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Community Impact Newspaper: New bill plans to alter Social Security provision, aid local public servants

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Washington, January 2, 2015 | comments
“Our goal for many years has been to end the unfair [Windfall Elimination Provision] and provide equal treatment to all workers in Social Security," Brady said in a statement. "Our bill strengthens the solvency of Social Security while guaranteeing our public servants receive the full benefits they earned when paying into the program, just like everyone else."
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A new bill recently filed by U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, aims to alter a long-standing Social Security provision. The provision prevents teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public servant personnel who work two jobs from collecting the same amount of benefits as other private sector employees.

“Our goal for many years has been to end the unfair [Windfall Elimination Provision] and provide equal treatment to all workers in Social Security," Brady said in a statement. "Our bill strengthens the solvency of Social Security while guaranteeing our public servants receive the full benefits they earned when paying into the program, just like everyone else."

Brady and Neal introduced the new legislation, known as the Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act, Nov. 13 with a goal to eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision established through Social Security in 1983. The provision can reduce Social Security checks by up to $400 a month for some of the estimated 1.3 million public servant employees who work second jobs and may receive a substitute pension through groups, such as the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, Brady said.

Gary Vincent, Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department fire chief, said he is thankful Brady has taken charge to eliminate the Social Security provision since he has seen many of his retired friends and coworkers negatively affected by it over the years. Vincent said it is common for public servant employees to work a second job during their careers and should be able to earn the same amount of Social Security benefits as someone who worked the same amount in the private sector.

“[For example] a teacher works for 30–40 years paying into Social Security, but when the time comes to draw out benefits, the [U.S.] Social Security Administration reduces the check by two-thirds of whatever they earned simply because they have some other previous pension,” Vincent said. “They pay in the same as any other American, but when they go to draw out—it’s just arbitrarily reduced.”

As bipartisan-filed legislation, Vincent said he believes there should be enough support from legislators across the aisle during the 84th session to move the bill forward and possibly be signed into law.

“It’s not like these public [servant] jobs are high-paying jobs,” Vincent said. “It’s very frustrating especially on an issue like this. [We are asking to] just pay us what we earned since [it was taken] out of our [pay]check. [The new bill is] really the righting of a wrong.”

According to estimates by the Social Security actuary, Brady said the new bill could offer existing retired public servant workers as much as $20,000 more over their lifetimes or up to $32,000 for future retirees.

Brady has introduced an earlier version of the bill during each legislative session since 2004. The new Brady-Neal legislation is designed to outline a more specific alternative approach to the long-standing Social Security provision, Brady said.

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