The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) has been around since the Regan Administration, but most people never learn about this provision until it is too late. The WEP is a provision in the Social Security law that serves to prevent retirees from getting a “windfall” of money from the federal government. I’ll get back to the term windfall in a moment. But first… how does this provision work?
The formula used to calculate a person’s social security benefit is based of several factors, but I’ll try to use a simplified scenario. If a person paid social security taxes for 25 years, then he may be eligible for 90% of his average monthly earning. However, if that person is subject to the WEP, he’d only be eligible for 40% of his benefits.
Who is Usually Affected by This Provision?
Generally, people who have made career changes will be affected… if that change involves moving from a social security covered position to a non social security covered position.
For example a teacher … public school teachers in many states contribute to a state or local government retirement system and are exempt from paying social security taxes. But if after 20 years (which is long enough to be eligible for the state or local government retirement benefit), our teacher may decide that he wants a career change.
He moves on to a position which is covered Social Security. If he stays in that position for about 10 years, then he is eligible for Social Security benefits.
Fast forward to our teacher’s 62nd birthday… he goes down to the Social Security office to apply for his Social Security benefits. The worker figures out his benefit and then informs him that that benefit is going to be reduced nearly 50% because he is already receiving a retirement pension from another government.
This reduction prevents our teacher from getting a “windfall” of money from the government. Windfall… I really have an issue with that term. So instead of him being about to buy 2 loaves of bread with his social security check, he can only buy 2 slices. **shaking my head**… Windfall?!? Give me a break!
I think this WEP is completely unfair. If a person has worked long and hard enough to be eligible for two government pensions… then why should he be punished? He earned the pension… so give it to him. Two government pension checks do not equate to a windfall… no matter how you add it up.
For those non-Social Security covered state and local government employees, the WEP acts an inhibitor… preventing them from moving into private sector jobs.
Well, I suppose it only inhibits those who are aware. Most people are not even aware that this provision exists. Many first learn about it when they apply for their Social Security benefits… which by this time is too late because they have not planned for this benefit reduction.
Just about every year, one or two bills are proposed to Congress that would repeal this WEP… but every year it is either not heard or voted down.
The WEP has been in law more than 20 years, so chances are it will not disappear. Therefore I thought it was important to alert my fellow financially conscious friends that this provision exists. Hopefully, you aren’t depending on Social Security to take care of you during retirement and have been saving enough for retirement on your own, but in case you are… plan ahead and beware of this provision. Wouldn’t it be great if you saved too much for retirement?
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Does anyone know which states do NOT enforce the Windfall Provision Elimination? i believe New Hampshire is one of them
My husband worked for a company that paid into a pension instead of social security. The ex-wife was awarded 100% of the pension. Husband has started drawing social security retirement and a taxes are being taken out of his check (windfall elimination provision). There is nothing in the QDRO that states he is to pay these taxes. What are his options?
I worked for a large bank for 17 years until they closed my business unit and for different companies over 5 years before that. All the while I paid into social security. Since I have a teaching degree I was thinking of hiring on with a local school however, after learning about WEP am wondering if I should look somewhere else for employment.
What I know is the 17 year company is going to pay me a pension of 800.00 or so dollars at 65 and I was thinking I would also get 100% of my social security benefits. What I don't know is if I work for the state (teaching) for the next 20 years, how will that affect me? How can I find out?
I've spoken with Roger Moore, the Nebraska attorney who won the Petersen v. Michael Astrue case.
I have an extensive employment background in pensions, actuarial science, computerized pension administration, pension plan legal text writing, accounting and trust fund accounting, and I have more than a little experience in writing legal Pension Plan Documents.
And, I've read the relevant section of Title 42 regarding WEP.
1) WEP CANNOT BE APPLIED to anyone whose "alien" (foreign service) social security pensions are covered by an International Agreement on Pensions ("totalization" agreements) ... of which there are about 23 nations in agreement...
2) WEP itself in my opinion is illegal... no matter WHO the applicant petitioner might be ... The Federal Government DOES NOT FUND Social Security Pensions ... the funding comes from employee FICA contributions (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) AND a payroll tax levied on the employers. These monies are deducted from EARNED INCOME. The Federal Government BORROWS the SS Pension Funds at extremely low rates of interest ... IN RETURN FOR ITS PROMISE / INSURANCE to maintain the solvency of the plan during any cyclical period when claims might exceed annual pension/premium receipts...
