Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Off With the Offsets


The long-standing campaign to repeal two old laws that cut Social Security benefits for federal retirees began anew this week.

Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and Buck McKeon, R-Calif., revived the fight with a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, bemoaning the 1977 Government Pension Offset and the 1983 Windfall Elimination Provision laws and unveiling a new bill to rescind them.

Both affect federal employees who entered the government before 1984 and are covered by the Civil Service Retirement System. Employees in CSRS do not pay into Social Security, receiving a government pension instead.

The Government Pension Offset law cuts Social Security benefits that some employees, including widows or widowers, would have received from their spouses. The Windfall Elimination Provision reduces Social Security benefits for public employees who also worked in private sector jobs where they paid into the Social Security system.

Veteran federal employees and their counterparts in state and local government loathe the laws. For years, groups that represent these workers have pushed Congress to repeal them. In the last Congress, 327 lawmakers co-sponsored a House bill to do so, but it never came to a vote.

This time around, the Democrats are in charge, and the newly introduced bill already has 182 co-sponsors. Berman and crew on Tuesday gave a valiant description of the injustices the laws impose, showcasing teachers, police officers and union folks who are hurting due to their effects.

Margaret Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, spoke for the federal sector.

"The Social Security offsets deny many of our older members, particularly women, the dignified retirement they expected," she said.

NARFE's numbers show that as of December 2003, about 400,000 people were affected by the offset and 635,000 by the windfall elimination. Those large numbers include nonfederal public workers, and mean that federal employees enjoy the support of powerful lobby groups like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the National Education Association.

Repealing the bills would be expensive. In 2003, then-Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart testified that abandoning the two laws would cost $62.2 billion over the next 10 years. The lean budget year combined with the Democrats' new pay-as-you-go rules will likely prove lethal to the effort.

So, despite newly empowered Democrats and a coalition with oomph, the lawmakers -- unprompted -- practically acknowledged defeat before the new round of fighting began.

"It will continue to face a very uphill battle," Doggett said.

"It's a tough budgetary issue," McKeon said.

"Difficult fights take a long period of time," Berman said.

So for now, the laws remain, as do their accompanying cries of indignation.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.