Union staunchly backing Kevin Brady bill requiring that officers receive fairer share of Social Security benefits

Tom Kennedy

The Houston Police Officers Union stands in full force behind H. R. 711, a current measure in Congress designed to restore more fair and equitable Social Security benefits to police officers, firefighters and teachers – public servants covered by their own pension programs.

If passed, the measure would make sure that police officers and their public service counterparts would receive the actual amount of Social Security benefits earned in extra jobs but unfairly withheld based on a governmental formula from 1983 that limits such benefits because, when retired, they collect a police pension.

The primary sponsor of the bill is U. S. Rep. Kevin Bailey, a Republican representing the 8th congressional district (Conroe and Montgomery and Walker counties), who said, “Teachers, officer and firefighters worked their whole life in extra jobs or summer jobs to earn Social Security.

“If you are confronted to run in a burning building, to confront a violent criminal or teach our children, should you get less of your Social Security than the average worker? The answer is no!

“It is time to treat everyone fairly and equally.”

Brady, the new chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said currently the Social Security benefits paid police officers and other public servants amount to approximately $400 less per month than what they are justly entitled to.

The veteran congressman spoke at a March 29 press conference at Houston Fire Station 84 to stress the need for support of the bipartisan measure, which has been co-sponsored or supported by each member of the Harris County delegation. Supporters believe it will pass through Brady’s committee this summer and might reach President Barack Obama’s desk by the fall.

HPOU President Ray Hunt also was present at the news conference and made clear the Union’s stance on the issue when he spoke before the news media.

“The Texas Law Enforcement Council is represented here today because those who protect and serve deserve fairness when they retire,” Hunt said. “Most Texas peace officers pay into Social Security on their second and third jobs, so all they ask for is to not be punished for supporting their families while protecting everyone else’s families.”

    “This proportional approach will help Social Security over the long term while helping those who protect us and teach our kids,” Brady concluded.

Sentiments expressed by both Brady and Hunt were virtually echoed by Alvin W. Wright, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

“Houston fire fighters appreciate Rep. Brady’s leadership on this important issue. H.R. 711 is a big first step toward resolving the inequities that fire fighters, police officers and teachers face with our current Social Security system,” Wright said. “We urge Congress and the White House to pass and enact this legislation as soon as possible.”

The Badge & Gun verified that the proposal indeed has the support of both Democrats and Republicans in the Harris County delegation, each of whom agreed to a bipartisan approach to being fair to public servants who deserve all the retirement benefits available to them.

H.R. 711 is commonly referred to as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act which guarantees public servants will receive Social Security benefits that reflect their actual work history. Social Security benefits will no longer be figured by the arbitrary formula established in 1983 and known as WEP or the Windfall Elimination Provision. The bill repeals WEP and will require that these benefits be based on each worker’s Social Security contributions – just like everyone else.

Brady explained that under the Public Servant Fairness Formula, a worker’s benefit amount will be calculated using total lifetime earnings and then adjusted for the proportion of earnings that came from a job covered by Social Security. He said public servants who turn age 62 on or after January 1, 2017 will benefit from the new Public Servant Fairness Formula.

“It saves $3.5 billion through 2025 and improves Social Security’s solvency over the long run,” the Ways and Means chairman explained.

The bad formula (WEP) harms people who pay into a substitute Social Security plan,” Brady said. “This formula inadvertently hammers them.

“I’ve worked closely with teachers, police officers and firefighters to get this bill in Congress. It has bipartisan support. My co-sponsor is a Democrat from Massachusetts. H. R. 711 restores $20,000 or more in Social Security benefits public servants have earned in their lifetime.

“Now it must get through Ways and Means to the floor of the House, then the Senate and the president. We’re getting a very favorable response.”

“It takes hard work and the right principles get bi-partisan support.”