3) WEP was introduced as a modification to the Social Security Benefit Formula ... BUT DID NOT MAKE ANY ALLOWANCE FOR REFUNDS in the event of an offset ... THEREBY CONVERTING AN INSURANCE PREMIUM to a DIRECT INCOME TAX ...
... BUT IT WAS NEVER PRESENTED TO CONGRESS AS AN AMENDMENT TO INCOME TAX ACT ...
Any insurer who collects and retains an insurance premium for a "benefit" that the insurer KNOWS IT WILL NEVER PAY ... is guilty of INSURER FRAUD ... plain and simple ...
Demonstration on point: Whenever an individual changes jobs between social security covered employment, he/she will pay social security FICA premiums in both jobs ... BUT RECEIVE A REFUND of the overpayment when they file his/her annual information/income tax return ...
The Social Security Administration has been fraudulently collecting and retaining FICA premiums since the very early 1980's ...
The accumulated actuarial value of this fraud is likely $80 - $90 Billion dollars at this point, and is increasing at $4 - $6 Billions per year...
AND where 2,000,000 people are currently being shorted on their pensions, the states in which they live have been shorted critical revenues to the states ... with respect to cash infusion to the private sector economies AND WITH RESPECT to potential income taxes that the states would otherwise have collected...
THIS SITUATION IS SO SIMPLE ... (but "overwhelming" in its accumulated amount !) that I've got to believe that SSA's Chief Actuary, who was employed at the time of WEP implementation, certainly knew of the legal fallacy of WEP ... and it seems SO SIMPLE that those in the Regan Administration at the time, WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT THE DAY WOULD COME when someone would put it all together...
But now the financial "time bomb" might mean to some that Social Security must be terminated as "unsustainable" (the Regan / Republican objective all along !!!!!!!)
... but here's the point: Social Security Pension Trust Funds are over 20 years away from even needing the short term solvency assurance of the Federal Government... and, even then the actuarial estimates are that the solvency assistance will only be required for about 8 years...
The stupidity of this mess is that if we get even 2% of the current 18% unemployed back to work, and grow the numbers of employed participants by 2% per year, the SSA "funding dilemma" goes away forever !!!!!!!
So let's not allow the Repbulicans to panic us ... Let's just get back to work...
And, by-the-way, if my appeal isn't granted, I will bring a class action lawsuit, in pro per (just try and get a lawyer to take this on... Roger Moore didn't want it !!!!!)
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org ... feel free to contact me.
My name is Roger Moore, I'm an attorney in Nebraska. I have fought these issues for quasi-military employees in Nebraska. Petersen v. Astrue was decided several years go by the 8th Circuit and found the WEP did not apply based on the rationale SSA tried to set forth. You can and should appeal the determination when you receive the notice. I have considered filing a class action as the WEP applies to dual-status military technicians and also individuals who move to the U.S. from another country with pension recognition agreement with the U.S. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Are there any EU expats on here who have been hit by the WEP willing to organize? If so, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Lets explore the options open to us.
I was a firefighter for over 25 years. In addition to that I have worked for 48 years on other jobs paying into social security. Because I worked an average of 70 hours a week for 42 years I am losing half of my social security because of WEP. Reagan keeps on hosing me even after he is gone.
The so-called windfall for teachers is a cruel joke. President Reagan was no intellectual, nor saint, nor prophet; however, with this provision he sent back the teaching civil service into a tailspin that has not recovered, nor will recover anytime soon--and hopeful Obama is no help either. He still can't find his flashlight.
Look in to your Congress and Senators to find out which ones are pro WEP and GPO and rally to defeat them when its election time.
this is so unfair! both myself and my husband are affected. friend said he was "grandfathered" and does receive both???? what year is that??? thank you.
Check again, you will probably loose 60% of your US social security. Calculate how much money you would take in during the interim, by way of each of the alternatives. By deferring, would you recuperate what you didn't take in, that is, delay it? Or would it be forfeited? I have no possibility like this in the Italian pension system. Lucky you.
