Ninety Members of Congress Collecting Both Pensions and $174000 Salary in 2012: $3.6B in Double-Dipping Retirement Benefits?

In both the U.S. Senate and the House, about 20 percent of elected officials collected both a pension and their 2012 salaries of $174,000, with a dozen “newly elected freshmen” receiving government pensions on the list. Both Tea Party Conservatives and Democrats are racking it in from taxpayers, but Democrats draw more by 2 to 1. State Government pensions  are often earned and added to the Federal pensions. Perhaps off-topic, but not much – be reminded that the Obama administration has great interest in managing YOUR 401(k) – seriously considering, as in the Senate holding a recess hearing about it in 2010.



The practice of piling a pension atop a paycheck is legal, if unsavory to many. Taxpayer groups and some conservatives have condemned the practice as “double-dipping”; they say elected officials shouldn’t simultaneously draw a public pension while cashing a government paycheck, because taxpayers ultimately foot at least part of the bill for both. “You’re paying them twice,” says Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. Fixed pensions are a fading memory for most American workers, who are still smarting from losses to their 401(k)s during the credit crisis—even if those accounts have since recovered. The fact that federal lawmakers can draw large retirement payments atop generous taxpayer-funded salaries only helps fuel the widespread sense that the ruling class in Washington puts its own interests first. Source: National Journal

Prior to 1984, members of Congress did not pay into Social Security, were not eligible for SS benefits and were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Beginning in January 1984, all members began contributing to Social Security and fell under a new retirement system, the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986.

Congressional pensions, like those of other federal employees, are financed
through a combination of employee and employer contributions. All Members pay
Social Security payroll taxes equal to 6.2% of the Social Security taxable wage base
($97,500 in 2007). Members covered by FERS also pay 1.3% of full salary to the
Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund. Members covered by CSRS Offset
pay 1.8% of the first $97,500 of salary, and 8.0% of salary above this amount, into
the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund.

Under both CSRS and FERS, Members of Congress are eligible for a pension
at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible
for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after
completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of
service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting
amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final

As of October 1, 2011, 495 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal
pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service. Of this number, 280
had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $70,620.
A total of 215 Members had retired with service under both CSRS and FERS or with
service under FERS only. Their average annual pension was $39,576 in 2011. Source: CRS Report for Congress 2011

Note that the average annual pension in October 2011 has increased from $60,972 to $70,620. Considering nearly non-existent yields on Bonds over the last five years, that’s not bad. In 2006, only 123 members of Congress had retired with service under both the CSRS and FERS or with FERS only. In 2011, that number almost doubled to 215.

Are our public servants double dipping? You serve in the military and receive a pension, you serve in a state government and receive a pension, you serve in the U.S. House or Senate and receive a salary and when you retire from the federal position, you also receive a pension – double dipping? It’s legal. Why are you not an employee of the gubmint?


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  • Robin H

    It all starts at the local level. We have a retired police officer who is collecting a pension that works in our school as a security officer. He collects both his police pension and a paycheck. He will be eligible for 2 pensions when he retires from the school. He’ll be making at least $100,000 for the rest of his days. Not a bad gig. Oh, and we have about 40,000 residents in our town.

    • Robin H, I don’t know a lot about government pensions, but at this point I am not opposed to them, other than the fact that these pensions and other government benefits were designed to be an attraction to a job that generally didn’t pay market salaries. Now, of course, these people make more than the public sector – although that’s probably not true for fire and police. Only 40,000 to pay the benefits sounds like the Unions designed the fat “gig” and City Fathers were napping.

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  • dcnj

    wow what a surprise.