Saturday, April 14, 2007

ORTA to recognize Dennis Leone in the Summer Quarterly

April 13, 2007 -- According to ORTA's publications director Tom Seamon, ORTA plans to recognize Dennis Leone in the Summer 2007 Quarterly, in the "We Salute" section. According to a press release (4/5/07) from the Chillicothe branch of Ohio University, on April 24, Dr. Leone, Interim Assistant Dean for Development and Interim Director of the Ross County/Ohio University-Chillicothe Child Development and Family Service Center, will receive a special award from the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools for his leadership and service as an advocate for Ohio educators. [Click here to read more.]
While it is commendable that ORTA will recognize Dr. Leone in the summer issue, it would also be nice if they would help the rest of us to understand why his STRS Report of March 2007, containing information of critical importance to thousands of retirees and which was to be published in the Spring Quarterly, was rejected. Could it be they support the troops, but not the war?

Tom Curtis to Ann Hanning re: ORTA Officer Email & Home Addresses

From Tom Curtis, April 14, 2007
Subject: 041407 ORTA Officer Email & Home Addresses
Wouldn't you think that ORTA would want their membership to be able to contact their officers, district directors and trustees? Well, think again.
Below is my attempt to obtain such a list. An organization that portends to represent me as an education retiree will not provide a life member with a current email or home address listing of the people that operate that organization. This is just another incident in a long line of many that may ultimately cause the collapse of ORTA.
ORTA will recognize a past executive director and past STRS board member found guilty of accepting gratuities from STRS vendors in it's quarterly newsletter, but will not publish a quarterly report from one of the two retirees on the STRS board today that has done so much for retirees. Hopefully, you may be asking yourself, what has ORTA become and what does it really do for you as a member?
Tom Curtis
ORTA Life Member
From Ann Hanning, April 13, 2007
Subject: RE: Email Addresses

As a life member of ORTA, you should be receiving the Quarterly. Some of the contact information you’ve requested is in the journal – thus readily available.
The positions that ORTA officers and Board members hold are not public positions. They are volunteer positions in a dues paying membership organization.
Some leaders do not have or use email.
My response to you earlier today (4/13/07) is based & rooted in the ORTA Bylaws, Article XI, “no membership lists or directories shall be available to anyone except for association purposes”.
There is no need to respond. Enjoy the weekend.
From Tom Curtis, April 13, 2007
Subject: Re: Email Addresses
Thank you for your response.
As a life member, it would seem that I would be able to obtain the email addresses or home addresses of the many people that represent me at ORTA. Why would this not be available? If other members are elected to positions they are public positions and as such should be made readily available to the membership. This is not right. Please reconsider your decision and kindly respond.
Tom Curtis
ORTA Life Member
From Ann Hanning, April 13, 2007
Subject: RE: Email Addresses
I am not able to provide the information that you have requested.
Tom Curtis to Ann Hanning, April 7, 2007
Subject: Email Addresses
Hello Ann,
When I attempted to send my recent letter to the entire group of officers, district reps and trustees I received a notice back that at least half of them were undeliverable. Would you kindly provide me with a current listing of the email address for each officer, district rep and trustee?
Thank you,
Tom Curtis
ORTA Life Member

Friday, April 13, 2007

Jim N. Reed to Ann Hanning: You missed the point

From Jim N. Reed, April 13, 2007
Subject:Re: ORTA, Dr. Leone, CORAS, and Snowbirds

Ms. Hanning, thank you for your generic response. At least you have demonstrated the courtesy of recognizing my letter. I would think that any educator who contacts their retired teacher organization would be extended the same courtesy. Ignoring "concerns" of any educator who has taken the time to identify any ORTA issue would seem to be bad manners, bad public relations, and bad policy.

