Social Security Snafu Socks Seniors

Louise Corken is leading the campaign to fix the Social Security penalty for state workers. CBS

Across the country, public workers are mobilizing at meetings, because, come retirement, their Social Security returns turned out to be a lot less than they counted on.

As we reported last month, hundreds of thousands of Americans are shocked to discover their benefits have been reduced by an obscure law.

"I'm angry," says one worker.

Their anger is now a growing campaign that will only stop at repeal of the "Windfall Elimination Program."

"This isn't a windfall," says another worker. "How is this a windfall?"

"I earned the money at another job!"

The law was designed to prevent double-dipping between pensions. In a handful of states, public workers receive state pensions instead of Social Security. But many of these people took on second jobs that did pay into Social Security and were counting on both full returns.

"I paid in enough to get $785, but they are telling me I only get $460," says Don Schuldt.

The argument is that he is already getting a pension.

"I am paying in," he says. "If I am double-dipping, why should they take out for Social Security?"

The Illinois campaign is run by Louise Corkin, a 63-year-old teacher.

When asked how long she plans to keep it up, she says: "My family lives into their eighties. My mother lived till she was 92, so I've got a long time to fight."

The fight to repeal windfall elimination has been going on for ten years now on Capitol Hill. But even with 186 House members on board for repeal, none of the three bills for reform has ever made it out of committee.

So why not repeal it?

Clay Shaw is chairman of the House Social Security subcommittee who says repealing the "Windfall Elimination Program," though popular, would ultimately be irresponsible.

"It's not that easy because there is a price tag involved," says Shaw. "People that are fortunate enough to have two pension systems shouldn't be treated as low-income people and receive higher benefits.

"It's not a perfect system and we know that."

But for the public workers who took on second jobs to supplement their salaries, the system is more than just a little flawed.

"I think double-dipping is a wrong term, it's double-working," says Corkin.

And many, like Corkin, are now taking on a third career: fighting Capitol Hill to give them the benefit of their small pensions along with their full Social Security.
  • Sue Chan

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