Kennedy Suggests Changing Law to End Reductions in Government Employee Pensions

BATON ROUGE, LA – The Social Security debate taking place in Washington should include proposals that would restore certain benefits for government retirees and their spouses, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

There has been a lot of talk about different ways to improve Social Security in our country, and our national leaders must come up with real solutions to the problem, said Treasurer Kennedy. That includes addressing portions of the law that impose large reductions to the already strained pension benefits of countless Louisiana citizens. Any relief for our citizens is essential.

In particular, Treasurer Kennedy suggests repealing or reducing the impact of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of the Social Security Act. These two conditions in the law reduce pension benefits specifically for federal, state and local government employees.

The GPO lowers the amount of Social Security benefits that are paid to a government employee who has a spouse who works in the private sector. The GPO reduces the government employees dependent benefits by two-thirds of the amount of his or her own pension check. As a result, the Social Security benefit is often eliminated altogether.

The WEP reduces benefits for people who have spent most of their careers in government but who have also worked in the private sector. Social Security payments are lower even when individuals have worked in private industry long enough to qualify for Social Security retirement or disability payments.

Most Louisiana workers or their spouses have paid money into the Social Security System at one time or another, said Treasurer Kennedy. There are many public employees, however, who do not know about these Social Security provisions and do not plan ahead for lower benefits when they retire. Our seniors face skyrocketing prescription drug prices, medical bills and other expenses, but many are not prepared for reduced Social Security benefits.

Social Security benefit statements do not calculate the GPO or WEP, and many public employees are unaware that their benefits will be lower than anticipated or in some cases nonexistent upon retirement. Treasurer Kennedy encourages public employees to use the online GPO and WEP calculators available at a better estimate of future Social Security benefits.

Sarah Mulhearn
(225) 342-0012