However, Ms. Hanning, it seems you have missed the thrust of my note. These are not just my or our "concerns."
Whether you want them or not, you and ORTA officials own these "concerns" as well.
Yes, one of those "concerns" is the continued foolish ploy of ignoring Dr. Dennis Leone. I am extremely interested, as many others are, as to the reasons for the lack of ORTA's recognition for what Dr. Leone has exposed at STRS and what he has accomplished in getting some corrections in an absolutely awful litany of abuses of every teacher's retirement contributions.
As co-owner of these "concerns," we are strongly suggesting that you do something different with them than what you have failed to do up to this point. "Business as usual" is not acceptable to many who belong to ORTA. I believe the number is growing.
Are you aware that recruitment of new members will become more and more difficult? A new, more aware generation of retirees are on the heels of the current crop who failed to pay attention, who failed to demand a pro-active retired educator organization prepared to aggressively advocate for all retirees. I believe the newcomers will insist that their professional organizations accept nothing less than the enforcement of ORC 3307.15 at all times.
Are you aware that many ORTA members have "dropped out," or are strongly considering doing so, frustrated at the lack of relevant, meaningful meetings and real leadership? Some of the county affiliates are so out-of-touch that there is a sense of surrealism in their social club gatherings.
Ms. Hanning, I do appreciate that you did not totally ignore my letter. But I implore you to go beyond this courtesy and begin making some serious adjustments and begin realigning ORTA's goals so that they might actually make a difference in the lives of some 120,000 retired educators. (Whether they are CORE card-carriers or not, they are ALL CONCERNED OHIO RETIRED EDUCATORS.)
Jim N. Reed

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Praise for Marc Dann....from a very conservative newspaper nonetheless!

Open government
Lima News
April 10, 2007
Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann last week sent a very clear and very welcome message to those in state government: You serve the people, and the people should see what you're doing.
Dann ordered three members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to step down because their nominations were handled in secret, violating Ohio’s Open Meetings Act. Dann wants the 12-member PUCO-nominating board to redo the nominations in public, The Columbus Dispatch reported. It’s a minor issue in terms of PUCO, as Gov. Ted Strickland is going to reappoint PUCO Chairman Alan R. Schriber and commission members Ronda Hartman Fergus and Valerie A. Lemmie after their April 15 resignations. However, Dann’s order is huge in terms of public bodies acting in full view of the public they serve.
A representative of the environmental organization Ohio Citizen Action ( made a public records request to obtain minutes from the nominating council’s Feb. 7 meeting, the Dispatch reported. The minutes showed the group went into closed session to interview 10 candidates and came out to public session to nominate, without any discussion, four people. Dann also has ordered the process be redone for Paul Centolella, whom Strickland choose for a soon-to-be-vacant spot.
Dann told the Dispatch he wants to send “a clear message to every agency in state government: Obey the Sunshine Law, follow the public records act, allow the public business to be transacted in public so that, at the end of the day, the public can judge whether you've done a good job or not.”
Good for Dann. Every government employee should be as dedicated to protecting the public’s right to know how its government operates.