I have been drawing a pension from the UK since I was 60yrs old. I am now eligible for SS from the US (Where I worked for 25 yrs) I have just applied and have been told that I will lose 50%. Unfortunatly I can't draw on my ex husbands SS because my contributions are just over 50% of his. I have just found out that I can defer my UK pension and add around 10.04% for every year that I do so, or I have the option to take a lump sum any time after 12 months which will earn 2% over the bank rate. I think this is a better deal than leaving the US pension until I'm 70 and, until I draw my uk pension again I won't be subject to the WEP
It is estimated that the United States is going to spend over 4 Trillion Dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and that doesn't include the cost of rebuilding those rat-hole countries. Meanwhile, the government says it can't afford to pay Earned Social Security Benefits to seniors effected by WEP & GPO because it would cost 62 Billion Dollars over a ten year period. What is wrong with this country?
I worked for the government for 20 years and I paid a FULL share into their MANDATORY retirement system. I ALSO worked for 20 years and paid a FULL SHARE into the MANDATORY social security system. I AM ENTITLED to a FULL SHARE of MY rightfully earned social security benefits!!! All of you affected by this VERY UNFAIR provision should start speaking up NOW to your congressmen and senators. Someone out there should start a CLASS ACTION SUIT for those of us being SCREWED!!
WEP appears to only impact government retirees. Rail Road retirees were not required to pay into SS either. However,it appears there is no penalty on their SS annuity if they have one in addition to their RR retirement. WEP discriminates againist government imployees only. Money paid into the civil service retirement system was a "retirement fund" and technically payments were/are supported by that fund and are NOT from the Federal Treasury. This fund is only administered by the Federal Government.
The WEP Law is so unfair. I've worked for 43 years in three different countries (the UK, Canada and the USA, having mandatory social security taxes taken from each pay check in each country. I now get social security retirement benefits from all three countries, based on my years of work in each country. The only country who penalizes me for receiving a pension from the others is the USA under the WEP provision. The amount the US Social Security Administration stated I would be entitled to upon retirement based on my earnings (and social security taxes taken from each paycheck) was $319/month (based on 10 years or 40 quarters). This was reduced to $141/month because of the WEP provision. My other two pensions help, but certainly would not allow me to live the high life. And, yes, I did also save privately for my retirement thank God. The point is how can the US penalize me for earnings in other countries on which I paid that country's social security taxes? I wasn't even a US Citizen at the time. I don't think this law makes any sense and I hate the implication that the benefits I have earned by paying taxes is a "windfall" of any kind. I submitted a Request for Reconsideration with my reasons and, after 8 months received a reply stating that "our first decision was correct." I've since discovered - not from Social Security - that, apparently even though I worked 10 years in the US and earned retirement benefits, if I did not work a total of 30 years in the US, then WEP will still be applied. I rather like the suggestion of a class action suite.
Go to www.fedbens.us and click on #8. You will find it is an excellent explanation of, and calculator for, the Windfall Elimination Provision.
WEP provides for "small" govt pensions by being limited to one half the govt. pension. For example, if your WEP reduction would ordinarily be, say, $345, but your govt pension is only $500, the WEP reduction will be held to just $250.
Maybe it is not as bad as you think. Good luck.
I am outraged. I am 61 years old, planning retirment in the coming years. When I do retire, I will have worked for the state for maybe 15 years. This will give me a SMALL govt. pension. What is killing me is all of my life (since age 16) I have paid into social security. I worked as a professional, but low salary jobs for most of it. So, now when I retire, my SS will be cut simply because the last working years were for govt. This is a horrible outrage.! People in the private sector who get a privat pension from a company, and then go nto public service, don't have any cuts in pensions.....why am I punished for serving my entire years for the public??
(teaching, human services, educational counseling). This HAS TO CHANGE to be fair. Helen G.
Is it possible to sue the Federal Government for stealing our SS retirement? I think we should organize and see if we can take this to the Supreme Court if necessary. Do you think we could create a 'class action suit'?
I don't have any faith in our so called leaders to repeal this unfair law. It has been dragging on too long and the repeals just stay in committee because they don't intend to get them out of committee and vote on them. As long as it doesn't cost them any of theirs they think it is okay to take ours.
So we need to try something else and bypass them. If you have any new ideas I would appreciate your comments.
If aperson pays into SS why should they be penalized because they also worked a job that had a private pension fund, The money that a person paid into SS should not be denied!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is theirs!!!!!!! Please some one out there please reintroduce the elimination of this unfair practice !!!!!!!!
