BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Members of Congress traveled to Baton Rouge on Monday, Nov. 20, to meet with state workers about how a federal policy is reducing their Social Security benefits. The U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security is exploring the impacts of Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset.
“This has been a problem for over 40 years, and we must fix it,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-Louisiana.
Graves is pushing legislation, alongside the Louisiana delegation, that would do away with both provisions. The cost is estimated to be $ 195 billion over 10 years. But lawmakers opined about retired constituents seeing major cuts to Social Security benefits they thought they’d have at the end of their careers.
“Unfortunately, those solutions have proven ill-equipped to solve the original problem. Seniors are only harmed by these unfair policies. They’re often blindsided by them,” said Rep. Jason Smith, R-Missouri.
What those policies do is factor in if the employer withheld Social Security taxes from paychecks or the worker gets a pension – then it can reduce the Social Security benefits given to that worker. Firefighters, law enforcement and teachers most often fall into this category.
“I feel like it was very unfair because I chose to teach school that I am denied my husband’s benefits. It would have made life much easier,” said Paula Porter, a retired teacher from Terrebonne Parish.
The Social Security Fairness Act was stalled out last year, but there is a renewed effort to pass it. More than 300 members of Congress have signed on their support, according to Graves. Some believe the way the law is now dissuades people from taking jobs with the state.
“The profession of law enforcement is facing an existential crisis in recruiting the next generation of law enforcement officers in the very existence of windfall elimination provision, and government pension offset discourages anyone from choosing a career in public service,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.
The law originated to prevent overpaying some people but has been an issue for retirees for decades. The House Ways and Means subcommittee listened to stories of how benefits are affected and will take testimony back to the full committee.