off as a result of that change – if a worker would be better off retiring under the current law, they would receive that treatment.

Also, unlike legislation that would simply repeal the WEP, Rep. Neal’s bill also provides for monthly $150 relief payments to retirees who already have been impacted by the offset. 

To be clear, OPERS’ support for the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021 does not necessarily mean we are opposed to full repeal of the provision. As we press for a solution to the WEP, whether reform or repeal, we must consider its chances for success as well as any unintended consequences that might result.

The cost and perceived inequity of WEP repeal have prevented that option from gaining any real traction in the decades since the offset was enacted into law, and have led some to suggest that the better solution would be to mandate Social Security coverage for all public workers. OPERS has opposed mandatory Social Security coverage for many years because of the likely fiscal impact to our system and resulting significant benefit reductions.

We encourage you to read Rep. Neal’s bill and then contact your member of Congress to share your stories regarding how you have been, or will be, impacted by the WEP. Ask them to work diligently on a bipartisan solution that not only addresses the inequities associated with the provision, but that also can be enacted into law. The time for action is now. 

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

  • Reading this I guess I’m not understanding why WEP isn’t eliminated totally. If a pensioner receiving a private pension doesn’t experience a reduction, why should OPER members receive anything less. The quarters to qualify are the same for private and public sectors. Personally, the President said it was going to be eliminated, and anything less isn’t fair, acceptable, or should be supported.

    • Exactly! I’m in total agreement with you, Jim. This has been my argument for the repeal of the WEP all along. You stated it perfectly. Our government pensions are totally separate pots of money from Social Security just like private pensions are. Then why are we penalized? If we’ve earned enough qualifying quarters in Social Security with other employment, there’s no reason why we should be penalized for additionally earning a government pension. Let’s hope that 2021 is finally the year that WEP is repealed!

      • well said…..I had my SS of 50 credits reduced because of my state of Ohio retirement. The money taken from me and placed in my SS account is mine. (I earned it legally) and I want it back

  • As a 71 year old retiree, my life would be so much easier if I received the other 2/3 of my social security. Please pass this Bill.

  • When I worked under PERS, I received around $600/month from Soc. Sec. When I retired, I was cut to $200. I was married to my Ex for 17 years. I lost his Soc. Sec. payment. Will this bill help me get his Soc. Sec.?

    • Marianne,

      You would have to contact Social Security to see for certain why your benefit was reduced. It could be because of the Government Pension Offset, another Social Security provision, which can reduce the Social Security benefit that spouses of public pensioners receive.

  • I have thought it was very unfair the formula they used to calculate what we should be entitled to from Social Security. The money would be a big help for us in our retirement. I encourage OPERS, Rep. Neal, and all that are trying to help with this benefit for retirees from both sectors. Thank you

  • My wife who retired last year at age 65 would be impacted by current WEP S.S. rules. She has not yet filed for S. S., but plans to do so in January. I wrote our Congressman Bob Latta who co-sponsored HB 711 that never got out of committee that was to repeal WEP. I called Rep. Neal’s office when he originally sponsored a similar bill to support his efforts.
    The biggest problem with current rules is that it penalizes many stay at home spouses that leave the workforce for a period of time to care for their young, not enabling them to achieve the 30 year criteria for avoiding a penalty. To label the current rules “ anti-motherhood” is easily justified! Many single parents fall into this category. The “windfall” in this legislation does not exist!

  • This would help all PERS Members we worked and payed into it we deserve the full amount of SS Retirement

  • Yes Fight for this I’m in Cleveland Ohio. Whos my Congress person how can I help spread the word!

  • As it stands currently, I am not sure I can ever retire. I am 63, but cannot live on the public school retirement of $1200 a month. I will only receive 1/3 of my deceased husband’s social security at age 67…I really need the other 2/3’s of it….

  • End WEP! I paid all my quarters into social security and should receive full benefit. I paid into my PERS along with my employer (it is a private retirement for Public Employees) and should receive full benefit (I do). It is wrong for the government to reduce my social security benefit because I was lucky/fortunate/smart planner to have a separate retirement.

    • You are absolutely correct. We didn’t pay into SS at a reduced rate. We should get full SS benefits.

  • If social security benefits are paid based upon my wages earned in the social security system, I feel I should be entitled to the full amount of that benefit irregardless of what I made when working under an affected retirement system. (in my opinion) – therefore, I WILL be writing a letter to my congressional representatives!

  • I’m glad you’re fighting for this anything we get will help but I’m still hoping for full repeal

  • I have OPERS and my husband is deceased at the age of 62 with social security..
    he worked all his life under social security.. Never retired because I couldn’t pay his insurance. I asked the social security if I would get anything, they said no I make too much. Will this change help me in any way.

    • Barb,

      A similar provision, Social Security’s Government Pension Offset, applies to spousal benefits. Chairman Neal’s bill targets only with the Windfall Elimination Provision.

  • I lost a part of my portion of railroad retirement (my husband retired from there after 43 years spouse’s get a separate check, around 48 % of what he gets) because I have PERS. they said I don’t qualify for all of it, with this would I get my full 48 percent back?

    • Roseann,

      A similar provision, Social Security’s Government Pension Offset, applies to spousal benefits. Chairman Neal’s bill targets only with the Windfall Elimination Provision.

