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It’s a strange irony that some teachers, police officers and firefighters might receive a fraction of the Social Security benefits that equivalent earners in the private sector get. After all, they work for the government.

Current federal law says people whose work was not subject to Social Security taxes and who receive other retirement benefits — such as a state or local government pension — get their Social Security benefits chopped. It can affect the benefits of their spouses and widows too.

That’s been the case for about 40 years, which is almost an entire career for some. But a proposed bill called the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 82) would change these rules, allowing public servants to take the full amount of Social Security benefits they would otherwise be entitled to.

Even if your own benefits aren’t affected by this law, it’s worth understanding the impact it could have on the finances of the Social Security program. Following is a look at what’s in the bill and where it stands today.

What is the government pension offset?

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There are two provisions in current law that the proposed bill would remove. One is the government pension offset (GPO) and the other is the windfall elimination provision (WEP), which we’ll get to…

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