- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Each month for the past 20 years, Uncle Sam has legally raided the Social Security benefits of nearly a million people whose "crime" was that they were federal or postal employees, schoolteachers, or city and state workers.

For people who get the required (40 quarters) of Social Security coverage, the hit can amount to a monthly deduction of $270 from their benefits.

The legal authority is the so-called Windfall Elimination Provision.

For others who don't qualify for their own Social Security benefit but count on part of their spouse's benefit, the Government Pension Offset law often wipes it out.

At the time the laws were enacted, they seemed like a good idea. There were a number of cases where high-paid federal workers received maximum federal annuities (based on salary and length of service) and also got a "windfall" because of the welfare tilt in Social Security to help low-wage earners.

Congress also found evidence that many feds legally were getting both maximum Social Security benefits because of short-service (at low wages) and getting large civil service benefits because of their high grade and long service in government.

After years of fighting for modification not repeal of both laws, those affected have a shot at what they see as a badly needed reform.

A record number of House and Senate members have signed on to bills that would modify both formulas.

Offset and windfall would still be applied, but portions of the combined monthly public and Social Security benefits would be exempt. It would help many federal retirees, and mean the difference between poverty and some measure of dignity for low-income retirees.

Bigger government

Many of the people who cheered the Clinton administration's downsizing efforts which eliminated 400,000 civil service jobs are now demanding that Uncle Sam bulk up.

They want the government to run airline security, to handle a much-expanded sky marshal program, to have more experienced hands at the Pentagon, the CIA and other agencies.

The Justice Department will grow as more border patrol officers and FBI personnel are added because of the terrorist attacks on the Washington area and New York City.

The uniformed military services Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard are about 40 percent smaller than when the United States began the Gulf war. That is going to change. Fast.

Congress is throwing money at the military and security services, and actions perhaps here, certainly in other parts of the world will mean more federal workers, and more military personnel.

Bipartisan demands for "action" mean that downsizing, as we have known it, is definitely out of fashion.

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