Sunday, November 10, 2019

Current/Retired Firefighters, Police Officers, and Educators: We Need You in the Fight for Social-Security Fairness

            Fighting for Social-Security fairness has to be a national effort.  So said Congressman Vicente Gonzalez—my congressman—when I had a Facebook LIVE conversation with him August 22.  We need to unite our brothers and sisters who are current and retired firefighters, police officers, educators (which includes most of our bus drivers, secretaries, counselors, custodians, librarians, administrators, cafeteria staff, maintenance staff, social workers, and all others who worked, or who worked, in our public schools), and others affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision, which became law in 1983.  We also need the help and support of all those who support us in this effort.
            What is WEP?  If you don’t know, here is a simple fact sheet:

            Since 1983, firefighters, police officers, educators, and some government employees in these 15 states have been affected by WEP:

Alaska                                                                         Maine
California                                                                    Massachusetts
Colorado                                                                     Missouri
Connecticut                                                                 Nevada
Georgia (certain local governments)                           Ohio
Illinois                                                                         Rhode Island (certain local governments)
Kentucky (certain local governments)                        Texas

            What does it mean for us?   It means that because we do not--or did not--pay into Social Security while we were working as public servants--even though so many of us pay into SS working side jobs before retirement and/or working after retirement—we cannot receive our rightful SS benefits.
            I retired six-and-a-half years ago, and I am currently doing freelance/consulting work for five local companies.  I am a freelance writer/editor, a social-media manager, a sales/fundraising coordinator, and a college-essay coach.  Every time I receive a check from one of these companies, I immediately take 40 percent and place it in a savings account so I can pay the taxes on my earnings at the end of the year.  That includes SS.  I have my SS quarters already, yet because of WEP, I will not be able to collect the SS benefits I earned.  What I have to PAY into SS is not reduced, but what I will EARN is dramatically reduced.  I, along with my police officer, firefighter, educator, and other brothers and sisters , am penalized because I work in a state that chose not to collect SS and because I receive a pension I earned and paid into. How UNfair is this?  It’s time for us to fight to stop this insanity!
            September 27, U.S. Representative Richard Neal (D-MA), who serves as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act (H.R. 4540).  In a press release put out that day by his staff, Chairman Neal said, “The WEP negatively affects nearly 2 million retired public servants across the country, including about 73,000 in Massachusetts.  Public employees like firefighters, teachers, and police officers should not miss out on the Social Security benefits they earned over decades of hard work. With this legislation, these valued members of our communities will have greater retirement security and peace of mind.”  As of October 31, 43 members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors.
            According to Rep. Gonzalez, this is what MUST happen over the next year if we have any hope of H.R. 4540 passing:
  •     Current/retired police officers, firefighters, educators, and government employees in all 50 states need to come together to fight for those impacted by WEP.  We need to show the strength of our brotherhood and sisterhood.  We come together to fight for what’s right for all.
  •     We must, Rep. Gonzalez, said, “grow our circle.”
  •      ALL members of Congress must be lobbied.  As we know—and as Rep. Gonzalez reiterated—members of Congress care most when they hear from THEIR constituents.  Is YOUR member of Congress a co-sponsor of H.R.4540?  If yes, contact his/her office to say thank you.  If not, we need unions, organizations, and individuals from all 50 states to write letters, visit his/her office, and make phone calls saying, “I/We expect you to support Social Security Fairness!”  
  •        ALL presidential candidates and Congressional incumbents and candidates need to be asked where they stand on Social Security Fairness.
  •      In South Texas, Rep. Gonzalez said, we need to ask our Winter Texans to join us in our efforts by contacting members of Congress in your home states!  (I LOVE this idea!)

            Who’s in?  PLEASE contact me at ASAP if you are so we can start putting together a map and spreadsheet to show which unions/organizations/groups across the country are working for SOCIAL SECURITY FAIRNESS!!!

Side Note:  Currently, there is not an effort like this to fight against GPO, which affects the same group of individuals.  This should also be our fight!

Side Note #2:  Be sure to click on the links embedded in my post for more information!

Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen)