Sen. Sherrod Brown Holds Field Committee Hearing on Social Security Reform for Public Servants

Decades-old provisions prevent public service workers and their spouses from receiving full Social Security benefits earned in private sector jobs.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) held a field committee hearing on his proposal to repeal provisions that reduce retirement income for public sector workers who have benefits from the private sector.

Mr. Brown, chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, led panel discussions on June 7 in Columbus, Ohio, regarding Social Security benefits for public service employees such as police, firefighters, and teachers.

Panel members shared personal stories about their careers and how their financial security in retirement could be threatened by provisions that cut the Social Security benefits they earned over “years of hard work and service,” Sen. Brown’s office said in a press release.

“Social Security is a bedrock of our middle class. It’s retirement security that Americans pay into and earn over a lifetime of work—and workers count on it to be there for them when they retire. And I’m committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security for those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes throughout their careers,” Sen. Brown told attendees.

His bill, the Social Security Fairness Act, would restore social security benefits for public servants who often do not contribute to the Social Security system. However, many of them also hold private-sector jobs that contribute to the system, while others may have worked in private-sector jobs before or after their public servant jobs.

When these workers reach retirement age, they are often shocked to learn that their federal benefits are reduced since they have a government pension. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) shrinks the retiree’s social security check, and the Government Pension Offset reduces the spousal benefit.

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“It’s an issue that has a huge impact on your lives, but it doesn’t get enough attention in Washington. The people it affects aren’t powerful special interests—they’re local cops and sheriff’s deputies, they’re firefighters, they’re teachers, they work at our parks and libraries, they pick up our trash, and plow our roads,” Mr. Brown continued.

In 1983, the WEP was enacted, reducing the Social Security Benefits of workers who receive federal, state, or local pensions for employment not covered by Social Security.

The Government Pension Offset (GPO), enacted in 1977, reduces Social Security spousal benefits for spouses, widows, and widowers whose spouses have civil service pensions.

The bill has moderate bipartisan support of 58 additional senators, including Republican Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. Eight more Republicans and three Independents have backed the measure.

“Senator Cassidy, whom I’ve partnered with on a number of issues and is a member of this subcommittee, said this in a statement for this hearing: ‘There is no public policy reason to treat our public servants this way.’ I agree with my friend and colleague from Louisiana,” Mr. Brown said during the hearing.

According to Mr. Brown’s office, the current Social Security laws impact more than 270,000 Ohioans and more than 3 million Americans, keeping them from receiving their full benefits earned.

In addition to those currently impacted, supporters say the decades-old provisions are a deterrent for those considering public service but learn they could lose a portion of their Social Security benefits when they reach retirement.

“The laws also punish people who want to start a career in public service,” Sen. Brown said on Friday. “We have a serious problem recruiting and retaining workers—whether it’s cops on the beat or teachers in classrooms. And these laws discourage people from entering service as a second career.”

He said the bill, which has been read twice, has a “simple premise” to “make sure cops and firefighters and teachers and other public workers get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned over their careers.”

Supporters Urge Lawmakers to Pass the Bill

One of the panel witnesses said it was “imperative” for Congress to pass the bill “as soon as possible.”

“I believe that it is imperative for Congress to act to eliminate the serious inequities and unintended consequences of the application of the GPO and WEP laws,” testified Barbara Ward, a special needs bus driver. “Senator Brown, thank you for championing public pensioners through your work on the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 597), and I urge Congress to pass this important legislation as soon as possible.”

Carl Jordan, pension and disability representative for the Association of Professional Firefighters, who also testified on one of two panels, described the current laws as unfair to public servants.

“Right now, the system isn’t fair,” he said. “You work hard all your life just to have a portion of the retirement rug pulled from underneath you. It’s why Congress needs to pass Senator Brown’s legislation to fix WEP so all hard-working men and women get what they’re entitled to receive.”

Brian Steele, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge #9, testified that the bill’s supporters just want the benefits they have “rightfully earned.”

“We are not asking for special treatment, only for what we have rightfully earned—equal treatment under the law,” Mr. Steele said.

The bill needs 60 supporters to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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