Dave H., it is not as bad as it seems. The 90% vs. 40% does not - repeat NOT - refer to your whole earned benefit. It refers to just the first tier, with the second and third tiers unaffected.
A good explanation, and a good calculator, are at my web site: fedbens.us (click #8 on the menu).
I've paid into SS for over 20 years, both before and after working in a government non-SS taxed career. At 20 years, twice the required time for SS qualification/vesting, I can draw a whopping 40% of my earned benefit. If I work for 30 years, THREE TIMES the required minimum for benefits, I still can only max out at 90% of my earned, I say EARNED, beneft. The clarification in CAPS is for you boneheads out there who still don't get the part where the "guvment" TOOK my SS money and kept it, returning 40% of a benefit I PAID for. It was a clar case of robbing form a small body of people, relatively speaking, and spending it where "they" wanted. Why should they care? too few votes to matter......that is why this country was based on a Republic, not a Democracy. Whne 6 out of 10 people vote to steal form the minority 4..........get my drift?
"pays to live green" said "GovEmployee" makes a good point that they are not actually paying into social security so why would you receive the full benefits? But they both neglected (either un-intentionally or on purpose)to mention that most of the people complaining are those who paid into the Social Security System for 10 to 15 years! They are receiving only 40% of the benefit they paid for!
Everyone likes to forget that Social Security is supplemental payment, not a retirement. It was always intended that a retiree have other sources of income. I had savings, PERS, and Social Security. This is exactly what Social Security was intended for. They actually described it like the "three legged bar stool". I f you remove any one leg the retirement plan would be difficult. For me they took most of the third leg away, so they could have that money for all those whinney Democrats who wish to provide for all those residents who never had a job, don't want a job, and expect free health care because they are "entitled" to everything for free.
To all the do gooders who say people want their cake and eat it too: Anyone else in this country can draw their pension(s) from their private employers and get their full social security checks!
In fact Ronald Reagan (the man who signed this discriminatory law into being) got his full Social Security, State of California, Federal Pension, Screen Actors Guild Pension, etc... (Nacncy continues to draw these to this day).
Typical Republican bullshit!
I forgot to mention, that if they had some kind of warning for people like me about this, I would have paid into US SS to get the additional credits necessary to not be affected by WEP. But they don't want you to know so they can hit you over the head when it is too late and keep half of the benefits you worked for and are entitled to, and thus enrich themselves with higher salaries and pork barrel projects for their cronies. I'd like to see one of those crooks in Washington try and live on the pittance they have reduced me to. Fuck em all is what I say.
I'm trying to collect signatures on a petition, to make people aware of the situations, as well as appeal to congressional representatives:
Greetings, All, I just learned that Social Security is reducing my benefit because I get a pension from California, where teachers have their own retirement system. I am furious and am hoping to bring some attention to this unfair practice.
There is a bill in the House to repeal it that I'm hoping will serve as an avenue to bring some attention to this robbery. So many people are being affected by this. Check out: http://www.ssfairness.com/ I created a petition to The United States House of Representatives which says: "We the undersigned urge you to repeal unfair offsets – the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision – that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits that public employees have EARNED." Will you sign this petition? Click here: http://signon.org/sign/social-security-fairness-4?source=c.em.mt&r_by=695993
Please spread the word!
The problem is that they mostly all say they are in favor, but then the bill is presented and stays at point one and never goes anywhere. So, they can say they favor eliminating it but without risking anything since they then take no action.
Hallo there, J,
I am in the same position as you. I had NO IDEA that the WEP applied to me (us) as all the literature available (if you know enough to to ask for it) does not mention foreign pensions.
I was born in England and worked there for 10 years so now receive a modest UK pension and have been working here, in the the US, for over 25 years too. I put in for my SS at 62 and was told that they would withhold some of my (earned) SS as the WEP apples to me. I questioned at length, appealed, all to no avail.
I am interested in more information, if
possible, regarding the deferment that you mention. My email is email@example.com. Thank you, in advance, for any assistance.
I totally agree. Just found out I'm screwed out of my own Social Security money, due to my survivors civil service annuity. How am I suppose to live on just that for the next 20-30 years, especially since it just went down $40/mo. $8. was increase in hospitalization insurance...the rest...taxes.