Kathie Bracy to FCRTA president Tom Beck re: Membership issues

Kathie Bracy to Tom Beck, April 12, 2007
Subject: To Franklin County RTA president Tom Beck re: Membership
Dear Tom,
That was a good meeting we had yesterday, and I want to commend you for your efforts as president of FCRTA. However, there are some issues that need to be addressed. I was just looking at the FCRTA website ( at a page where you set forth your theme for your term of office as president of FCRTA -- "Make a Difference -- signing up at least one new member." It's a very noble theme, but to be honest, I'm having trouble coming up with reasons to hang onto my own membership, let alone encourage others to sign up.
The problem I have is with the leadership of ORTA. They are totally unresponsive to the membership -- at least to the members I know who would like to hear from them. Many letters have been written to ORTA officers and board members about various topics pertaining to STRS; yet nobody gets replies! This is the second time I've written to you -- you don't reply, either, because I've yet to get a response to my first letter, written one month ago today.
I think if ORTA leaders were receiving a lot of mail commending their leadership, people would be hearing back from them regularly. It takes a lot of backbone to respond to messages that are critical of the way things are being done, and in the last few years, I haven't been able to think of much for which to commend ORTA.
I am a proud member of CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators), the only retiree group that is aggressively working to bring about reform at STRS since Dennis Leone's investigative report of May 16, 2003 exposed many examples of blatant mismanagement and misspending of retiree funds. At the time, we looked to ORTA for leadership in initiating reform, but none was forthcoming and still hasn't. No wonder -- one of ORTA's own, former ORTA president Joe Endry, was one of the former STRS Board miscreants who were later convicted of ethics charges. Maybe it's easier to blame us for exposing him (along with the others) than it is for ORTA to take its lumps and move forward. I'm surprised Joe Endry has the nerve to show his face at FCRTA meetings. I might be more inclined to make an effort to bring a new member if I didn't think his would be one of the faces they would see there. Is ORTA still proud of him or what? I don't get it.
Retired STRS Board member Dennis Leone has done more than any other individual to initiate reform at STRS and to continue introducing reform initiatives at Board meetings. While he has received many distinguished honors for his efforts, ORTA has YET to recognize him for this. When he submitted his March 2007 STRS Report for publication in the ORTA Quarterly, ORTA's publications director, Tom Seamon, refused to publish it supposedly because Dr. Leone had shared it with some retirees and RTAs that had asked him to speak. When he asked Mr. Seamon why it was rejected, he never even received a response! If ORTA has a policy against publishing material that was already distributed, they never made that clear beforehand. There was a lot of information in that report that was much too important to wait a month or two to put out. Now ORTA is doing real harm to thousands of retirees who will probably never get that information any other way. Is this what ORTA wants? Is this real leadership? Is this the kind of organization I am supposed to encourage my friends to join?
To continue, when Dr. Leone asked ORTA president Don Bright if the rejection decision could be reconsidered, he never received a response from him, either! He also told Mr. Bright that he or Ann Hanning could have shown him a little respect by calling him in regard to the matter, but did they extend such a courtesy to him? No, of course not -- they are ORTA "leaders!" They have never contacted him about ANYTHING during his first 20 months on the STRS Board -- and he is representing RETIREES!! Helloooooo? ORTA -- is anybody out there??
When Dr. Leone asked Ann Hanning (in writing) if he could write another column to substitute for the first one which was rejected, AGAIN he never received a response. If this isn't proof that ORTA never wanted to publish his report in the first place, I don't know what is.
Does ANYBODY in ORTA have any backbone? ORTA doesn't respond to its own membership!! And they expect US to go out and get NEW members for their dying organization? ORTA needs to take a good look in the mirror and do some real soul searching to figure out WHY membership is declining. And they need to start with those who are the most critical, because those are the ones who will best articulate the problems ORTA currently refuses to face. Leadership? What a joke! Get us to bring in new members? I don't think so.
Kathie Bracy
FCRTA and ORTA life member (but not proud of it!)
From Tom Beck, April 12, 2007
Subject: Re: To Franklin County RTA president Tom Beck re: Membership
I would like a copy of the letter you emailed to me a month ago. I have no record of that.
Thanks for your interest.
Tom Beck
[I responded by sending him a copy, as well as a link to my letter of 3/12/07 posted on this blog. KBB]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

STRS phone survey: Are you one of the lucky 600?

Here's what it says (below) on a mail-in sheet generated by STRS, apparently for their speakers to make available to retirees; this was provided at an RTA meeting by an STRS staff member/guest speaker, April 11, 2007. Few people got them, though, as they were stacked up on a table far from the exit we had to use in place of the main exit, since the fountain in the lobby had overflowed and they were busy mopping up the mess. KBB
We enjoy hearing from you.
Listening to our members is one of our top priorities. Annually, we conduct a telephone survey of 600 randomly selected active and retired STRS Ohio members that includes a number of questions. Some of these questions are listed below. We hope you'll take a few moments to respond to them as well. We'd like to know what you think. Just complete the questionnaire and follow the instructions for mailing printed on the reverse side.
We appreciate your continuing interest in STRS Ohio!
State Teachers Retirement Board
As things stand today, do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat or disagree strongly with these statements? [After each statement are four boxes for you to check off your choice: Agree strongly; Agree somewhat; Disagree somewhat and Disagree strongly.]
STRS Ohio is financially sound.
STRS Ohio manages investments prudently.
STRS Ohio provides excellent benefits.
STRS Ohio has earned the trust and confidence of its members.
STRS Ohio uses sound business principles to manage pension assets.
STRS Ohio is one of the best retirement systems in the country.
STRS Ohio manages its operating expenses prudently.
STRS Ohio serves members in a fiar, even-handed manner.
STRS Ohio delivers what it promises.
STRS Ohio will be a strong stable retirement system long into the future.
STRS Ohio keeps me well informed about pension- and retirement-related issues.
When STRS Ohio communicates with me, it's open and honest.

