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  7. Windfall Elimination

Windfall Elimination Provision

Released: May 2024

BACKGROUND: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is a formula used to adjust Social Security worker benefits for people who receive “non-covered pensions” and qualify for Social Security benefits based on other Social Security–covered earnings. a A non-covered pension is a pension paid by an employer that does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, typically, state and local governments or non-U.S. employers.

Congress passed the WEP to prevent workers who receive non-covered pensions from receiving higher Social Security benefits as if they were long-time, low-wage earners. b In 2022, the WEP applied to 3.1 percent of all beneficiaries (2.01 million beneficiaries out of 65.99 million total beneficiaries).

HOW THE WEP WORKS: Social Security benefits are calculated by applying three different percentages to a person's lifetime average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) and adding them up to obtain the worker's monthly benefit (primary insurance amount (PIA)) at full retirement age. For most beneficiaries in 2024, the PIA equals the sum of:

  • 90 percent of the first $1,174 of AIME, plus
  • 32 percent of AIME over $1,174 and through $7,078, plus
  • 15 percent of AIME over $7,078.

The WEP PIA replicates the regular PIA but scales down the first percentage from 90 percent to 40 percent in increments of five percentage points for workers with less than 30 years of coverage (YOCs). Thus, workers with 30 or more YOCs have a first PIA factor of 90 percent, workers with 21–29 YOCs have a first PIA factor between 45–85 percent, and workers with 20 YOCs have a first PIA factor of 40 percent.

However, the difference between the regular PIA and the WEP PIA cannot exceed one-half of the monthly non-covered pension. This provision is known as the WEP guarantee and results in a smaller WEP reduction to the Social Security benefit than otherwise would have applied.

Stacked bar chart. Title: WEP P I A Examples for Different Y O Cs (Years of Coverage): For a hypothetical worker with an $8,000 AIME. Three bars, one each for 20 Y O Cs, 25 Y O Cs, and 29 Y O Cs. Each bar has three segments. All three bars start with the same-sized bottom segment: $138 (or 15% of $922). All bars have the same-sized middle segment: $1,889 (or 32% of $5,904). For 20 Y O Cs, the top segment is $470 (or 40% of $1,174) and the total WEP P I A equals $2,497. For 25 Y O Cs, the top segment is $763 (or 65% of $1,174) and the total WEP P I A equals $2,790. For 29 Y O Cs, the top segment is $998 (or 85% of $1,174) and the total WEP P I A equals $3,025.
WEP Guarantee Examples For three hypothetical workers
Worker A
(WEP reduction capped by WEP guarantee)
Worker B
(WEP reduction)
Worker C
(not affected by WEP)
YOCs 20 25 30
First PIA factor 40% 65% 90%
Regular PIA $1,321 $1,449 $1,609
WEP PIA $734 $1,155 $1,609
Regular PIA minus
$587 $294 $0
Monthly non-covered
$800 $600 $400
WEP guarantee
  (½ non-covered
$400 $300 $200
WEP reduction $400 $294 $0
Social Security benefit $921 $1,155 $1,609

a. Worker benefits are paid to an insured worker based on the worker's own earnings history. Beneficiaries eligible for spouse or survivor benefits who also receive a non-covered pension are affected by another provision, the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

b. Brown, Jeffrey R., and Scott Weisbenner. 2012. “The Distributional Effects of the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #18342.