DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - April 10, 2009

Teachers protest Social Security rules

Public sector is denied survivor benefits

by Geoff Gillette

Hundreds of teachers, outraged over a pair of programs that take away Social Security benefits, turned out at a March 21 meeting at Iron Horse Middle School.

Iron Horse art teacher Karin Alexander organized the event, which drew more than 450 teachers from throughout the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. At issue are the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) programs.

The GPO reduces public employees spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension. According to the Social Security Administration, if you get a monthly civil service pension of $600, two-thirds of that, or $400, must be deducted from your Social Security benefits. For example, if you are eligible for a $500 spouse's, widow's or widower's benefit from Social Security, you will receive $100 per month from Social Security.

The WEP reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security.

Since teachers receive a pension they are affected by this, as are local, state and federal government employees.

"So if you worked your whole life in the private sector and then became a teacher, you can't get the Social Security benefits you paid into all those years," Alexander explained. She said that many people are turning to teaching in their later years, then finding themselves cut off from their Social Security funds.

"If you contribute you should get your fair share, the same as any other profession," she added.

Teacher Susan Carter addressed the group, explaining how she tried to get survivor benefits when her husband passed away. Tearfully, she described talking to the Social Security administration and being told that because she was a teacher she could not get survivor benefits.

California is one of only 14 states in the U.S. that has these two pieces of legislation. The other states opted out of the GPO and WEP. Alexander called on those assembled to work toward having them repealed.

"There are two bills, House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 484. If they are passed they will repeal this unjust legislation. And President Obama has already said that if they are passed he will sign these bills," she said.

Alexander provided the crowd with contact information for federal legislators and urged them to begin a letter writing campaign.

"We need to show them our passion, we need to let them know that we need them to pass these bills and get them to President Obama's desk," she said.

Besides writing to legislators, Alexander told the group that what they need to do is get organized.

"We need to have a committee," she said. "No one person can do this. We all have to do this together."

Comments

Posted by Hoot Smalley, a resident of Danville
on May 5, 2009 at 5:18 am

Well, Geoff, you did at least try to explain GPO; however, you either don't understand it or you are trying to mislead people. Every dual income family in America faces the issue addressed by GPO. However, prior to GPO, dual income families in which one spouse was a teacher were given more benefits than other dual income families in which neither of the spouses were teachers. Because the offset is only 2/3, they are still being treated better than other dual income families. In dual income families where neither spouse was a teacher, the offset is 100%! I really don't see how anybody can have any sympathy for teachers on this issue.

With respect to WEP, the way it's calculated should probably be modified but the principle behind WEP is still sound. WEP was also passed (just like GPO) to stop giving teachers an unfair advantage over people who are not teachers. Again, I would agree that the calculation method is a bit heavy handed and the impact should be lessened but the overall concept of WEP should remain.


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