In addition to the topics addressed in your speaker's remarks today, are there other topics you would like to know more about? If so, please indicate them below: [Several blank lines provided]

As the State Teachers Retirement Board looks to the future, what should be its top three priorities? [Three numbered lines provided]

Overall, are your impressions of STRS Ohio ...
___Very favorable
___Somewhat favorable
___Somewhat unfavorable
___Very unfavorable
If you would like to be registered for STRS Ohio's e-mail news service, please print your e-mail address below.
If there is anything else you'd like us to know, please share it on the reverse side.
[Then you fold it, stamp it and drop it in the mail to STRS. ]

Secret ballots or straw polls aren't permissible, she said

Interview process challenged
Republican asking whether City Council flouts Sunshine Law
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 11:46 PM
By Mark Ferenchik and Robert Vitale
The Columbus Dispatch For years, the Democrats on the Columbus City Council have gone behind closed doors to interview replacements for members who leave in the middle of a term.
So bring on an election-year issue.
Republican mayoral candidate William M. Todd said enough is enough, after reading that Democrats plan to meet in council President Michael C. Mentel's private office to interview seven finalists to replace Patsy Thomas.
Todd plans to ask Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann Wednesday to determine whether the council is violating Ohio's Open Meetings Act, known as the Sunshine Law, which is designed to keep meetings and records open to the public.
Todd likened the way Democrats name people to the council to that of Yale's secretive Skull and Bones society.
He called the process troubling, especially after Dann asked three members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to resign last week because he said they were illegally nominated in secret. The three resigned, but Gov. Ted Strickland reappointed them on Monday.
"Clearly, this whole process has been designed to avoid the application of the open-meetings law," Todd said of the council's interview process.
Mentel, however, said Democrats are following both the law and the council's own precedent. The application deadline was well-publicized, he said, and lists of applicants and finalists were made public as well.
Council members interviewed the seven finalists yesterday in Mentel's office at R.D. Zande & Associates, an engineering firm where he is general counsel.
But Mentel said they didn't discuss candidates' merits. State law allows government officials to interview job candidates in private as long as they don't deliberate or vote in private.
Mentel said he will gather information from the other council members before Monday, when their new colleague is scheduled to be selected and sworn into office. Consensus emerges in the discussions, he said, but no votes are taken.
Dann spokeswoman Jennifer Brindisi said that under the Sunshine Law, the council can interview candidates privately but must deliberate and vote in public session. Secret ballots or straw polls aren't permissible, she said.
City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said council members must be careful. "Round-robin" discussions, in which officials meet or speak over the phone in small groups, violate Ohio law, he said.
"This is a public official they're choosing," said Pfeiffer, who declined to offer his take on the council's process because members haven't asked him for a legal opinion.
Mentel said that council members are guided by an opinion issued five or six years ago by then-City Attorney Janet Jackson. Aides were trying to locate a copy yesterday afternoon.
In January, new council members Andrew Ginther and Priscilla Tyson were announced 11 days before the City Council formally voted on them. Five of the six current council members, including Mentel, first gained their office through appointment. Thomas, who resigned Friday to become a Franklin County Municipal Court judge, also was appointed.
"We've done it this way, I'd venture to say, for decades," Mentel said. "Mr. Todd is remiss on his history."
Todd said he might ask Dann to look into the appointments of Ginther and Tyson as well.
Why is Todd so concerned about how the council runs its shop when he's running for mayor?
"It really is a good reflection of what happens with one-party rule," said Todd, a lawyer and Republican insider.
Todd's criticism of council Democrats comes at a time when local Republicans are still trying to fill two slots for their own slate of candidates this year.
They want to make hay with one-party control at City Hall, just as Ohio and national Democrats did last year with Republican rule at the state and federal levels.
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican executive committee. "We heard a lot of whining in recent years about one-party control."
Republicans aren't the only people unhappy with the process.
Michael Martin, one of 11 applicants who didn't get an interview, thinks all should have been given five minutes before the council, in public session, to spell out their vision for the city.
He's a registered Democrat.
"I don't know what goes on behind closed doors," he said. "Neither does anybody else."
One of the seven finalists, Jeff Porter, called the process fair.
"I think they're being as open about it as practically possible," said Porter, a lawyer and former assistant city attorney.

ORTA leadership at its very best -- WOW, do they know how to IMPRESS!!!

Dennis Leone to Ron Catron, April 11, 2007
Subject: Re: LetterTo The ORTA Executive Committee
Thank you, Ron, for sending me a copy of the letter you wrote to ORTA. Here are 3 other amazing things regarding this issue:
1. I asked ORTA publications director Tom Seamon to please tell me why I wasn't informed that ORTA expected me to keep secret any column I write until AFTER ORTA publishes it. ORTA could not accept the fact that in the 6-8 weeks I am supposed to wait for it to appear in print (after I submitted it) that I shared with some retirees and RTAs that asked me to speak. The point is that I was never told about any gag order..........had I been told, I would have agreed, even though the whole notion is silly. I have not received a response to my question.
2. I asked ORTA President Don Bright if the rejection decision could be reconsidered given the above. He never responded. I also told him that I felt either he or Ann Hanning could have shown a little respect by calling me regarding this entire matter. In fact, neither has contacted me about anything in my first 19 months on the STRS Board -- not about any of the motions and initiatives I pushed for and advanced.
3. I asked ORTA's Ann Hanning, in writing, if I could write another column as a substitute since this one was rejected. No response. This is proof to me that ORTA really did not want to publish what I wrote in the first place.
I recall when I wrote my first column, ORTA had a disclaimer notice next to my column -- saying that my comments did not reflect an ORTA position. However, when fellow retiree Jeff Chapman wrote his column three months earlier, there was no such disclaimer statement with his column. After I complained about this, ORTA then put a disclaimer statement with Chapman's second column.
Dennis Leone

