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Letter to the Senate on the Social Security Fairness Act

June 12, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) more than 3 million members, we applaud the introduction of the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 896), introduced by Senators Begich (D-AK), Collins (R-ME), Heller (R-NV) and Warren (D-MA), and strongly urge you to cosponsor this bill.  This important legislation will ensure that educators and other public servants can receive the full Social Security benefits they or their spouse have earned.  

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) unfairly reduce the retirement benefits of public employees who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities and their country.  GPO reduces or eliminates the Social Security survivor benefits of over 568,000 beneficiaries.  Of these individuals, 43 percent are widows/widowers and about 80 percent are women. Approximately one million beneficiaries are currently affected by the WEP; as a result these public employees lose a significant amount of their earned Social Security benefits. 

Many of those impacted expect to receive the full Social Security benefit they or their spouse have earned, and often remain unaware of the offsets until they reach retirement age. Some 300,000 individuals lose an average of $3,600 a year due to the GPO — an amount that can make the difference between self-sufficiency and poverty.  

Social Security is the cornerstone of economic security for nearly 54 million Americans.  It belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives, contributed to the program, and relied on the promise that they and their family will be able to collect benefits when they retire, experience a severe disability, or die.  Even though the benefits are modest – averaging $14,000 a year – they represent more than half the income for six out of ten recipients.  

By repealing these two unfair provisions, this bill will help ensure retired educators the benefits they earned and counted on in planning their retirement.  The bill will also help encourage talented individuals who might otherwise fear a loss of earned Social Security benefits to enter and remain in the teaching profession.

S. 896 recognizes and respects the contributions of educators and other public employees by eliminating unfair penalties attached to public service.  Nearly 1.2 million NEA members will be eligible for full retirement within the next 10 years.  These people are educators that have devoted their lives to students.  We urge you to think of them and the many working families and support S. 896. 


Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations