Letter to the Editor
The (unattributed) article on page 38 of your December edition of your fine magazine (“Congressional Reform”) is little more than a lightly edited version of one or more misleading and largely erroneous e-mails that have been circulation for nearly a decade. That you chose to print this without even a cursory effort to fact-check the basis of claims in the article does your readers a great disservice. As a retired federal employee who is quite familiar with benefits offered to federal employees, I can attest to the fact that benefits available to Congress are nearly identical to those available to all other federal employees. (Somewhat different benefits are offered to members of the Foreign Service and certain other agencies based on the unique requirements of their service.)
For starters, since the retirement reform of 1984, members of Congress and federal employees have been required to contribute to Social Security just like nearly all other Americans. (Currently certain state pension programs and the Federal Civil Service Retirement System prior to 1984 are/were exempt from SSA contributions.) As for health insurance, members of Congress are given the same menu of options available to all other Federal employees and, like other Federal employees, they are required to pay a percentage of the premiums (the amount dependent of the coverage provided by these PRIVATE plans). (Certain agencies have insurance programs that are open only to employees and retirees of that agency.) Rather than go on, I suggest anyone interested in the facts (rather than polemics) refer to Snopes.com or other fact-checking sites that debunk the claims made by the article in question. For example, on Congressional pensions see: http://www.snopes.com/politics/socialsecurity/pensions.asp and http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/28thamendment.asp
Regarding health insurance benefits for Congress see: http://www.factcheck.org/2009/08/health-care-for-members-of-congress/
Our Editor Replies: We ran the article after receiving similar material from some five or six different readers, who were prompted, we believe, by the all-time level of contempt that millions of Americans harbor toward the U.S. Congress. We should have gone to the authoritative sources you mention.