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

    • I agree with you and all of the other comments made on this issue. Whichever direction it leans, modification or full repeal, I want OPERS folks to press harder for action. Letters of support are fine, but constant affirmative pressure should be applied. I find it reprehensible that these bills get presented each Congress session and never make it out of committee. President Biden has indicated he will happily sign such legislation, so for heaven sake, complete the process and get him the legislation. We may not have such assurance in the future.

  • 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.

    • I am retiring soon. I really need all my s s. to live . I am 71 and scared I probably will have to keep working or find a part time job . Really sad .

  • 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…

    • i an in the same boat i work for 50 years is social security and federal and they penalizes me and take my husband i was married for 35 years and they penalize me too

  • 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.

    • Alan, I’ve contacted so many representatives over the years! All you ever get is a generic form letter! I tried calling Sherrod Brown’s Cleveland office — they’re clueless. I talked personally to one of Brown’s office people, I don’t remember her title. She was totally clueless (20+something)! Could never get any questions answered!

      • Alas Teresa that is the case with most other congressman. Articles like this are just giving public employees false hope. I have been retired for 20 years and have heard the same old song and dance for 20 years. I did my homework before I retired and figured all the ways to maximize my SS which I recommend to everyone. I would urge anyone considering OPERS retirement not to even consider SS retirement just take it as an added bonus. I realize there are many who need the SS income to survive and I feel for them but until public employee retirees become a majority nothing will happen, just lip service! I hope I am wrong.

  • This has been going on since I joined public service in 1997. What we need are all pension systems and states that do not require their employees to nosy into Social Security to come together. Otherwise it’s the same game, a bill is introduced OPERS endorses and the bill is flopped. Stop the trend and be active in the repeal!!

  • I pray this will go through this time. I worked under s.s. As well as pers. I was married twice and both are deceased and had worked under pers and ss andI lose two thirds of ss because of my pers. this is not fair.I realize I can’t draw three ss but should get one since three of us paid in. Please keep pursuing for us retirees. I am 80 years old and would like to be a part of the reform. Thank you.

  • My name is Eugene I work for PRS for 30 years wastewater treatment plant in Ohio I just applied for Social Security and because of the WEP I only receive $190 a month which they take out the 148 for Medicare leaving me with a whole $50 a month from Social Security. I worked under Social Security for 16 years. And I’m still working crazy

  • The Reagan administration pushed this through in 1983. I always read that it was because of the rhetoric that social security will go bust. Now hard working citizens who worked in private sector and EARNED their ss benefits that decided to work in public service are now denied most or even all of theirs and their spouses investment in social security over the years. The GPO hurts widows and widowers and on top of that the WEP takes 2/3 of the amount of your OPERS pension. So I think this will discourage young people from working in public service. I know if I had been told back in 2000 that my library job would eliminate all of my social security I would not have chosen to work there. I love my library job by the way. I will be working until I drop because I cannot afford to retire as I am now a widow and both mine and my deceased husband’s many years of deductions of social security taxes from our paychecks, I will never receive the benefits. OPERS needs to be for full repeal!! Nothing less would be fair. Highway robbery is what I call this and it is also known as “the great social security heist”

    • Diane: We would not be in this position with SS if Lyndon Johnson had not raided the SS coffers!

  • I had small SS benefits from 10 years in private sector. They are virtually wiped out, along with my larger spousal SS benefits. Seems unfair since I paid into the SS system. Also used my earnings sometimes to pay my spouse’s SS tax obligations since he was self employed. It certainly feels unfair. Any positive change would be an improvement.

  • Adding to my comment…what is the logic that I could have stayed in my public service job earning my full salary after reaching FRA at 66 and would continue to get my full SS and/or spousal benefits (whichever was larger). At full salary, I would have needed the SS less than I do now in retirement. If the intent of WEP and GPO was to save SS money, how does that possibly make sense?

  • WEP and GPO are both unjust and inequitable treatment under the law. Why are the military exempt from these outrageous laws? I have friends and relatives receiving military pensions that far, far exceed what the average OPERS retiree receives. And no, they never fired a bullet or had one fired at them… They law was bogus in 1983, and it is even more bogus now.

