Friday, July 23, 2010

US Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision

For retirees living in the USA and receiving social security as well as a government pension from another country such as Canada, there is a reduction in the amount of social security resulting from a painful law that cuts social security up to half of the amount received from the other pension.

A similar cut due to a law called the Government Pension Offset, is also made on a spouse's social security if the spouse is receiving another government pension, and in this case the reduction can be up to two thirds of the secondary pension amount.

After working for many years in Canada the logic of the WEP and GPO doesn't seem fair to me since I paid into the Canadian pension system and it can mean a large reduction in my social security and also on my spouse's social security. At a time when we already have lost some of our US pension, are about to get clobbered by the Nortel Canadian pension reduction, and also lose our medical benefits, the WEP and GPO are like pouring salt on open wounds.

There have been a number of attempts to have the WEP and GPO repealed but so far it hasn't gone anywhere. There are about one million retirees out of 49 million who are subject to this reduction so I suppose the numbers aren't high enough to really get the politicians' attention. Even the AARP is neutral on the WEP and GPO.

If the WEP and GPO were repealed it would be an extra cost to social security which would shorten the life of the trust fund by about one year, but given all the current issues the trust fund is facing that seems to be the least of it's worries at this point.

I plan to write to the president, various senators, and congressmen urging them to repeal these laws and I hope those of you who are also affected by them will do the same.


  1. I am in a similar situation. I receive a minimal Social Security pension from the Italian government where I worked for 20 years and my US benefits were cut in half. In my research on this issue it would seem that as you state the politicians easily back repeal, to look good, but then don't go ahead, because of the eventual cost of the repeal. Also true, as you state, we are not millions and millions, so our voice is not very strong. I appealed the decision on the grounds that my Italian pension is indeed social security. The WEP does not apply to social security pensions. I have so far received only negative decisions on this. Any suggestions? Elena (sorry this form will not accept my email address, probably because it is italian).

  2. until there is a vote on this in the house it is a waste of time

  3. I am in the same situation as the person who worked in Italy. My interpretation of the WEP is the same as hers; I qualify for Swiss Social Security which is not a Swiss Pension which are the words used in the WEP but Social Security in this country insists it's the same thing. They also wish to halve my US benefits. Patricia

    1. You'd be wasting your time waiting for justice from Congress as they will do nothing for us unless they are forced or embarrassed into it.
      It really needs a class action suit or the EU courts.

  4. 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?

  5. To: Expats affected by WEP - You'd be wasting your time waiting for justice from Congress as they will do nothing for us unless they are forced or embarrassed into it.
    It really needs a class action suit or the EU courts.