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vouchers See Mixed Success This Session

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Vouchers See Mixed Success This Session
By Pauline Vu
[View article and related links
This year the school choice movement reached a milestone - Utah became the first state to sign a universal voucher law. Unlike other voucher programs, Utah's would allow every child - regardless of income or geography - to receive public money to attend private school.
But a drive is under way to dismantle that plan before it can get off the ground this fall. Utahns for Public Schools, a coalition including the state's teachers union and school boards association, is trying to gather enough signatures to take the voucher decision out of lawmakers' hands and give it to voters.
"This is something that the voter ought to have the right to give his opinion on," said Marilyn Kofford, the education commissioner of the state Parent Teacher Association, part of the coalition.
Midway through the legislative season, school choice proponents, who say vouchers can give disadvantaged public school students a chance to attend better schools, have had mixed results.
In January, the Georgia Senate passed a bill to set up a voucher program for students with learning disabilities. In February, more than 5,000 attended a school choice rally at the Texas Capitol. In March, an Arizona judge dismissed a suit against a new law giving tax credits to corporations that underwrite scholarships for poor children.
But opponents, who say vouchers drain funds from public schools, can point to some dramatic victories of their own. In March, while voucher-supporter Gov. Matt Blunt (R) looked on, the Republican-held Missouri House voted 96-62 against a bill that would have helped 8,000 students from St. Louis and Kansas City attend private schools. Later that month, voucher amendments to a South Carolina bill failed by seven votes in the House, partly because Rep. James Smith (D) flew home from Army National Guard training in Kansas to argue and vote against them.
Also last month, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) announced he wants to end the Ed Choice voucher program for students at failing schools, which began only this school year.
"Now you're seeing a real response from the top saying 'no, this isn't a good use of taxpayer dollars and students are not achieving in these programs,' " said Nancy Van Meter of the American Federation of Teachers, which opposes vouchers.
But voucher advocates say public acceptance of school choice reform is growing.
"As more states and parents are experiencing choice and seeing the change that it has in the lives of students, I think as a culture we're opening up to it," said Matt Warner, the education task force director at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of conservative state legislators that puts forth model legislation.
Last year was a banner one for the choice movement. Of 28 states that considered bills, eight enacted laws to create or expand voucher or tax credit programs. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have some type of choice program, ranging from personal tax credits to vouchers for kids in failing schools.
So far this year, several states are considering school choice legislation. Five have bills to give vouchers to foster kids, while at least 12 are considering giving vouchers to students with disabilities. A bill for those with autism recently passed a Senate panel in Texas.
Van Meter said the current trend for voucher supporters is to push narrowly targeted programs. "They are using those as their camel's nose under the tent," she said. "They see those as a more politically acceptable way to win vouchers when they can't win on a universal voucher program."
The exception is Utah, where, after seven years of failure, a universal voucher bill passed the House in February by 38-37. Yet the situation in Utah still is volatile, because the anti-voucher coalition needs 92,000 signatures by today (April 9) to place a referendum on the ballot. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) has said if the group succeeds, he will call for a special election in June. But even if voters subsequently reject vouchers, legal questions will linger; the Legislature passed two voucher measures, the initial bill and one that amended it. The referendum only deals with the former.
A key difference is that the second bill does not include money to help public schools whose students leave for private schools. Voucher opponents could claim in court that lawmakers never would have voted for the second bill had they known public schools were not going to receive help.
Utahns for Public Schools says the second bill cannot stand on its own. But Parents for Choice in Education, which supports vouchers, and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) say it can, although Shurtleff added in an opinion that the second bill alone would be more susceptible to constitutional challenges. "No matter what happens, this will end up in court," he told The Deseret Morning News.
Despite that, supporters say the national movement can only benefit from how far vouchers have advanced in Utah.
According to Warner of ALEC: "For Utah to recognize the success that school choice has had and to not discriminate in its eligibility has really moved school choice a great leap forward."
Comment on this story by registering with, or e-mail your feedback to our Letters to the editor section at .
Source: Contact Pauline Vu at - © 2006

A little more brightness at future STRS meetings?

