Commonwealth government workers, preparing for retirement, have come to me concerned their Social Security benefits are less than expected because of the Windfall Elimination Provision, WEP.
I understand the bind people are in because of the decision by the Commonwealth government decades ago to keep its workers out of Social Security. Early in my career in Congress I successfully worked to get our government workers transitioned back into this important federal pension system.
But some government workers, when they start receiving Social Security, are subject to WEP, if they are also collecting benefits from the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund.
Their situation is not unique. Two million other Americans also have their Social Security reduced because they receive a pension from an employer who did not withhold Social Security taxes.
For that reason, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 82—the Social Security Fairness Act of 2021—that would eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision and allow more Marianas retirees to collect their full Social Security benefit.
And as long as we are on the subject, H.R. 82 surpassed 290 cosponsors, receiving enough support to place the bill on the House Consensus Calendar, teeing it up for a possible floor vote in the House in September. The legislation has bipartisan support, with 206 Democratic and 87 Republican cosponsors.
In the meantime, government workers planning for retirement should consult with the Social Security office for a calculation of their potential benefits. It will be different for each person depending on their work history.
Social Security also mails a statement every five years to anyone who has not set up an online my Social Security account (https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/). The statement gives you a record of your tax contributions and yearly earnings and estimates your future benefit. People over the age of 60 should receive their statement yearly.
As always, your congressional offices on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota are ready to help you when you have a problem with Social Security or any federal agency.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan is a member of the 117th U.S. Congress and is the delegate of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.