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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Field Hearing on Social Security’s Unfair Treatment of Public Servants

November 19, 2023

As prepared for delivery.

“The Ways and Means Committee is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for our sixth hearing outside Washington to hear directly from working families. I would note this is the first subcommittee hearing that this Committee has held outside of the halls of Congress in almost a decade. We are here today to listen to Americans who have been mistreated by flawed provisions within the Social Security program. These provisions have done a disservice to many who chose to work for their communities as firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public servants.

“These are the men and women who protect our streets, teach our children, collect the trash, repair the power lines, pave the roads, and more. They work tirelessly to improve the lives of their neighbors and their communities.

“Like all working families, they deserve a secure retirement. Yet, we are here in Louisiana because that retirement is far from secure.

“Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset have prevented millions of Americans from getting the Social Security benefits they deserve, and these policies will harm millions more, unless Congress acts. While not likely known to most Americans, these two parts of the Social Security program have real consequences for public employees. It means seniors get smaller checks and could struggle to afford their food, medicine, and heat their homes.

“Decades ago, in an effort to keep Social Security from overpaying certain retirees – which would be unfair to other seniors – Washington stepped in and created new formulas and a new process. Unfortunately, those solutions have proven ill-equipped to solve the original problem.

“Seniors aren’t only harmed by these unfair policies. They’re often blindsided by them. Most state and local employees do not know that they’ll get a smaller Social Security benefit until it’s too late to adjust their plans. People spend decades working, saving, planning for retirement, and find out only at the point of retirement, that things were not as they thought. And given the complexity of the entire system, trying to work with the Social Security Administration to determine what they are owed can be extremely difficult and frustrating.

“At the core of this issue is fairness. Congress must find a bipartisan way to provide public servants with the fair treatment that they deserve.

“Few people in Congress have been more determined to find a solution to this problem for seniors than Congressman Graves. Congressman Graves fights hard for the folks from Louisiana, and we are glad he is hosting us in his district today to discuss this critical issue. This hearing is the next step in this Committee’s efforts to provide help in retirement for public servants.

“I know this issue is important to the entire Louisiana delegation, and I want to keep working together to find that bipartisan solution.

“We are looking forward to hearing our witnesses share their stories as we learn more about how the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset has resulted in the unfair treatment of public servants and has hurt them and their families.

“The Committee also wants to hear from everyone here. If you are affected by Social Security’s unfair treatment of state and local workers, we want to hear from you. There will be notebooks passed out in the audience for everyone to share with us your concerns and ideas. We will enter those into the official hearing record and take those back with us to Washington as we consider how to protect the retirement of state and local workers.

“I want to thank you each witness for taking time away from your family and the retirement you have worked so hard to earn.”