The Argument for Keeping WEP and GPO
The push to eliminate Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is an occasional hot topic in governmental and financial circles. In fact, legislation has been introduced often to take this provision off the books, as in the case of H.R. 3934 (Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2019). This legislation, proposed by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX8) is designed to rescind the rule that reduces Social Security benefits for a worker who receives a public pension.
The central point in the argument to eliminate WEP lies in the assertion that it is unfair to reduce benefits for workers who have in fact worked in jobs where Social Security taxes were deducted from their paychecks. In an article posted on www.creators.com, columnist Tom Margenau challenges this assertion, suggesting that Social Security’s income replacement logic is designed to “raise the standard of living of lower-income workers in retirement;” consequently, the treatment of workers who have not spent the bulk of their working lives paying into Social Security should not arbitrarily get the benefit of a higher income replacement rate on their Social Security earnings. This higher replacement rate occurs because the records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA) reflect only that portion of a worker’s earnings that were subject to FICA tax, and do not include the earnings that created eligibility for another pension. As Margenau points out, “when figuring their Social Security retirement benefit, the SSA’s computers automatically use the formula intended to compensate a lower-income person.”
Tom Margenau’s article–which you can access here–includes a summary history of WEP explaining its origin, and also covers a second offset–the Government Pension Offset (GPO)–encountered by workers who’ve spent most of their careers working in jobs that were not subject to FICA tax. He also notes that bills have been introduced repeatedly in Congress to repeal both WEP and GPO, and that none has been successful.
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