Dear Rusty: I'm retired for almost 17 years, and want to know why Massachusetts is one of only 6 states in the US that went along with President Reagan's double-dipping proclamation regarding Social Security? I worked for 15 years whereby I contributed to Social Security and accumulated my 40 quarters. I then left my job to take care of my family and went back to work for the county under our state’s retirement plan. When I finally retired at the age of 65, I learned that I couldn’t receive the full amount of monies earned under Social Security. I am now receiving my pension from the county, and I’ve written to our Federal representatives asking them to vote to revise President Reagan's policy of not double dipping. I have received replies saying that they would investigate this subject, but nothing has changed. This policy not only affects me but many other people who are being short changed for working both under Social Security and working for the State and contributing towards their retirement. Why are there only 6 states in the United States participating in this double-dipping policy? Signed: Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: Without getting into too much history, what you’re referring to is The Social Security Amendments of 1983, a bill passed by the 98th Congress and signed by President Reagan in April 1983. This was a large bipartisan effort to avert a serious issue with Social Security being unable to meet its short and long-term benefit obligations beginning later that year. Both political parties joined together to enact numerous changes to the program, including the one you’re referring to known as the Windfall Elimination Provision, or “WEP.” WEP essentially says that employees who receive a pension from an employer (such as the Federal, State, or Local government), which did not contribute to the Social Security program cannot “double-dip” and collect both their non-covered pension as well as full Social Security benefits. The rule applies not to just 6 states but to all employers and their employees who do not participate in Social Security and, in fact, has caused some employers (such as the Federal Government) to change their retirement plan to contribute to Social Security. While that is helpful for recent employees, past employees who already receive a pension under the old systems, which did not contribute, are nevertheless still impacted by the law enacted in 1983. And, as you note, many public service employees are still affected by this law, including those in Massachusetts (as well as some other States). It’s worthy of note that the change wasn’t targeted to any specific State or employer; rather it applies generally to any employers who doesn’t contribute to the Social Security program but instead funds their own retirement plan. That any State chooses to continue funding its own retirement system in lieu of contributing to Social Security is that State’s choice. And while we cannot know the thoughts of those 1983 legislators about WEP, it’s a safe bet that their main motivation was rescuing Social Security from defaulting on its obligations. Those Amendments have obviously sustained the program at least until now, some 35 years later.
You’ll be happy to know that there is a bill before Congress now which addresses this issue and proposes to eliminate the impact that WEP - and a sister provision called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) - have upon the Social Security benefits of retired Federal, State and Local Government employees. This bill is known as the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1205). The bill has about 180 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Social Security where, unfortunately, little action has been taken so far. My suggestion is that you contact your State legislators and ask them why your State’s public service employee plan does not contribute to Social Security, and to contact your Federal representatives to demand action on H.R. 1205 to eliminate WEP and GPO.