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Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Ferguson Opening Statement – Hearing on Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO)

April 16, 2024

“The WEP and GPO were intended to make Social Security more fair, but for millions of Americans, they’ve fallen far short.”

As prepared for delivery.

“Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to today’s hearing. 

“We are here today to talk about fairness in the Social Security system related to the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.

“The WEP and GPO were intended to make Social Security more fair, but for millions of Americans, they’ve fallen far short.

“These two policies were put in place decades ago to prevent unfairness by addressing a flaw in Social Security’s formulas that results in unintentionally generous benefits for some people with earnings that were exempt from Social Security’s payroll tax.

“Under Social Security’s normal rules, those individuals or couples could receive substantially more generous benefits from Social Security than individuals and couples who spent their whole careers paying into Social Security. But the WEP and GPO share the same flaw that they were meant to address in Social Security’s benefit formulas: they can’t factor in earnings from outside of Social Security, because only a few years of non-covered earnings data was available then.

“As a result, they rely on ad-hoc adjustments that in some cases unfairly reduce benefits and in others still provide those with non-covered earnings with an unintended advantage over those who spent their whole careers in jobs covered by Social Security.

“All beneficiaries deserve fair treatment from Social Security. And workers and their families shouldn’t be disadvantaged by Social Security simply because they choose a career in public service. However, while the WEP and GPO are flawed, removing them results in the same unfairness that they were intended to address.

“Since Social Security is a self-financed system, every dollar spent on an unintentionally generous benefit is one less dollar that can be used to keep the Trust Funds afloat. That’s why we are here today—to discuss why these policies were put in place, how they miss the mark, and how they can be improved.

“We have a responsibility to the almost 70 million current beneficiaries and the more than 150 million workers contributing to the system to get this right and identify a path forward that’s fair to all of those who participate in Social Security.”