Social Security Investigation: Local women say they're penalized for working government jobs

Posted at 10:22 AM, Sep 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 17:27:58-05

News 5 has seen a flood of complaints from across the country about Social Security and how difficult it can be to get what you deserve. It all comes on the heels of our recent investigation about survivors' benefits, money that spouses should receive when their loved ones pass away.

But there's a lot more to all of this. We talked to local women who are fed up with rules that they say don't make sense, rules that take money right out of their pockets.

RELATEDCan you get more Social Security money? After our investigation, more people in our area are trying

RELATEDA local man's fight at the Social Security office reveals spousal benefits you may not know about

"Angry that other people can get it with no effort,” said Pat Sherlock from Willoughby.

She was sitting next to her friends Sharon Readence from Willoughby Hills and Jan Sternisha from Willoughby. Sherlock’s reaction was about something called the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset. They take away Social Security benefits from some people that get a pension after working their government jobs.

"Kind of penalizing me just for working for a school district," said Readence.

These women all worked decades in local schools.

"I don't want anything that isn't mine, but I put into both," Sternisha told us.

Think about this. All of these women also worked for companies before taking on their school jobs. They meet all of the requirements to get Social Security payments. However, because people worked government jobs, Social Security takes half or more of their benefits away. And if their spouse dies, they get one third or less of their spouse's benefits.

"There are people who never went to work, some by choice, and yet when their husband passes away they receive his entire social,” said Sherlock.

Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio told us the Windfall Elimination Provision is harmful to working people. "I want to fix the Windfall Provision,” he said during a recent interview.

He's even introduced legislation to repeal it and reform how payments are made.

"I want to make sure that if you're eligible, no matter what else you did, if you were a teacher or a firefighter but you also paid into Social Security and other work that you're eligible for the benefit," said Senator Brown.

There's also a bill in the House of Representatives that would get rid of the Windfall and Government Pension Offset.

The women who we talked to said the only way to get progress is for you to contact your reps in Congress and the Senate.

"Say that this is affecting more people than they might think,” said Readence.

"When we started working for the schools, this was never mentioned to us... that you would be giving up part of your Social Security,” said Sternisha.

And that part -that money- is used for real life stuff, the essentials.

"Bills, possible doctor bills as we get older,” said Sherlock. 

As of 2012, Social Security said: "about 1.5 million social security beneficiaries were affected by the Windfall Provision.”

News 5 Investigates is digging deeper into this issue, and we want your feedback. We welcome you to fill out the form below.