Sen. Sherrod Brown discusses the ‘Social Security Fairness Act’

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) brought Capitol Hill to Columbus on Friday, holding a field committee hearing for the U.S. Senate’s Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy.

The committee hearing focused on Brown’s bi-partisan Senate Bill 579, known as the “Social Security Fairness Act.”

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“The fundamental issue is, if you’ve paid into social security, you’ve earned the benefits and whether you’re a public employee or you work for a private company, you’ve earned those social security benefits,” Brown said.

According to Brown, more than 270,000 Ohioans and 3 million Americans are prevented from receiving full social security benefits, due to decades old laws called the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

Both laws reduce regular social security benefits for workers if they receive or are entitled to a pension, even if they work multiple jobs and do pay into the social security system.

“When young people know that they’re going to get screwed by the system somehow at some later date when they retire, it is going to make the job less palatable,” Director of Organization for Ohio’s Patrolmen’s Benevolence Association George Sakellakis said. “It is not a windfall. It is not a windfall. It’s just called something extra that you’re earning just like anybody else.”

The government pension offset would reduce survivor’s benefits who receive pension. Sakellakis said their widowed members get insult added to injury time and time again.

“We’ve had members where it’s been reduced to less than a dollar and they get a letter from social security saying that they’re going to get a survivors benefit of 87 cents,” Sakellakis said. “That’s an insult and we can’t have that.”

Brown’s bill would repeal both the WEP and GPO to ensure social security benefits are not getting cut for those who have earned them. He said the legislation is an attempt to try and bring more firefighters, police, teachers, and other public servants into the workforce.

“I want to do whatever we can to entice people to want to work there and that’s taking away this retirement penalty,” Brown said.

Advocates for the measure said without enacting it, the state will continue to face a workforce crisis for frontline and public servant jobs.

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“We’re in a crisis,” Sakellakis said. “We are in the midst of a recruitment and a retainment crisis.”

“Why does the social security system penalize teachers or bus drivers or firefighters or police officers,” Brown said.

59 total senators are signed onto the bill. Senator J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) is one of ten republican co-sponsors supporting the measure. There is also a U.S. House version of the legislation with 322 congressmen signed on.

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