NEA Today is featuring retired educators who are still making a difference—and one of those highlighted is Connecticut’s own Jon-Paul Roden. A former CEA-Retired president, Roden was recently elected to his second term on the NEA-Retired Executive Council.
Read about Roden’s continuing contributions to the teaching profession below.
Computer Science Teacher, Vernon, Connecticut
When Jon-Paul Roden started teaching in 1965, he needed to take on a second job to help supplement his income. This side job, along with others, made him eligible for Social Security benefits when he retired in 2000. His colleagues who didn’t take outside work and had only teaching pensions were left without a Social Security benefit, and most importantly, the Medicare Part B coverage.
Connecticut is one of 15 states where some public employees (teachers, police, nurses, and firefighters) don’t pay into Social Security— unless they worked a second job. A 34-year old federal law, however, reduces the Social Security benefit for retired and disabled workers receiving government pensions.
“I knew about it in advance. I didn’t like it, but I knew about it,” says the retired Vernon Public Schools computer science teacher. The “it” refers to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which reduces a person’s Social Security benefit by up to 50 percent if they also receive a government pension. Throw into this mix the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which reduces—by two-thirds—the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people not covered by Social Security themselves, and “it changes a person’s lifestyle because they don’t have the income they were expecting or were entitled to receive,” Roden says.
“It was such a shock to people who didn’t have extra employment to cover Social Security,” recalls Roden. “It affected not just me, but my colleagues, too,” and then, he says, “I got busy.”
He knocked on doors, wrote emails, and made phone calls to get Members of Congress to cosponsor legislation that would fully repeal the WEP and GPO. He’s had some success, too. In the last session of Congress, for the first time that he could remember, Connecticut had every House Representative and its two U.S. Senators co-sign the “Social Security Fairness Act of 2017,” a bill that would fully repeal WEP and GPO.
Recently, Roden was one of more than a dozen NEA-Retired leaders who went to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for National Retirement Security Advocacy Day, where they met and strategized with U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the lead sponsors of the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017.
Roden encourages other retirees to thank their Members of Congress if they’ve signed on to legislation that fully repeals WEP and GPO. If they haven’t signed on, “I call it a ‘monthly quest’ to email, write, and tell them your story about the negative effects of WEP and GPO.