Senators Feinstein and Collins Urge Finance Committee to Hold Hearing on Bill to Protect Retirement Benefits for Public Servants
Oct 19 2007
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today urged the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee to schedule a hearing on a measure they introduced earlier this year to protect retirement benefits for public servants.
Specifically, in a letter to Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mt.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Senators Feinstein and Collins requested that the Finance Committee hold a hearing on their legislation to repeal two provisions of the Social Security Act – the “Government Pension Offset” and the “Windfall Elimination Provision” – which effectively reduce the retirement benefits earned by public employees such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.
Following is the text of the letter written to Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley:
Dear Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley:
We are writing to ask that you schedule a hearing on the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 206), which we introduced to repeal two provisions of current law – the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the government pension offset (GPO) – which unfairly reduce earned Social Security benefits for many public employees when they retire.
These two provisions have enormous financial implications not just for federal employees, but for our teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees as well. Given their important responsibilities, it is unfair to penalize them when it comes to their Social Security benefits. These public servants – or their spouses – have all paid taxes into the Social Security system, as have their employers. Yet, because of these two provisions, they are unable to collect all of the Social Security benefits to which they otherwise would be entitled. In essence, these individuals are being penalized for their public service.
What is most troubling is that these provisions are most harsh for those who can least afford the loss – lower income women. In fact, of those affected by the GPO, 73 percent are women. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the GPO alone reduces benefits for more than 300,000 individuals by more than $3,600 a year – an amount that can make the difference between a comfortable retirement and poverty. Moreover, according to the National Education Association (NEA), these provisions affect at least one-third of America’s education workforce and are exacerbating what is widely acknowledged as a national teacher shortage that is growing to crisis proportions.
Our teachers and other public employees face difficult enough challenges in their day-to-day work. Individuals who have devoted their lives to public services should not have the added burden of worrying about their retirement. The Social Security Fairness Act has strong, bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. It is our understanding that the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has asked the Social Security Subcommittee to hold a hearing on these issues by the end of the year, and we encourage you to schedule a similar hearing in the Senate Finance Committee as well.
Thank you for your attention to our request, and we look forward to working with you.
Dianne Feinstein Susan M. Collins
United States Senator United States Senator