General President Edward Kelly and the IAFF continues to pressure Congress to pass the Social Security Fairness Act, which would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) Social Security provisions.
These provisions have reduced social security benefits for many public servants, affecting some 2 million retirees, including many IAFF members.
The legislation now has overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and a field hearing on the subject by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Kelly recently told CNBC that Congressional action is long overdue as many IAFF members and other public employees work extra jobs where they earn credits toward Social Security to make ends meet.
“[The government] steal[s] their money, because they’re also public employees,” Kelly said in the article. “It affects hundreds of thousands if not millions of public employees that paid into Social Security and essentially are being penalized because they also happen to be public servants, whether they are teachers, cops and, obviously, fire fighters.”
The Social Security Fairness Act now has more than 300 cosponsors in the House and 49 cosponsors in the Senate.
That support prompted House lawmakers to request leaders of the Ways and Means Committee hold a hearing. The committee held its field hearing Nov. 20 at a firehouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Committee members felt they would understand the issue better if they left Capitol Hill and heard from people who affected by WEP and GPO.
After the hearing, two of the bill’s key sponsors in the House, Reps. Garrett Graves (R-LA) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) released a joint statement saying Congress must finish the job.
“We urge the Committee to build upon this current momentum and take the final steps necessary to send our legislation to the U.S. House floor for a vote,” said Reps. Graves and Spanberger.
While most IAFF members do not pay into Social Security because they earn pensions, some qualify for benefits through secondary occupations or spousal benefits. The WEP and GPO historically have reduced benefits for these members since they did not pay into Social Security through their primary jobs as fire fighters.
Resolution 27, successfully adopted at the 2022 IAFF Convention, aimed to stop these unfair benefit cuts. It called on the IAFF to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to champion federal legislation and eliminate Social Security offsets.
“The young guys don’t pay attention to it because it’s too far out; they’re not worried about it,” Kelly told CNBC. “It’s not until you’re ready to go out the door that you actually start paying attention to what you’re going to have to live off when you actually retire.”
And those reductions are a big blow to financial health in retirement.
Accordingly, the IAFF has been working with several groups, including the National WEP and GPO Repeal Task Force to honor provisions of that resolution.
The task force held an advocacy summit on Capitol Hill earlier this fall where the General President participated alongside other union leaders. Their message was loud and clear: It’s time to stop cheating members.
“We pay into social security. But we don’t get out of it what we put into it. That’s just plain wrong,” Kelly said at the summit. “We are not asking for more, we are asking for fair. We are asking for Congress to take action and recognize the robbery that took place in the 1980s and correct those social security checks that our members earned.”
Members can visit the IAFF’s advocacy page to communicate directly with congressional leaders and pressure them to be more proactive in advancing the Social Security Fairness Act.