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01/05/2003 "Members of Congress receive lavish pensions but are not required to contribute to the Social Security fund."

This is from the Rumors website.

Our Senators and Congressmen don't pay in to Social Security, and, of course, they don't collect from it.

The reason is that they have a special retirement plan that they voted for themselves many years ago. For all practical purposes, it works like this:

When they retire, they continue to draw their same pay, until they die, except that it may be increased from time to time, by cost of living adjustments.

For instance, former Senator Bradley, and his wife, may be expected to draw $7,900,000, with Mrs. Bradley drawing $275,000 during the last year of her life. This is calculated on an average life span for each.

This would be well and good, except that they paid nothing in on any kind of retirement, and neither does any other Senator or Congressman.

This fine retirement comes right out of the General Fund: our tax money. While we who pay for it all, draw an average of $1000/month from Social Security.

Imagine for a moment that you could structure a retirement plan so desirable that people would have extra pay deducted so that they could increase their own personal retirement income.

A retirement plan that works so well, that Railroad employees, Postal Workers, and others who aren't in it, would clamor to get in.

That is how good Social Security could be, if only one small change were made. That change is to jerk the Golden Fleece retirement out from under the Senators and Congressmen, and put them in Social Security with the rest of us.

Then watch how fast they fix it.
Origins: This piece has been circulating on the Internet since April 2000. So much of it is outdated, inaccurate, or misleading, it's difficult to know where to begin.


It is not true that Congressmen do not pay into the Social Security fund. They pay into the fund just as everyone else does.

It was true prior to 1984 that Congressmen did not pay into the Social Security fund because they participated in a separate program for civil servants (the Civil Service Retirement System, or CSRS), but that program was closed to government employees hired after 1983:

In 1983, P.L. [Public Law] 98-21 required Social Security coverage for federal civilian employees first hired after 1983 and closed the CSRS [Civil Service Retirement System] to new federal employees and Members of Congress. All incumbent Members of Congress were required to be covered by Social Security, regardless of when they entered Congress.

Members who had participated in CSRS before 1984 could elect to stay in that plan in addition to being covered by Social Security or elect coverage under an 'offset plan' that integrates CSRS and Social Security.

Under the CSRS Offset Plan, an individual's contributions to CSRS and their pension benefits from that plan are reduced ('offset') by the amount of their contributions to, and benefits from, Social Security."

It is not true that Congressmen "continue to draw their same pay, until they die."

The size of their pensions is determined by a number of factors (primarily length of service, but also when they joined Congress, their age at retirement, their salary, and the pension option they chose when they enrolled) and by law cannot exceed 80% of their salary at the time of their retirement.

The figures given as an example for Senator Bradley ($7,900,000 over the course of his and his wife's lifetime, culminating in a top payout of $275,000) are simply outrageous amounts with no basis in reality.

There is no conceivable way Senator Bradley could draw anywhere near that amount of money though his pension plan.

It is not true that Congressmen "paid nothing in on any kind of retirement," and that their pension money "comes right out of the General Fund."

Whether members of Congress participate in the older Civil Service Retirement System or the newer Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), their pensions are funded through a combination of general tax provisions and contributions from the participants.

Right now, members of Congress in the FERS plan must pay 1.3% of their salary to FERS and 6.2% in Social Security taxes.

As of 1998, the average annuity for retired members of Congress was $50,616 for those who retired under CSRS and $46,908 for those who retired under FERS.

I,as a survivor of a Federal retiree; think this is a disgrace. My widow's pension which started in 1979 [almost 25 yrs. ago] at just over $400 per month has increased to $509 per month. Whoope! I wonder how they could survive on that? My deceased husband with military credits had 34yrs. service.

Posted by Vera [Freeman] Hunter @ 03/14/2004 10:35 PM CST

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