Social Security penalty stings retired Texas teachers

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When Myra Pilant prepared to retire as a special education teacher in 2013, she typed her income data into the Social Security calculator and expected to receive about $1,000 a month once she retired, in addition to checking her teacher’s retirement pension. .

But because of a Social Security rule known as the Windfall Elimination Provision, her check is actually less than $500. The windfall elimination provision — along with a related program called the Government Pension Offset — reduces the Social Security benefits annuitants receive if they also receive a public pension from a job in which they have not paid Social Security, as is the case for millions of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

While a vast majority of Texas public school teachers don’t pay for Social Security, there are still many like Pilant, who held jobs that did pay for the program before she became a special education and science teacher in San Antonio. Many others have a second job during their teaching career or have a second job later on.

“I hadn’t even heard of the windfall elimination rule until I was getting ready to retire,” Pilant said. just like people who did not receive a pension from the state. Teachers don’t usually get paid as much as other professionals, so why should we be penalized?”

RELATED: Texas and Louisiana rank the lowest nationwide in teacher retirement benefits

About 2.75 million people nationally are affected by the rules for eliminating windfalls or retirement compensation, with more than 200,000 in Texas alone. The windfall deduction alone can add up to $512 a month from their Social Security payouts, while the retirement compensation can in some cases cancel out Social Security benefits. Most of those affected in Texas are retired teachers.

Monthly income deductions are some of the ways retired teachers in Texas lose out, as no teacher who has retired since 2004 has received a cost-of-living adjustment on their monthly check, despite historic inflation levels in recent years.

Social Security is a notoriously difficult subject for Congress to pass laws, known as the “third rail” of American politics — touch it, you die — but there is optimism from members of Congress and lawyers that this may be the time to end the windfall provision, possibly with a repeal that would be incorporated into a broader, bipartisan budget agreement to be approved before the end of this year.

The Democratic chairman and the top Republican of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Representative Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, both support bipartisan Social Security reforms. But Brady will retire at the end of this term and the committee will take on a new leadership after the Republicans won the majority in January.

“There’s still time left and there are vehicles that could potentially take this thing for a ride and be part of a larger package of things that are going to be done in the lame duck,” said Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. “But as an interest group trying to help our members, the clock is definitely ticking. Time is running out.”

‘KICKED IN BATTLE’

After Sharon Newman’s husband died in 2017, she visited her boyfriend – who was also her financial planner – for advice.

Newman, a retired executive of Northeast ISD in San Antonio, receives a monthly retirement check from the Texas Teacher Retirement System.

Newman’s husband had been a civil engineer and commercial real estate developer, and his income—considerably higher than hers—had enabled the couple to live comfortably. After his death, a financial advisor told Newman that she was entitled to either her own Social Security benefits or her husband’s or her husband’s, whichever was greater, as is normally the case.

But the next day, the counselor called back and said she had made a mistake and that Newman couldn’t draw her husband’s full Social Security benefits, not even her own.

“I felt like I was being kicked in the stomach. Because not only did I lose my husband, but I also lost access to his pension and the income he was making before he died,” said Newman. “Nobody wants to think that, because you’ve dedicated your whole life to public education, that when a tragedy like the loss of your spouse comes along that you thought you were entitled to, you’re not.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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