@Ed McClain I am retired Federal, but the WEP also hurts anyone who had a private pension plan job and who also worked in Social Security jobs for a portion of his career--this means teachers, firemen, military, police, etc. who have their own plans. Despite their having paid into both systems, they are penalized since Reagan termed their getting two checks as an "advantage" or windfall. This is utterly ridiculous; we are not receiving what we earned by paying in hefty amounts of FICA year after year. In my case, my SSA was cut by $200 a month and my federal pension was cut by $400 a month. Susan
Leta, I have just found out that my retirement benefits from my time working in the UK will be taxed (US ss benefit reduced) at over 50%. Again, as is repeatedly stated on here, this to me is stealing. I am so sorry that I have honest with my taxes over the years. If I'd known they were going to steal from me, I have cheated as much as possible.
I do not think the politicians here in the US will do anything about this injustice; there are too few of us and we are scattered throughout the country, so there are no votes in it for them.
I too am interested in looking at a possible class action suit, so please reply if you are serious. I would also like to appeal to people in a like position to me to do similarly.
If there are any European ex-pats on here, they should be looking at pursuing this through the European Courts, where there also might be the possibility of legal aid. At worst they might threaten to retaliate against US citizens living in Europe and that might grab the attention of the Press.
I can just see the European headlines:
US Government Steals Pensions From European Retirees!
Tell me why I was told on the phone that I would get zero of my social security, due to my civil service survivors annuity? Is this true?
They told me on the phone today that I get NOTHING from my social security. I have an appt. with the local office next month to find out for sure.
I know they screwed my late husband out of most of his.
I have some good news....I AM getting social security....in fact, I could have been drawing since age 60 on my late husband record. His was only around $350, but mine will be in the high $600's. Never trust what you are told on the phone. I will pinch myself, until the first check hits my bank account in July. At 66 I will switch to my own social security benefit.
Do you really think the European courts would interfere with american social security? I have my doubts. If it were the other way around, that is, they were cutting the European pensions, they might. What do you think?
Well, I do get Social Security after all. In fact, I lost 2 years I could have drawn on my deceased husband. His Social Security was cut, but I do get 1/2 of the orig. amount now. I will not get the 2 years I lost.
Do NOT believe what anyone tells you on the phone.
Senate Bill for the Repeal of WEP is S. 2010, Social Security Fairness Act.
@Larry Slattery Larry, I too am from the UK but left in December 1975 and returned and worked in the UK for about year in 1979/80. When did you work in the UK?
As far as I'm aware WEP is not applicable for any pension based on Voluntary Contributions or Residency. If I remember correctly, the UK pension before April 1975 was not based on work but credits you accrued from the April 5 tax year after you reached fifteen years old.
The pension analysis I received from the UK only states credits up to April 5 1975 after which they just show earnings related contributions. There was a voluntary Graduated Pension scheme that was phased out in 1978.
Also from my reading of the US Social Security instructions on anyone who has a pension based on work post-1956 from a country that does not have a Totalization Agreement with the US, and after December 1994 for a country that does have a Totalization Agreement, is subject to WEP on the earned portion of their pension.
As the UK has a Totalization Agreement with the US, if you have earned pension prior to January 1995, WEP does not apply. That's my reading of it and I could be wrong. Here's the link
There is yet another repeal process going on in Congress, House HR 1332 and Senate S.1210, so the best bet, other than a class action suit debating constitutionality, is to write to your senators and representative.
Irrespective of the opportunistic nature of WEP (how does cutting benefits help the low paid worker with 35 years continuous low wage employment?) the fact that it does not take into account the years worked in a foreign country's pension scheme - or for the Feds for that matter - as Substantial Earning years is clearly discriminative as those pension dollars were used to calculate WEP, while the associated years by their absence in the calculation were not.
Also here is the link that Marfa Levine had set up for a petition:
Every bit helps.
I would appreciate it if you could let me know the process you endured with receiving your UK Pension and the onset of WEP.
Hi Elena, I did nothing about it at the time, but now that I am retired and with more time on my hands, I intend to do so. I am just trying to figure out where to start. I talked to a UKSS person who told me that US expats in the UK are not taxed on their US pensions. I think we are too small in number here, and uncohesive to do anything about it without the use of the class action tool. My initial feelings are that the only way to get the attention of Congress is to press for the EU to reciprocate by applying a similar tax burden on US retirees in Europe.