FAQ – Social Security

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What is the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision and how does it affect me? 

If you are a CalSTRS member, you do not pay into the Social Security system. However, you may have paid Social Security taxes on income from other jobs. If you paid on earnings for at least 40 quarters, you should apply for Social Security. However, your benefits may be reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP.

The Windfall Elimination Provision is designed to prevent workers who earned a pension in a job where they did not pay Social Security taxes but who also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits from receiving a "windfall" benefit.

According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security benefits are intended to replace only a percentage of a worker's pre-retirement earnings, with lower-paid workers receiving a higher percentage of their pre-retirement earnings than higher-paid workers. Prior to 1983, people who earned pensions in jobs not covered by Social Security for most of their careers had their benefits calculated as if they were long-term, low-wage workers, which meant they received a higher percentage of their pre-retirement earnings as a Social Security benefit in addition to their pensions. The Windfall Elimination Provision was passed to remove that advantage.

As a result, the formula that Social Security uses to calculate a worker's average monthly earnings is adjusted for workers subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision, resulting in a lower monthly benefit.

Your annual Social Security benefits statement should have information about how the Windfall Elimination Provision may affect you. You can also visit the Social Security Web site for more information or to estimate your Social Security benefit.

Note that CTA and NEA have been working to eliminate the WEP for educators.

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