Revisiting WEP and GPO

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2024
by The Association of Mature American Citizens

One of the most nagging criticisms of the U.S. Social Security program is found in the persistent outcries of unfairness from the people affected by two scorned sections of the program’s massive rulebook. Anyone following legislative activities involving Social Security will quickly know that we’re talking about the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO)—two program sections sometimes referred to as the “evil twins” and often subjected to harsh accounts of their detrimental effects.

WEP has existed since the 1983 Social Security Amendments were signed into law, and GPO goes back even further—to the 1977 Social Security Amendments. It’s fair to say both have been unpopular since they first appeared, and many unsuccessful attempts to either repeal or soften the provisions’ impact on Social Security benefits have surfaced in Congress. In fact, more than a dozen proposals have been introduced in the last three Congressional sessions, none resulting in legislative change.

Now, in the current Congressional session, H.R. 82 and S. 597—both carrying the title “Social Security Fairness Act–are gaining momentum as the latest incarnation of the campaign to eliminate WEP and GPO. Both bills have attracted considerable attention on behalf of those affected. Numerous articles have surfaced labeling WEP and GPO as unquestionably extreme in their punishing nature, and much testimony has been submitted in public hearings about the “unfair” and “unjust” impact they can have on retirees.

So, are the Allegations of Unfairness Warranted?

AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory Service has handled hundreds of inquiries from WEP- and GPO-affected parties, prompting considerable research into the complaints expressed by callers. In all cases, we’ve taken care to explain the reason why these provisions were enacted decades ago, along with a recap of how they work.

Our Advisory Service’s research has led to a conclusion that—perceptions of equity and fairness aside—much of the displeasure is related to an unexpected impact on the retirement income assumed in financial plans. Arriving at retirement and facing a financial setback at a point where there is little time to adjust can clearly be jarring.

An article posted a few weeks ago on this site provided background on how these two provisions came into existence, and explained how they work to adjust benefits. The article also introduced a key element of the argument that needs to be understood in order to answer the fairness question, and announced the scheduling of a webinar to explore WEP and GPO in depth.

The webinar was held as planned March 13, 2024 and a recording of the material presented can be viewed on the “Videos” page of the AMAC Foundation’s website. We invite you to view the recording at your convenience, and we’d be interested in any feedback you might have on the WEP-GPO issue. You can reach us at [email protected].