Thursday, October 20, 2016

WEP: Read it and WEEP

by Caprice Lawless

Many adjunct faculty members in the CCCS console themselves in one way, come each payday. They see the hefty deductions for their PERA benefit, and believe that at least those funds will add to their Social Security benefit once they retire. Nothing could be further from the truth. Few realize how working in the CCCS and contributing to PERA will hurt them in retirement thanks to a little-known federal initiative.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is a Reagan-era program designed to curb Social Security payments, ostensibly to the wealthiest so-called “double-dippers.” The way the initiative is calculated hurts, instead, the little guy who is forced to work two or three low-wage jobs, either concurrently or consecutively. The intersection of  PERA, Social Security and WEP is where retiring CCCS adjunct faculty are hurt throughout  retirement.

 Most adjunct faculty work under the delusion that those hefty PERA deductions will shine brightly in their golden years as additional payments they will receive atop whatever they will receive from Social Security. Instead, what we learned from the recent Adjunct Survival Workshops our chapters have hosted, is how the WEP deducts from your Social Security benefit two-thirds of the PERA benefit amount. For example, that $600/per month PERA benefit an adjunct faculty member believed would supplement his/her $1,200 Social Security benefit will, instead, mean that $400/per month will be deducted from his/her Social Security benefit. While the retiring adjunct faculty member will receive his/her full PERA retirement, the total retirement income will be reduced dramatically because of it.

            This little-known problem, which exists only in states where public employee retirement programs are set up the way Colorado PERA is, has come to the attention of U.S. Representatives Kevin Brady (R-Tex) Richard Neal (D-MA). They co-sponsored the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2015-2016 (HR 711). The bill proposed calculating the WEP differently, to correct the inequality toward public servants whose state retirement programs are arranged similarly to Colorado PERA. The bill was defeated, largely under pressure from the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), who objected to last-minute bill changes that would have provided little benefit to those adversely affected by the WEP.

            Look for HR-711 or related legislation to be taken up again by Congress after the general election next month.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if the CCCS were forthcoming in details such as this with its adjunct faculty?

For more information on the WEP:

For more information about the intersection of WEP, Social Security and PERA:

Colorado PERA or phone the Colorado PERA office: (303) 832-9550.