Social Security 2100, a plan reintroduced by Congressman John Larson and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, would finally do away with the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO)—penalties that unfairly reduce or erase the retirement benefits that teachers and other public servants deserve.
Speaking at the Farmington Senior Center this morning, Larson—a longtime advocate for Social Security reform—and Hayes—Connecticut and National Teacher of the Year—were joined by CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey, Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans President Bette Marafino, Connecticut AFL-CIO President Ed Hawthorne, CSEA SEIU Local 2001 President Travis Woodward, AFGE Local 1164 Area 1 Vice President Sherry Jackson, AFSCME Council 4 President Stacie Harris-Byrdsong, and Paralyzed Veterans of America New England Region President Brad Carlson.
“It’s time for us to bring Social Security into this century,” said Larson, noting that he looks forward to working with CEA and other organizations to make that happen. “We’re out to not only preserve and protect Social Security but expand it, and there’s no better person we could have fighting for that here in Connecticut or anywhere in the country than Jahana Hayes. It takes someone with an understanding of how Social Security impacts her fellow teachers and others who have been unfairly penalized by WEP and GPO. It’s important to have a leader in Congress who understands all of this.”
“I can tell you that while we are having this conversation at a senior center, my goal is to expand this conversation,” said Hayes, “because young people need to know how critical Social Security is and why we need to shore up and invest in the largest retirement insurance program and anti-poverty program we have.”
She explained, “I worked as a schoolteacher; that is my career. My husband is a police officer, and both of us paid into Social Security—because teachers usually have two or three other jobs. So I paid into Social Security for years, and it’s uncertain what benefits my family will receive from what I’ve paid in, because of this Windfall Elimination Provision. Public-sector employees should not be disproportionately hurt by this program, but that’s the way that it is built out, so we have to look at it, and we have to modernize it. We have to make the changes that are necessary to keep Social Security solvent, not privatize it or put these investments into risky ventures. We have to make sure it’s stable and people can depend on it. These are not entitlements; these are programs people have paid into and should be able to depend on. They’ve trusted the federal government to invest their money, and we need to make sure it will be there when they need it.”
She continued, “That’s with this legislation does. It expands, streamlines, and modernizes the program and makes sure we are not moving the goalposts and making it harder and harder for people to access the benefits they’ve earned.”
Calling them fierce advocates for teachers, DeLancey thanked Hayes and Larson for addressing an issue she described as “woefully neglected for decades.”
An educator for the past 19 years, DeLancey said, “For every single one of those years, I have had at least two jobs. Sometimes I collected five paychecks from different employers, and with all but one of those, I paid into Social Security. When I retire, I will not be able to receive the entirety of that Social Security I paid into, and I am just one of millions of educators across the country who are impacted by this. We know that there are at least 2.5 million retired people around the country who are penalized by these offsets. Not only is this unfair, but when we have retirees who lose their Social Security spousal benefit, it’s criminal. We have educators who cannot even afford to retire because of this penalty.”
She added, “We have a workforce issue across the country. In Connecticut, we have more than 1,200 teacher vacancies. When prospective educators learn that they’ll be penalized with WEP and GPO, many choose another profession. If we want to recruit and retain a teaching workforce, we need to address this. And that’s what Social Security 2100 does.”
CEA has launched a website to help members understand and join in the fight to repeal WEP and GPO. Find WEP and GPO calculators to see how your benefits are affected, get fast facts and talking points, and share your own story at cea.org/wep-gpo/.