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Baby Boomers Stand to Lose Two Ways

Roger Gitlin

Posted: February 18, 2008 7:43 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Attention: Soon-to-retire Baby Boomers... This commentary is especially for you.

Our government is your pocket - again!

As you boomers reach age 62-65, the United States of America may have a big surprise for you in reduced Social Security benefits. Since 1983, when the law was changed, federal law now allows Social Security to reduce or even eliminate the Social Security benefit for you or your spouse.

There are two legal ways your Social Security payment will reduce: The Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

The GPO reduces your Social Security spousal benefits if you or your spouse has another government pension such as a city, county, or federal pension. In other words, if you or your spouse participates in a non-social Security contribution plan. The GPO takes two-thirds of the government pension and subtracts that from the spousal benefit. You work for the city for 30 years, your spouse has contributed to and earned Social Security benefits, the spouse loses two-thirds of the benefit. Doesn't seem quite fair, does it?

The WEP is even more disgusting. Let's say you are a teacher but in prior years, before you commenced your teaching career, you had a job and contributed to the Social Security system. You may very well lose up to two-thirds of your earned Social Security benefit. I want to remind you, this is money you have earned. It's your money.

There are an estimated 1 million baby boomers affected by the WEP and another 500,000 boomers who will have discounted Social Security benefits as a result of the GPO. Affected parties include teachers, firefighters, policemen, and other government workers who "think" they are going to receive a full benefit, but who will be shocked to learn those benefits will be substantially discounted.

Here's the good news: Republican Santa Clarita Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon and Democratic Representative Howard Berman of the San Fernando Valley have introduced the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 82), to repeal the GPO and WEP and right this wrong. This bi-partisan issue has gathered 336 co-sponsors in the House. The present bill is moving its way through the House Ways and Means Committee. It would affect just 13 states, among them California.

McKeon states, "Here we are facing a teacher shortage and a national push for high-quality teachers to work in our classrooms, and yet we have a flawed system that penalizes the very same people we are trying to recruit." The congressman continues, "California is losing as many as 20,000 teachers annually to retirement, and rather than creating incentives, our government has disincentives in place for potential teachers to pursue a lifelong career in education."

The real test for this legislation will come in the Senate, where 49 senators voted to grant Social Security benefits to illegal aliens starting this year. Included in that list are both California senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with amnesty advocates and presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain.

Thank the 51 senators who voted down the illegal aliens Social Security benefit as part of the $555 billion Omnibus Spending Bill that was passed and quickly signed into law, in the middle of the night about a month ago. That's right, that's the same bill that gutted the Secure Fence Act.

Would lame duck President George Bush sign the Social Security Fairness Act?

I guess you could write and ask him to sign such legislation should it survive the treacherous shark-infested waters of the United States Senate.

If you are asking yourself, "Am I going to be affected by this GPO or WEP?" Let's hope the team of Buck McKeon and Howard Berman is successful in eliminating these unfair provisions.

As always, I welcome your points of view.

Roger Gitlin is a Santa Clarita resident, teacher and Minuteman. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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