January 21, 2022

Democrats, Workers’ Groups Gather Around Social Security Reform

Federal worker groups this week were the last to embrace House Democrats legislation aimed at Social Security reform, which has a number of implications for federal retirees and Social Security administration employees.

Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust (HR 5723), introduced by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., and co-sponsored by 196 other Democrats, would revamp the way benefits are calculated for retirees — including former federal employees — and make it harder for the agency to reduce the number of field workers and hold hearings across the board. country.

On the benefits side, the bill would yield an average 2% increase in Social Security benefits for retirees, which equates to about $30 per month. It would also change the measure used to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments from the Consumer Price Index for Employees (CPI-W) to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which proponents say more accurately reflects the changing cost of living experienced by retirees on an annual basis. President Biden endorsed that proposal on the campaign trail last year.

In addition, the bill temporarily removes two Social Security provisions that have been a sore subject for federal, state and local government employees for years: the state pension compensation and the windfall elimination provision. The bill would delete both provisions from 2022 to 2026.

The GPO cuts the Social Security benefits of spouses, widows and widowers on public pensions — including federal employees covered by the public service pension system — by two-thirds. The windfall elimination provision lowers Social Security retirement benefits — unfairly in the eyes of public sector retirees — in cases where a former federal, state or local employee has spent part of his career in the private sector. The windfall elimination provision primarily affects federal retirees enrolled in CSRS.

On the operational side, the bill would prevent the Social Security Administration from reducing the total number of field offices below the level in operation at the end of fiscal 2021, and would require the agency to meet a set of criteria to proceed with any field office closures. . To close a field office, Social Security officials would have to provide advance public notice, an opportunity to comment publicly on the plan, as well as “a thorough consideration” of the burdens that closing a field office would entail. have for the community it serves.

Julie Tippens, director of legislation for the American Federation of Government Employees, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that the changes to the calculation of benefits are a much-needed update to the law.

“This legislation will strengthen Social Security benefits by increasing the general benefit for seniors, making the cost-of-living adjustment more accurate to make up for the inadequate benefits since 1983, [and by] increasing the minimum benefit for lifelong low earners based on the number of years in the workforce,” she wrote. “[This] The bill is a critical first step in repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision and State Social Security Compensation Benefit to provide fairer Social Security benefits to workers, including many federal employees. Federal employees under the Civil Service Retirement System have not contributed to Social Security for that income, but often have adequate non-federal income and are underfunded.”

Ken Thomas, national president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, welcomed the inclusion of proposed changes to cost-of-living adjustments.

“CPI-E better takes into account seniors’ spending habits, especially health care,” he wrote. “Simply, seniors spend more on health care – while health care accounts for about 8% of spending for the general population, it accounts for 12% of spending for the over-62s. Meanwhile, the cost of health care has risen faster than the cost of other goods.”


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