The Carter administration is expected to back a Senate plan that would permanently reduce dependent spouse social security benefit payments if that dependent spouse gets any kind of federal or public pension.
Although the proposal is designed to close a legal "loophole" - opened up by the Supreme Court in a recent equal rights ruling - it would not stop dial payments that now go to already-retired civil servants who also collect "dependent" social security payments earned by wives and husbands.
Language to reduce the dependent social secutity payments by the amount of "any civil service (federal, state or local) retirement benefit payable to the spouse," has been cleared by the Senate. It now goes to a Senate House conference on the complicated social security financing bill. The House measure does not contain any social security cut for persons who get public pensions.
What is means is that a man, or woman, who is getting a federal or public pension could not draw full "dependent" benefits earned by a husband or wife under social security. Their social security benefit would be reduced by the amount of their pension or annuity from the government.
The Senate wrote that "offset" provision in response to a March Supreme Court ruling in the case of Leon Goldfarb, a federal retiree. Until that decision, women could automatically qualify for a "dependent" payment from their husband's social security. But men had to prove they were in fact "dependent" to get the same treatment. The high court ruled that was discrimination.
Federal officials say the desicion will cost the social security fund $700 million a year in "extra" payments to individauls - mostly federal and public employees, mostly men - who have or will have good retirement incomes but still can collect as a dependent from social security.
The Carter administration proposed a complicated offset plan of its own. But the Senate chose to write the language its way. The House did not address the question, although key House members are sympathetic to the Senate proposal. So, apparently, are high Carter administration officials who want to make sure that federal retirees do not draw "double" (that is both their annuity and a dependent benefit from social security) payments.
WRC all-news radio reported the Senate action on Tuesday. Federal workers have been calling the House, Senate, White House and newspapers since to protest the action.
Government workers are fearful that they will lose social security benefits, as dependents, which they and their spouse had counted on as a total retirement package.
Although they wouldn't necessarily lose all their social security "dependent" payments, the fact that civil service pansions are generally higher than social security payments woul
Senate - House conferees (who still have not been appointed) will have to resolve that problem, along with other major differences in social security financing legislation. But the word is that the Carter administration, desperate to plug a heavy future "drain" on the social security system by federal employees, will back it.
Federal Correspondents Association, a collection of working press people covering the government, will hold a breakfast meeting next Tuesday at the National Press Club.Rep. Edward Derwinski (R-I11.), ranking GOP member of the Post Office-Civil Service Committee, is the guest. Members should call FCA president Don Mace (Federal Times) at 554-7138 for reservations.