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Rep. Carey Opening Statement – Field Hearing on Social Security’s Unfair Treatment of Public Servants

November 20, 2023

As prepared for delivery.

“Good afternoon. Welcome to today’s hearing on how Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision, WEP, and Government Pension Offset, GPO, affect the benefits of public servants. 

“Social Security is a vitally important program for America’s retired workers.

“Every hard-working American who contributes to Social Security deserves to know that they and their loved ones will receive the benefits that they have earned. 

“However, for some workers, including millions of public servants, that’s just not the case because Social Security’s benefit formula is broken. 

“Social Security covers about 96 percent of jobs in America, but as those here today and those watching at home are aware, many government employees – frequently fire fighters, law enforcement officers, educators, and other dedicated public servants – contribute to public pension programs instead of participating in Social Security.

“Nonetheless, these same workers or their spouses may have had other employment where they contributed to Social Security.

“The WEP and GPO were established in the 1980s and 1970s to address a flaw in Social Security’s benefit formula that ignores wages that were earned while contributing to a substitute pension instead of contributing to Social Security. 

“But both the WEP and GPO are flawed formulas that treat public servants unfairly. While intended to prevent overly generous benefits, these policies sometimes under-correct, but more often over-correct benefits.

“They simply miss the mark. 

“Further, these policies make it difficult for affected workers and their families to plan for retirement.

“Far too often, people are unaware that they are subject to the WEP and G-P-O until they or their spouse retire. Some people return to work and others have to adjust their spending habits or reevaluate their standard of living. 

“Even for those public servants who are aware of these policies, the complexity of these formulas makes it difficult to determine the Social Security benefits they will eventually receive.

“While this is an issue that is especially pronounced in Louisiana it is not just a Louisiana problem. It affects more than one hundred thousand public servants in my home state of Ohio, as well as those in Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, California, and every other state across the country.

“America’s hardworking and dedicated public servants deserve relief from the WEP and GPO’s unfair treatment.

“We are holding this Subcommittee hearing at the St. George Fire Department in Baton Rouge to hear directly from Americans whose Social Security benefits are impacted by these policies.

“This is the first step in the Committee’s efforts to identify meaningful relief for public servants. 

“I thank our witnesses for being here and I look forward to hearing your testimony.”