More than a charade
Cincinnati Post, April 10, 2007
A curious bit of political theater has been playing out in Columbus over the past few days.
You could, if you were so inclined, call it a charade. But we prefer to think of it as a morality play.
The lead actors in this little drama are Ohio's newly-elected attorney general, Marc Dann, a Democrat with a reputation as something of a flamethrower; Ted Strickland, Ohio's newly-elected governor, a Democrat with a sedate temperament but a demonstrated willingness to stir the pot; and four of the five members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio - Alan Schriber, a Cincinnati resident, political independent and veteran chairman of the regulatory panel; Valerie Lemmie, the former Cincinnati city manager, also a political independent; Ronda Hartman Fergus, a Republican; and Paul Centolella, a Democrat who once worked for the Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
Schriber, Lemmie and Fergus were appointed to their positions by former Gov. Bob Taft. Per standard practice, Taft had made his choices from lists of nominees - four for each post - that had been sent to him by the 12-member PUCO Nominating Council. Strickland appointed Centolella through a similar process, but he has not yet been sworn in.
Last week, Dann publicly called on Schriber, Lemmie and Fergus to resign, and opined that Fergus' pending appointment should be invalidated as well. Dann had taken it upon himself to review the procedures used by the nominating committee, and discovered that it had voted in secret sessions to approve the nominees. Ohio's "sunshine'' law, Dann noted, requires that such votes be taken in public session.
To his credit, Strickland promptly made it known that he would reappoint Schriber, Lemmie and Fergus if they resigned, provided that the nominating committee properly recommended them to him in an open session.
That set the stage for what happened Friday, when the trio submitted their resignations, effective April 15, from jobs that pay more than $95,000 a year. (The pay is just part of the reason PUCO appointments are prized; they are also posts that exercise considerable power over key parts of Ohio's infrastructure.)
The nominating committee is now gearing up to not only reconsider the three impending vacancies, but to redo Centolella's nomination as well.
Much ado about nothing? Superficially, maybe. But the underlying point is quite important. Sunshine laws - which declare that government meetings, records and the like should be open to the public - are hugely important, not just to the press, but to all Ohio citizens. Dann is absolutely right to insist that state agencies abide by the letter of the law. If it takes a stunt like this to drive home that point, so be it.
Strickland also deserves a round of applause here. Dann presented him with an opportunity to stack the PUCO with commissioners who are more in tune with his philosophy regarding electrical power generation, telecommunications policy and the like. By honoring his predecessor's appointments, Strickland not only refrained from politicizing the PUCO, but also buttressed Dann's contention that he was just trying to do the right thing by insisting that Ohio's sunshine laws are obeyed.