  • Retired law enforcement all we are asking for is what we paid for this dose not affect the politicians but they have no problem passing laws to take are retirement away we paid for it they had no problem talking are money but when it comes time to pay it back o no we can not give you what you paid for you can only have one third of what you earned but thank you for your service

  • Let me first state that I am very bipartisan but, Pres. Biden campaigned on REPEALING both WEP and GPO. Why are Democrats even considering any alternative? and why is OPERS backing the new formula instead of the full repeal? This seems like a no brainer to get full repeal passed as there are Republicans backing the repeal also (none so far are backing the new formula) !!

    • Tammy,

      We addressed your questions in the blog. Repeal could lead to mandatory Social Security for everyone, which, as we state clearly, could result in “significant benefit reductions” for OPERS members:

      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.

  • I am in the 2,000,000 or so that are affected by the current WEP, having served as an elected official for 23 years following a career in the private sector. My SS benefit was reduced under WEP by roughly $385 per month when i first initiated monthly benefits about 6.5 years ago. With the current proposal of $150 per month rebate, it would take over 17 years to make up the lost benefits, estimated at over $31,000. Further, if they do not propose additionally to increase my SS benefit with the rebate, i will stand to suffer another $78,000 during that 17 year period, for a total reduction of almost $110,000. Please encourage the H. R. 2337 sponsors to increase the proposed amendment to include both the rebate, AND restoration of the reduction. That would be meaningful! In other terms, “don’t send a boy to do a man’s job”. Thanks for listening, and please pass this on.

  • I underestimated the loss over the 17 year period of rebate because i didn’t take into account COLA annually (which can only be estimated). Probably closer to $88,000, plus the $31,000, for a total of $119,000.

  • I agree completely with all the comments regarding the elimination of the WEP. I also think that since I will be retiring soon with a OPERS benefit but am planning on going back into the workforce to help pad my SS benefit I will be entitled to – I think the government should not be allowed to take SS taxes out of my paycheck if the WEP is still in effect and will reduce my future SS benefits. They just need to eliminate it completely ASAP!!!!!

  • First if all thank for working on this Wynfall that has been so unfair. Many of us public employees here in Richland County have been affected by this. We depended on this money for our retirement. It would deeply help so many of them including myself thank you again for trying

  • I was told by Social Security that if I wasn’t affected by the Windfall Act I would have drawn $1800-$1900 per month but because of the Windfall Act I only get $342

    • I totally understand where you are coming from. I worked local government full time and always had a second job but when retirement time came I get 283. dollars a month. How is this fair just because we chose to work and support our families and not accept government assistance. We are bring punished.

  • How many states have a WEP system for their public system employees?
    Hasn’t Ohio tried to get rid of the WEP for many years? Don’t we deserve to get back the full amount we paid into Social Security?

    • Millie,

      While every state has some public employees who do not pay into Social Security retirement, there are seven states, including Ohio, in which mostly all public workers do not contribute.

  • I’ve been watching the news on this, and it’s stuck in committee, probably won’t go anywhere this year. Has about a 3% chance of passage. What if anything can we do as a group or individually to put pressure on the committee to at least consider it?

  • Went onto Sen. Ted Cruz’s website, and left him an email message regrading the previous S. 3401, and the current HR 2337, asking for his support in a joint (bipartisan) effort on behalf of the roughly 2 million people affected by the WEP. The site is very user friendly. I suggest others do the same.

  • Sen Cruz’s staff replied back asking that i reach out to an Ohio senator, which i have now done, sending the Cruz message to Senator Sherrod Brown, asking him to consider drafting and proposing legislation patterned after previous S. 3401 (2019), to move forward with this as bipartisan effort, in both the House and Senate.

  • Senators Brown and Collins have proposed S. 1302 to fix this WEP and GPO problem. There are 34 co-sponsors. HR 82 now has about 230 sponsors. I have written to Rep. Gonzalez several times, but zero other than lip service. I urge everyone to ask him for this last good thing now that he is not worried about reelection.

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