      • Mr. Pramik,
        Although I am not a member of PERS, I do belong to one of your “sister” retirement systems, SERS, and we also feel the pain of WEP. I have been following the different WEP issues over the past 5 years, and frankly the progress is dismal. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has proposed legislation to reform WEP for many years, and there is very little support. When I contacted my Ohio congressmen, they acted like they were unaware that there is a problem.
        Unfortunately, when you take in the entire United States, we are in the minority…only a few states are victimized by WEP and only a small percentage of workers are lucky enough to work in the public sector. The other people really don’t care what happens to us. That is why I will support any legislation that could possibly help us. Those who want total repeal (I would love it) do not fully understand the barriers involved to accomplish repeal.
        Please keep educating your people. I saw that several mentioned the “quarters” you need under Social Security, but many may not be aware that there is a more important issue of “Substantial Earnings”. Because of this, the 23 years I worked under Social Security were knocked down to 15 years. I never knew until it was too late. If you make a little over minimum wage, you will never get a creditable year. Warn all your younger workers, for 2021, you must make $26,550 (substantial earnings limit) for this year to be counted. And then there’s the DEEM clause…don’t get me started!
        I have 25 years in my Public retirement and turn 65 next month. In 4 months I will reach full Soc. Sec. retirement age…I should be retiring and collecting the $1068 that Social Security owes me plus my pension. But because of WEP, I will still be working a few more years.
        Maybe you can get together with other retirement systems and start a grass-roots effort to enact changes. Strength in numbers! Good Luck!

  • Yes…thank you for keeping on top of this situation…I paid into SS for almost 25 years…it’s sad that for all that time I only receive $255 per month…I have emailed our government officials many times in hopes of getting WEP repealed…

  • Have always felt that this was a injustice to many people like me, I was so shocked and still don’t understand why I am being punished for working with people with disabilities and not getting credit for it, I am 70 and single and I don’t know when I will ever really be able to retire I receive SS and a small pension but it’s not enough to retire on. I am still working with people with disabilities as because that is what drives my heart!

  • You should be receiving 100% of what you paid in, I earned my 40 credits.
    I have not applied at 62 and there is no rush, to only get 50% !

    This is what OPERS needs to support!

  • I worked just shy of 20 years under SS. I also worked 30 years under PERS. I should get what anyone would get working 20 years!!! Eliminate WEP!

  • Our pension is separate from SSI. If paid into SSI and have the credits. You should get the full benefits just you would had you not had a pension.

  • Support WEP repeal. I worked 24 years in the private sector and have 22 years in the public sector. I was unaware of the WEP when I accepted public sector employment. I will only receive 55% of my Social Security. This provision is unfair. I deserve to receive what I have earned. Thank you.

  • First the Social Security issue was introduced by senator McCain, the war hero. Second with the several backward amounts of benefits by OPERS, after 2023, I will be very close to retirement benefits when I retired 11 Yeager ago.

  • Why should PERS retiree be punished. I paid into SS as did my husband (deceased). I received survivor benefits. It took them 8 years to totally keep my earnings. I now must pay Part B

  • WEP – One of the worst things that has ever happened in Ohio. I retired on my deceased husband S.S. while I was still working at OPERS. I was age 63.. I paid my own S.S. for many, many years which I will never received. I don’t begrudge losing that but definitely the 2/3 loss from my husband’s S.S. I do received a small amount from OPERS. Thank God for the medical benefits that OPERS gives us. I would never make it without.

  • Hope this will be successful.
    Unsure if others know or are aware of the way Social Security figures the amount used when taking 2/3rds of Ohio pension.
    It has taken me 14 years to get the figures they used which I did a spreadsheet for those years to find they have shorted me over $3,000 in addition to paying over $2500 back. A hearing will be held in June to appeal this.
    Let others be aware that they need to know the amount SS is using instead of their automated letters noting amounts to receive.

  • I been effected. They took my disability social security away. Over 70k.
    I have to pay for my medicare out of pocket now. 😿

  • Can’t understand why I should be penalized by cutting my ss benefit by 40% because I have a small retirement from OPERS. I worked both under ss and should be given the full amount that is due me.

  • Keep up the good work. I worked under Social Security for about 25 years. Where did all my money go? I worked at the State of Ohio for only 13 years. I wished I would have been able to work longer for the Great State of Ohio.

  • A little history. The WEP was put into place because of the higher paid politicians and executives who were collecting a comparatively high rate of both public pension and Social Security. When the higher paid politicians were pressured to cut their compensation, they made sure the rest of us took the cut too. When they awarded themselves a special extra benefit, they left us out if they could! Don’t expect too much from them.

  • If you earned it, you are entitled to it. Why should SS be reduced so severely and in some cases reduced to zero?

    No one can answer why this happened in the first place. The bill has been reinstated so many times it’s laughable! Why haven’t ANY of our representatives followed-through?

    The bill needs pushed through the channels without delay or it will die again….just like the others over the last forty years.

    This president himself should be happy to repeal WEP!

    Even government (taxpayer) bailout UNION employees (GM for one) get their FULL SS plus a pension I could only dream of!

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, but who else has ever had to forego something earned? The key word is earned! Let’s keep fighting!

  • I told social security 20 plus years ago I was getting OPERS. Then now they want their money back. Plus paying medicare out of pocket and a penalty. It’s not my fault in the least.

  • Fat cat wealthy politicians invented this nightmare. Do you honestly expect them to change it ?

  • Talking about it might make you feel better but to get results contact your congressional representative and urge them to support Richard Neal (D-Mass.) Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021 (HR 2337). Contact your senator also and urge them to support any similar legislation in the Senate.

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