Columbus Dispatch: Health-care costs put safety forces in a bind

State pension funds
Health-care costs put safety forces in a bind
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
By Suzanne Hoholik
By the numbers
Key figures for the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund
$11.9 billion Portfolio with an investment return of 16 percent in 2006
52,343 Active and retired members
$2,689 Average monthly retiree payout
$2,463 Average monthly disability payout
$193 million Budgeted for health care for 2007
27,088 Retirees, spouses and dependents covered by pension health plan
Source: Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund
When Jim Smith's monthly health-insurance premiums increased more than $200 this year, he decided to gamble with his wife's health.
Marsha Smith is in pretty good health at 64, he said, so he dropped her from the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund and bought a high-deductible health policy for her.
It's not the same coverage, there's a $1,500 deductible and $3,000 out-of-pocket expenses, but the premiums are affordable at $283 a month, he said.
In all, the couple is saving $157 a month.
"I realized the risk I was taking, but it wasn't worth paying them," said Smith, 68, who retired from the Columbus Division of Fire in 1991.
Escalating health-care and insurance costs are causing problems for many Americans. Premiums have increased about 87 percent since 2000, and employers are shifting more health-care costs to workers or dropping insurance plans altogether.
State pension funds are not immune.
"I never thought I'd hear this, but I've had members tell me that they're making decisions on, 'Do I eat or do I buy medication?' " said Gary Siniff, president of the Central Ohio Retired Firefighters.
Despite growth in investments, retirees in the fund are picking up about one-third of their health-care costs.
Premiums average about $198 a month for a retiree under age 65 and $430 for a spouse.
As a result, many have dropped spouses from the plan, joined their working spouse's health policy or taken jobs to pay for premiums.
The pension's health fund covers 1,566 fewer people, 418 of them retirees, this year than in 2006.
Siniff, 64, who retired from the Franklin Township Fire Department in 1994, said he left the pension's health plan and signed up on his working wife's policy.
William Estabrook, the fund's executive director, called health-care costs a "budget-buster."
"It doesn't take much for a couple of bypass surgeries and cancer treatments to skyrocket" costs, he said.
The fund has $193 million budgeted this year to cover health care for 27,000 people. That's up from $163 million in 2005.
The fund pays 75 percent of premiums for retirees. It pays 25 percent for spouses and dependents. It used to pay 50 percent.
There are also higher co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles. And next year, retirees might have to use mail-order prescriptions.
"We know we're expensive," Estabrook said.
Other state pension funds, including those for teachers and school employees, also struggle with premiums.
None of the state's five pension funds are required to provide health insurance, but they do, said state Rep. Larry L. Flowers.
He said employees and local governments might have to contribute more to pension funds to offset health-care costs.
Flowers, a Republican and retired Madison Township fire chief, said it also might be time to consider raising the retirement age for members of safety forces.
Since 1988, firefighters and police officers with 25 years of service have been able to retire at 48.
That leaves 17 years before they're eligible for Medicare.
Jack Reall, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 67, said he'd fight raising the retirement age. Instead, he suggested that municipalities contribute the same amount of money to pension funds for police officers as for firefighters.
Right now, cities and townships contribute 24 percent of a firefighter's paycheck and 19.5 percent for officers.
State Rep. Dan Stewart said both ideas are tweaks to pension funds suffering from a national health-care crisis.
"We can only fix with Band-Aids for so long," the Columbus Democrat said.

Ever been shocked with an "out-of-network" additional bill after you've done your homework and selected an in-network provider?

Doctors angered by proposed UnitedHealth fines

With a new policy poised to take effect which would impose fines for out-of-network lab referrals, UnitedHealth Group has gone too far, doctors say. Late last year, UnitedHealth struck a 10-year deal with LabCorp making its locations the preferred in-network testing facilities for the health plan's 28.5 million members. While that didn't raise eyebrows, UnitedHealth's next step did. UHG has now warned doctors that if they referred to other labs frequently, it could potentially fine them $50, slice their fees or even kick them out of the network entirely. This isn't sitting well with the plans' 520,000 contracted physicians, to say the least. UHG is defending the policy as a necessary cost-cutting measure, given that other labs are charging many times what LabCorp does. It also wants LabCorp data to be complete so it can do clinical analysis of patient disease patterns. But the AMA and state medical societies have angrily demanded that UHG change its plans. Meanwhile, UHG promised to suspend its proposed fines in New Jersey after regulators questioned the legality of its actions.

To learn more about the dispute:
- read this piece from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

Molly Janczyk: responds to June Hughes: Medicare: Basic vs. Plus: Lifetime limit

Molly Janczyk: Medicare: Basic vs. Plus: Lifetime limit
From Molly Janczyk, April 10, 2007
Subject: Medicare: Basic vs. Plus: Lifetime limit
Basic has much higher deduc. and out of pocket max. Basic deduc: $1500 each + $2500 each out of pcket max Plus: $500 deduc each + $1500 each out of pocket max.
Premiums are lower for Basic:
Basic: Non-Medicare: $94 / spouse: $313; Medicare: $40/ spouse: $148 Plus: Non Medicare: $163/spouse: $581; Medicare: $67/ spouse: $301
Lower monthly cost is the attraction for Basic while 'betting' on low medical costs. If you do develop medical problems, you pay much more out of pockets.
From: June Hughes
Subject: Re: Kathie: Medicare Part A Date:
Tue, 10 Apr 2007
One more question, I know I could read this but to put it in simple terms, what is the advantage of Plus over the Basic? June
On Apr 10, 2007, at 11:31 AM, molly janczyk wrote:
Soc. Sec. Medicare only is cheaper becaue there IS NO SUPPLEMENTAL and THERE ARE NO STOP GAPS FOR MAXIMUM OUT OF POCKETS so YOU pay 20% of all costs no matter how high they go AND the initial costs.
We pay more because we have Medicare Part B. (Dr., treatments, procedures, out patient, etc.) Part B is $93.50 to all whether Soc Sec or STRS, OPERS, etc. STRS reimburses $52.80 and you actually pay $40.70
Part A (hospital coverage) is free to all including us but if you do not qualify, instead of Medicare Part A, STRS equivilant comprehensive STRS hospital and facility coverage. (So we all have hospital coverage as well).
THEN WE HAVE SUPPLEMENTAL THRU STRS which keeps our costs down to maximum out of pockets after deduc..
Most Soc. Sec. recipients out there DO purchase a suplemental as well for this reason.
For a supplemental you must pay ADDT'L premiums: We pay $40 for Basic supplemental and spouse would be $148. We pay $67 for Plus suppleemental and spouse would be $301.
Add this to the Part B premium of $40.70 for each recipient.
To have supplemental coverage you must pay for it. But, it provides stop gaps and protection of paying 20% of huge hospital and Dr., treatements, procedure, etc.
Everything I know is in the report. For further info, go to or call STRS;

