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ICYMI – Brady, Cruz op-ed: It’s time to give teachers and other public servants fair retirement pay

October 11, 2018

Dallas Morning News

It’s time to give teachers and other public servants fair retirement pay

By House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

October 10, 2018


For over three decades, too many Texas teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants have done their vital work while being subjected to a well-intentioned, but unfair, one-size-fits-all approach to calculating their earned Social Security benefits. It’s time for that to change.

Now, through the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, bipartisan legislation that we introduced together in the House and Senate, these dedicated men and women can be treated fairly as the accomplished individuals they are, receiving Social Security in line with their work history.

The root of today’s problem is a policy called the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP, which was put in place in 1983. It may sound like accounting jargon smothered in bureaucracy, but it has unfairly penalized tens of thousands of Texas teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public servants.

Our legislation permanently repeals the current Windfall Elimination Provision, and instead uses a fairer formula that treats public servants like all other American workers.

Some folks, like 95 percent of all Texas public school employees, were not required to pay Social Security payroll taxes under their state or local government jobs because they were paying into an alternative system, such as TRS, but did pay into Social Security through a second job, often in the private sector.

Prior to the WEP, these folks had their Social Security benefits calculated using the same formula as everyone else. However, this sometimes meant that they earned a higher retirement benefit than their work history supported, and consequently gave them a “windfall” of benefits.

The WEP was originally put in place with the intention to prevent this windfall from happening. Instead of creating a fair formula, however, the newly-created WEP forced all public servants who also paid into Social Security into an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all reduction in benefits, with not all public employees being treated equally. Today, the WEP affects over 170,000 Texans.

Additionally, retired public servants often did not know that they would be affected by the WEP until they claimed Social Security benefits, since the reduction did not show up in their Social Security statements.

This is a poor way to compensate the dedicated men and women who are engaging in the important work of teaching our children, protecting our communities and making our cities function well. They deserve better.

The Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act rights this wrong by creating a new formula, one that calculates benefits by taking into account the actual wage and work history of public sector employees.

It calculates worker benefits using each worker’s total lifetime earnings, and then adjusts for the proportion of earnings that came from a job that pays into Social Security. We also ensure that the reforms in our bill will take effect over time, giving folks the ability to prepare for anticipated changes. It also guarantees that public servants receive Social Security benefits that reflect their actual work history.

Additionally, our legislation provides relief to current retirees already affected by the WEP by offering a rebate of $100 per-month for workers, and $50 per-month for those receiving a spousal benefit from Social Security. The amount of the rebate is scheduled to increase along with the rising cost of living.

We are grateful for those who devote their careers to our classrooms and communities in Texas and across the country, and we are proud to support our hard-working teachers, first responders, law enforcement, and all other public servants. These fellow Texans stand up for us every day — the Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act is our chance to stand up for them.