Retired teachers fight Social Security reductions

Retired teachers presented Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) with petitions signed by over a thousand local constituents supporting repeal of penalties in Social Security that can dramatically reduce the retirement income of educators.

Statewide, more than 80,000 people have signed petitions in support of the repeal of social security's government pension offset and the windfall elimination provision penalties.

"When these penalties were first put in place, Congress thought it was preventing highly paid federal employees from unfairly benefiting from the Social Security system," said Carl Switzer, local spokesperson for CRTA. "But 20 years later, the reality is that many educators and other public servants who earned modest salaries during their careers are losing thousands of dollars of expected retirement income every year."

For many of the 100,000 retired educators currently affected, the penalties have drastically reduced their standard of living, forcing them to sell their homes and struggle to buy medicine, food and other necessities. Most of those affected were unaware of the penalties until they actually applied for their Social Security benefits.

California Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) introduced legislation in May 2003 to repeal the penalties. McKeon's bill, HR 594, has since garnered support from 300 Congressional representatives. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced identical legislation in the Senate, which has 30 cosponsors.

The WEP reduces Social Security benefits earned by retired teachers by 50 percent. The GPO usually eliminates any spousal benefit the retired teacher would be entitled to if they had not been a California teacher. The GPO hits widows the hardest, who lose their husband's Society Security earning when he dies.

"As we work to inform active teachers and members of the community about these little-known penalties, we are gratified to find their strong support for repeal," noted Carl Switzer. "It's important that Devin Nunes Know that there is a powerful sentiment in his district to repeal these penalties."

Nunes has signed on to support HR 594.

The California Retired Teachers Association represents more than 52,000 retired educators, and is the state's foremost organization to protect and enhance the pensions of retired teachers.

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