“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.” ~Winston Churchill

A few rumors I’ve heard over the years.  Most are false, but not all.

Patently false. The Windfall Elimination Provision presents a modified formula for public servants who have pensions from work outside of the Social Security system. But none of the factors in the formula is 0%. So of course, a benefit will be paid if you earned forty credits, but it will just be modified to prevent the windfall.  

Mostly false. The two-thirds reduction in Social Security benefits occurs under the Government Pension Offset to the Social Security benefit that this police officer might receive from a husband or wife’s Social Security record, not the officer’s own earned benefits under SSA.


This is true many times. I have friends who are retirees of non-SSA covered fire pension systems who were expecting to get little or no Social Security benefit because of the Windfall Elimination Provision. But they are receiving $350 or $500 and are quite pleased. And this benefit level is attained without enough career wages that qualify as substantial earnings under Social Security.

Absolutely false. A public employee who works in a job that participates in Social Security is unaffected by any provisions that apply to those who work outside the system.

Definitely not true. The only person whose Social Security can be affected by a pension from outside of the SSA system is the person who earned the pension, not the spouse. This a rumor I hear a lot. It needs to be stated, more than once, that the Windfall Elimination Provision formula does not apply to people who receive widow or widower benefits from a pension fund for work that the spouse, when he or she was alive, worked outside of the Social Security System.

 I heard this rumor back in the 1980’s when I was Finance Director in Skokie, Illinois.  It is not possible now, nor was it possible back then, to receive a Social Security retirement benefit that is that low.  I compute $52 as the lowest possible benefit today under the WEP for a person who worked only enough time and the minimum wages to get forty credits.  Of course, most public workers will qualify for higher benefits.

But, when I first blew off the $9 rumor almost twenty-five years ago, I didn’t think about the monthly premium for Part B Medicare. This premium is most often paid by the retiree via deduction from a Social Security check. The 2023 cost is $165; back in 1989 it was $32. The reason I finally thought of this is that a retired teacher friend gets a Social Security check of about $12 after deduction of the Medicare B premium.  

So, was it possible that a retired Skokie firefighter had a Social Security benefit back in 1989 of $41 and, after the Medicare B premium was deducted, the net check was $9? Yes, that was possible.

Some firehouse rumors are better than others!