What are the GPO and WEP?

The two federal laws, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), affect public employees who receive a public pension from states, including Massachusetts, that opted out of the Social Security system.

The GPO reduces the Social Security spousal benefit an affected public employee can receive. So, a teacher who spent a career in public service — while a deceased spouse worked at a private company and paid Social Security — is only eligible for a small percentage of the spousal Social Security benefit the spouse earned. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit.

The WEP reduces an individual's own Social Security benefits earned while working in a job covered by Social Security. For instance, a teacher who spends summers working at a paint store isn't allowed to receive the full Social Security benefit he or she paid into the Social Security system.

The impact of these unfair offsets is primarily felt in those 15 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia and Illinois, where public employees are not covered by Social Security. However, because people move from state to state, there are affected individuals everywhere. In many states public employees already contribute up to 10 percent of their salary towards their pensions, and many do not even get Social Security. Despite this, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) penalize people who have dedicated their lives to public education and other public service careers by taking away benefits they have earned. Luckily, Democrats and Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are working together to address these troubling provisions. The Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) as HR 1795. On the Senate side, Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Dean Heller (R-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have introduced the same bill as S 896.

Good Resources

  • Overview: How the government is stealing public servants pensions, NEA Today
  • The Facts: Talking Points on GPO/WEP
  • Take Action: Urge your members of Congress to repeal the GPO and WEP
  • NEA Toolkit: Repeal Social Security Offsets