Help pick apart email (Social Security and Congressional plan)

Got this email today and thought someone here might have the information to pick it apart at their finger tips. I did a quick search on Snopes, but either I didn’t type in the right stuff or they don’t have an article on it. Being naturally lazy (and knowing how a lot of 'dopers LOVE to pick these things apart), I thought I’d ask first, before trying to dig through miles of google links to find the information.

Here is the email:



Basic gist, Congresscritters do pay into and collect from SS like everyone else, and their pensions don’t pay out the ending salary,

They do get fairly decent pensions, but it’s a pretty high profile job with good pay, so that’s not really surprising.

Also Senator Byrd is 91 and still serving in the Senate. If you calculated how much money he’d collect if he retired today using the average American male lifespan, I suspect you’d get a negative number.

Thanks! I just got my aunt’s email, and she immediately sent me this thing. I haven’t had a chance to check it out, but I’ll look at the snopes link.

:smack: I checked Snopes…damn, totally missed that. Thanks! And thanks for the quick and dirty summation as well.


I suspect that the factual assertions in the email are (on the whole) true. I do know that (apart from members of Congress) there are a lot of Federal Government employees who are not in Social Security because they have their own retirement plan. What political conclusions you draw from these facts is another matter.

ETA: My views on the factuality have changed after reading the responses that came while I was writing.

Of course, the whole premise of the article is stupid from the very beginning. It was never the intent of Social Security to pay 100% for an idyllic retirement lifestyle. It’s meant as a safety net for the poor and a supplement for the middle class.

And if benefits were increased, the cost to current workers and employers would increase. You could just argue that they should save that difference themselves rather than let the government control it.

So the proper response to the e-mail (even if it was factually accurate) is “Quit whining and start saving!”

It is correct that many Federal employees are not in Social Security. The Civil Service Retirement system, set up originally in 1920, was exempted from Social Security benefits. Barb retired under this plan, and had insufficient quarters of SS-covered work to be eligible for SS benefits. It was replaced by the Federal Employees Retirement system in 1987, though employees like her who had already built up CSRS coverage were permitted to continue in CSRS (though they could voluntarily transfer to FERS if they so chose).

This is correct. So all government employees who began their employment in 1987 or later are now under Social Security. In addition, many (if not most) older employees switched over. Those employees who had less than 10 years of service as of 1987 could switch over and get a reimbursement of all prior payments into CSRS. The main difference, other than SS benefits, is the pension plans. Those under the older plan would get a pension at a certain percentage of their highest 3 years salaries, which percentage increased with the term of service (no SS benefits). Although under the new plan, the percentage is very small and does not increase (I don’t recall all the details), but those employees could contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan, up to 10% of their salary, and the government would match up to 6%. Those proceeds could be distributed among stock, bonds, or short term notes as the employee chooses. As long as the stock market was rising, those who put their money in stock did very well, but that’s not the case now. In addition, those employees get SS benefits. There are more details, such as having their SS benefits reduced if they were previously covered by SS due to private employment, unless they had 25 years of private employment. I believe that is correct, but it’s been almost 7 years since I retired.

Also some other kinds of state and local government employees are not in Social Security. For example, some California public school teachers are covered by a separate retirement program. However, it certainly does not not seem to be better managed than Social Security.

The obvious error in the email is that paying out more benefits wouldn’t “fix” social security. Social security isn’t “broken” because it doesn’t give retirees enough money, it’s broken because it won’t have enough funds in its coffers to pay even that. Lol. Clearly, another example of spam sent around by old people. (Why do they love chain letters so much?)

That doesn’t necessarily preclude coverage by SS. Federal employees have a separate retirement program too, but if they are under FERS, they are also under SS.

Many have said that individuals should get the same retirement benefits as congressmen and representatives (and other federal employees) because, if under FERS, they put a percentage of their wages in a “thrift savings plan” and the goverment matches up to 6%, in addition to SS. This is a really good retirement plan. Many companies have similar plans, and my first job at CT&T Co had something very similar.

Perhaps. My wife and brother-in-law are both public school teachers; neither of them pay Social Security. Instead they pay an equivalent amount towards their teachers retirement fund.

A few years ago, no state employee could be covered by SS(as was no federal employee). However, that was changed and each state can choose for itself whether its employees will be covered.