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AFSCME member testifies about the devastating impact of Social Security cuts

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (right, wearing a tie) poses with AFSCME members at a hearing on repealing GPO/WEP. Photo credit: Ezra Kane-Salafia.
AFSCME member testifies about the devastating impact of Social Security cuts
By Ezra Kane-Salafia ·
AFSCME member testifies about the devastating impact of Social Security cuts
OAPSE member Barb Ward (left, white shirt) testifies while Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown listens.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – For decades, two little-known provisions have punished some retirees who dedicated their working lives to public service.

The Government Pension Offset and “Windfall” Elimination Provisions (GPO-WEP) steeply cut Social Security benefits that public service workers earned from previous work in the private sector or as survivor’s benefits. The cuts can drastically shrink the retirement incomes of some public service workers, forcing people who earned a good retirement to go back to work into their 70s and 80s to make ends meet.

Fortunately, retirees and working families have a champion in Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is leading the charge to repeal GPO-WEP. He recently held a hearing on the subject and AFSCME members testified.

Barb Ward, a member of OAPSE/AFSCME Local 11, is one of those public service workers who’ll be harmed by GPO-WEP.

Since the 1980s, Ward has driven special needs students from across the Fairland Local School District in Ohio, covering over 190 miles a day. Her husband worked as a heavy equipment operator until he retired, and their two incomes were key to keeping the family afloat.

“I love what I do and our household has always depended on a second income to make ends meet,” Ward testified in person at the hearing led by Brown.


OAPSE member Barb Ward.

When her husband died 10 years ago, Ward started receiving Social Security survivor’s benefits, a little over $2,100 a month. But when Ward retires this coming August, the survivor’s benefit will be slashed to just over $520 a month because of GPO-WEP.

Ward’s total retirement benefit from her work will be $2,300, not enough to pay all her bills. She was counting on getting the full survivor’s benefit, but the cut forced by GPO-WEP will be devastating to her budget — and will likely force her to continue working instead of retiring in peace.

“My husband thought he was leaving me with a  benefit that would allow me to live with dignity in retirement,” said Ward. “We’ve always had a second income to keep us going, and to lose that is just overwhelming.”

Brown said he’s fighting to right this wrong.

“It’s absurd that for decades now, two laws have punished you and your work by cutting the Social Security benefits that you all have earned throughout your lives,” the senator said during last month’s hearing. “This makes no sense, and it’s why I introduced the Social Security Fairness Act.”

Ward testified about the impact of GPO-WEP alongside members of the other Ohio unions, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters and the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Members of OCSEA, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 and Ohio-West Virginia AFSCME Retiree Chapter 1184 also submitted written testimony.

Brown closed with a simple message for dozens of union members gathered for the hearing: “When you love this country, you fight for the people who make it work. That’s what all of you spend your days doing, and I won’t stop fighting until we make this right.”

Take Action

You can help eliminate the harmful GPO/WEP provisions, which slash Social Security benefits for public service retirees. Go here to find out how.


Learn more about the GPO/WEP issue:

Fact sheet from the AFSCME Retiree Department

A Congressional Research Service report

Social Security Administration’s explainer

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