Many PBA members, especially those who are not covered by Social Security while working as law enforcement officers but who have earned Social Security benefits through another job, are often shocked to learn in retirement that those Social Security benefits are reduced by federal law when they reach federal retirement age. In addition, those officers impacted by this federal law are also blocked from receiving the Social Security "survivor's benefits" when their spouse passes away. The State PBA, working through our national group, the National Association of Police Organizations, has been lobbying Congress for several years to eliminate this unjust penalty.
There is currently legislation in Congress, Senate Bill 896/H.R. 1795, that would address our concerns. We are fortunate that a bipartisan group of New Jersey representatives are co-sponsors of the bills (Sen. Menendez, Rep. Lance (R-7), Rep. LoBiondo (R-2), Rep. Pallone (D-6), Rep. Runyan (R-3) and Rep. Sires (D-8). State PBA members and retirees who are concerned about this retirement penalty should call their Members of Congress and request their support for passage of this priority legislation.
For your information, the following background on the issue can be found in the NAPO Legislative Priority book for the 113th Congress (www.napo.org) and members should use it as a guide to learn the issue and problems at stake:
GOVERNMENT PENSION OFFSET (GPO) AND WINDFALL ELIMINATION PROVISION (WEP)
Background : The Government Pension Offset (GPO) reduces public employees’ Social Security spousal or survivor benefit by two-thirds of their public pension, and often leads to negative effects on law enforcement officers’ retirements. If a spouse who paid into Social Security dies, the surviving public safety officer would normally be eligible for half of the deceased’s benefit. However, if the surviving law enforcement officer had not been paying into Social Security while working, the GPO requires that this amount be offset by two-thirds of the survivor’s pension, eliminating most, or all of the payment.
Because of their profession, many law enforcement officers do not pay into Social Security; however, if they had not served at all, they would receive the full allotment of the spouse’s benefit. In addition to the GPO, public safety employees are also adversely affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Although most law enforcement officers retire after a specific length of service, usually while in their early to mid-fifties, many look for new opportunities to serve their communities. Yet, when they retire from a non-Social Security paying job and move to one that does pay into Social Security, they are penalized by WEP. Instead of receiving their rightfully earned Social Security retirement benefit, their pension heavily offsets it, thus vastly reducing the amount they receive.
GPO and WEP were intended to be “leveling” responses, but only serve to hurt public safety officers. Nine out of ten public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouses paid Social Security for many years. The WEP causes hard-working public safety officers to lose the benefits they earned themselves, thus punishing those who selflessly serve and protect our communities.
NAPO Position : The loss of income caused by GPO and WEP is a financial strain on law enforcement officers and their families, an additional strain that those who spent their careers on the front lines protecting our nation’s communities do not need. By significantly scaling back and reducing social security benefits for law enforcement officers and their survivors, as GPO and WEP do, officers and their families are provided much less protection against financial difficulties. This is no way to honor those who have chosen to serve our nation and its communities.
Law enforcement officers and public employees across the United States are concerned about their retirement benefits and the impact of GPO and WEP. NAPO supports efforts to totally repeal GPO and WEP from Title II of the Social Security Act, and will continue to actively work to see the passage of this legislation.
View the NAPO Letter Of Support for the Social Security Fairness Act