Answers to OPERS member questions
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.
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.
12 thoughts on “Answers to OPERS member questions”
Significant cost? This money that is being withheld from our ss checks belongs to us. It is quite a significant cost to us! The government can give BILLIONS of my tax dollars to foreign countries and at the time gripe about this issue being too costly. It’s not a hand out to us. It’s rightfully our money!
This is great news and I’m very hopeful HR82 is repealed! I was eligible for Social Security benefits and had over 20years in OPERS. But instead I’ve rec’d a token payment from SS of $299 a month since my retirement 2005. Thanks for anything you can do to reverse this unfair law!
Shirley, I think you meant to say you hope the GPO/WEP are repealed, NOT HR82. Regardless, HR82 is now dead even though there were 300+ co-sponsors. In view of this, I’m not sure exactly WHAT it is going to take for these punitive (the GPO/WEP) provisions to be repealed. We’ll have to hope another bill is proposed for consideration next cycle. Some legislators don’t seem to understand many of us have paid substantial monies into SS, and right now that is OUR hard earned money going to someone else.
Thanks for the updates on WEP and GPO. I am missing spousal benefit which would help me a lot. Hopefully, hopefully, Congress will arrive at a fair reduced benefit for either WEP and GPO beneficiaries who have paid into thr system but see nothing in return.
Stop raising older retirees premiums my drug just about double and price of drugs went up you took our money and raised our amount we had to paid in so now stop draining us We do not get this and SS
I disagree with House decision due to cost. I submit they are GAINING money every time a PERS pera
son retires because Social Security is keeping about two thirds of OUR social security that we have paid in. I think they should get out their pencils and show us the TRUE numbers. We have been stolen from too many years.
Time to vote out the candidates who continue to punish public employees by denying us our rightful social security benefits. I am a widow who has seen her income reduced by two thirds, taxes increase, medical costs increase, and am about to lose the house we worked so hard to have.
In dealing with Via benefits, are they required to allow Opers medicare retirees to purchase medicare health plans listed with Medicare but not listed with Via benefits? Will this affect our continued receipt of HRA allowance?
Don, Medicare retirees must be enrolled in a medical plan through Via Benefits in order to receive the HRA allowance. Thank you, OPERS
I believe Don is referring to the fact that ViaBenefits does NOT list ALL the Medicare plans on their site that are actually available to all Ohioans. While we MUST enroll in a plan through VB to be eligible to receive our HRA, that plan does NOT have to be among the few listed on the VB site. Retirees, especially those new to Medicare, should be advised BY OPERS that their Medicare plan options are not restricted by the limited number of plans shown. Don, and others, should review available plan options on Medicare.gov before contacting VB with their decisions.
The solution to the projected shortfall of the Social Security fund in 2034 is simple. Every wage earner, no matter how much they earn, should pay the social security payroll dedution tax based on their income. Period!!! Certainly the wealthy will complain, but members of Congress need to toughen up and do what is fair to ALL American workers. OR maybe the current members of Congress might not be elected.
in 2023 hopefully common sense will prevail and all of us who worked,Paid into social security before we were employed by O.P.E.R.S. will finally receive what we have earned in are lifetime.