NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 21, 2006

Members of Congress occasionally lose elections, but they never lose retirement and health benefits that most Americans can only envy, says the Associated Press (AP).

For example:

  • A lawmaker who retires at 60 after just 12 years in office can count on receiving an immediate pension of $25,000 a year and lifetime benefits that could total more than $800,000. That doesn't include 401(k) benefits.
  • And any member who lasts five years in office also can get taxpayer-subsidized health care until he or she reaches Medicare age.

Congressional pensions tend to be far more generous than those offered in the private sector, says the AP:

  • Benefits start earlier and -- unlike most private pension plans promising a fixed monthly payment based on years worked and pay -- come with annual cost-of-living increases.
  • They also accrue a third faster than the average plan offered by private companies.
  • Any member of Congress with five years of service is eligible for full benefits at 62. Those with 20 years in office can get full benefits at 50, younger than most workers.

It doesn't matter what a lawmaker does before or after leaving office. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who was sentenced to eight years and four months in jail after pleading guilty to bribery charges this year, is still entitled to an annual pension of about $36,000 for his 15 years in the House. That doesn't include his military pension or 401(k) benefits, says the AP.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land), who is resigning after 22 years, will qualify for an initial pension of $56,000. DeLay could get pension payments of nearly $2 million over his expected lifetime, according to the National Taxpayers Union, which tracks congressional pension issues.

Source: Associated Press, "For Lawmakers, Retirement is Sweet," Dallas Morning News, April 19, 2006.


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