Mr. Gigantino's letter, "Here's how to fix Social Security" that was published in the Nevada Appeal on Dec. 8, is totally in error regarding congressional pensions. Granted members of Congress have very good retirement benefits, but not nearly as grand as Mr. Gigantino believes.
The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act, Public Law 98-21, included a requirement that all members of Congress be covered by Social Security effective Jan. 1, 1984. Members are covered by one of four retirement arrangements; they are:
1. Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) plus Social Security.
2. "CSRS Offset" plan, members are covered by the CSRS and Social Security, with the CSRS contributions and benefits reduced by Social Security contributions and benefits.
3. Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) plus Social Security;
4. Social Security.
The letter said that members do not pay into their retirement program. The fact is:
1. Members covered under the CSRS plus Social Security pay a total of 14.2 per cent of the first $76,200 of salary. They pay 8.0 percent to CSRS and 6.2 percent to Social Security.
2. Members in the CSRS Offset plan pay, on the first $76,200 of salary, 1.8 percent to CSRS plus 6.2 percent to Social Security.
3. Members in FERS plus Social Security pay on the first $76,200 of salary, 1.3 percent to Federal employees Retirement System plus 6.2 percent Social Security.
4. Members covered under only Social Security pay 6.2 percent of the gross congressional salary, up to 76,200 to Social Security.
Members do not receive full pay at retirement. Their pension benefits under both CSRS and FERS, the two major programs, is based on average salary for the highest three consecutive years of service, and the number of years of service under the retirement program. Social Security benefits are computed the same as those for the general public.
A member retiring at age 55 with 30 years in Congress would receive 71.3 percent of their high three years average salary under the CSRS, and 44 percent under FERS, plus any earned Social Security benefits at age 62.