Legislative Update on Retirement Issues

By Kathy Jasper

Earlier this year, I became aware of the California Retired Teachers Association (CalRTA) when its representatives were invited by our AFT 6157 Executive Director Phil Hu to make a presentation, which I attended.  CalRTA’s mission is to protect and advocate for retired and active educators’ pensions and other retirement benefits and to support public education in our communities.  This organization has divisions throughout the state.  The local division meets monthly with the next meeting on December 16th for a luncheon at Three Flames in San Jose on Meridian Avenue. (For more information contact calrtadiv6@gmail.com .)

I want to share details about several key federal and state legislative efforts that CalRTA  has been lobbying in favor of.      

It’s your money!   Repeal WEP/GPO

If my husband died, I would not be eligible to get his Social Security benefit because I receive  STRS benefits!  If you receive a pension from a government job but did not pay Social Security taxes while you had the job, the state will reduce your Social Security spouse, widow, or widower benefits by up to two-thirds of the amount of your government pension.  For example, if your pension is  $9,000 and you’re eligible for $6,000 in SS spousal benefits, two-thirds of your pension ($6,000) would unfortunately reduce your SS benefits to zero.  Note: Even if you do not receive actual benefits, you can still be covered by Medicare.   This law is known as the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) can reduce your social security benefit by more than half if you are getting a STRS pension. This particularly affects part-timers who have spent their careers in both education and a position earning social security.

There are 26 states that have WEP/GPO laws and, unfortunately, California is one of them.   Legislators see it as “double-dipping” if a retired educator receives both a Social Security pension and a state-funded pension.

CalRTA has sponsored congressional legislation to repeal these laws. Federal legislation H.R. 82, which would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), has more than 300 co-sponsors!  It has support from both Republicans and Democrats.  CalRTA members are now contacting House Speaker Pelosi with email campaigns asking her to bring the bill up for a vote in the lame duck session.  The similar bill in the Senate is Senate Bill 1302.

 Other California Retired Teachers Association Sponsored State Legislation:

Signed into law… SB 868 by Senator Dave Cortese will increase the financial assistance our oldest retirees receive from the Supplemental Benefit Maintenance Account (SMBA).

Signed into law… AB 1667 by Assembly Member Jim Cooper ensures that retired educators are not held liable for prior overpayments, except in the case of “member error”.

For more details about these advocacy efforts, visit the website of CalRTA, at:   www.calrta.org