Molly Janczyk and Gary Russell: An explanation of the differences between Social Security Medicare and Medicare/STRS Supplemental Insurance

From Molly Janczyk, April 9, 2007
Subject: Differences bet/ Soc. Sec.Medicare and Medicare/STRS Supplemental Insurance:

For distribution: ORTA, OEA-R, STRS have stated they will include data they determine appropriate in newsletters and or websites for membership.
Due to recent discussion, this is meant only as general information as each case must be considered based on its merit and qualifications.
The following has been confirmed by Gary Russell and Staff Members of STRS HC, presented to Shirlee Zerkel, John Curry and Kathie Bracy for review or questions and may now be circulated.
Sources: STRS HC Dept.
*Categories of Medicare:
1. Medicare/STRS: Part A & B: STRS enrollees who qualify themselves or through a spouse for Medicare with Soc. Sec. and have STRS for supplemental coverage which is included in our premiums. We, therefore, have Medicare coverage and supplemental coverage through STRS. This means you submit your claim and Medicare settles first and sends you their results stating you may owe an amount. That is for those without supplemental coverage. For STRS retirees, the claim then goes to STRS HC providers Aetna or Med. Mut., etc who look at the remaining balance. If Medicare paid 80% after the initial deduc. and charges, then sent you a claim with 20% remaining, that 20% goes to Med. Mut. or Aetna, etc. and they then pay 80% of that 20% balance. For Plus Plan recipients, then, Med. Mut or Aetna sends you an EOB (explanation of benefits) stating patient responsibility of 20% remaining after your $500 deductible is met. You then have a small amount to pay until your $1500 out of pocket max is met for the year after which STRS pays at 100%. Examples will be clearly outlined below.
2. Medicare recipients without supplemental plans such as we have with STRS. These are straight Medicare recipients qualifying for Medicare alone through Soc. Sec. who pay their deduc. and then 20% of costs with no stop gaps.
(Supplemental insurance is available at additional costs to them).
3. STRS enrollees who do not qualify for Part A through Medicare Soc. Sec. and have Part B only. STRS does not provide Medicare Part A but they have comprehensive overnight hospital/facility coverage through STRS without addt'l charge.
Only 7600 STRS recipients are Part B only and most spouses are A & B.
Premiums as stated in HC info. along with reimbursements.
Soc. Sec. Medicare and STRS retirees all pay the same for Medicare Part B : That amount is $93.50. STRS reimburses you $52.80 and you pay: $40.70
Whether you have Part A & B or just Part B, the premiums follow: There is no charge for Part A.
30 yr. retiree: Parts A & B: (Part : free) Plus Plan: $67 ; spouse: $301 Basic Plan: $40; spouse: $148

STRS comprehensive hospital at no addt'l charge if you do not qualify through Soc. Sec. yourself or through your spouse for Medicare Part A.
STRS does not have Medicare or Assisted Living info.
Medicare predicts insolvency before STRS HC.

*Possible problems are in how claims are submitted by medical providers and facilities/hospitals:
Any claim that is not precertified and determined NOT MEDICALLY NECESSARY for procedure or facility that is ordered and done by Dr. and facility will NOT be paid by Medicare or STRS HC providers. So, if this claim is denied, Medicare and Med. Mut., Aetna, etc. are not responsible and will not pay the claim and the patient is billed regardless of deduc. and out of pockets met. This can occur if a claim is not complete or reasons for medical necessity clearly provided.
The Dr. or facility then has to resubmit medical necessity reasons and diagnosis for the procedure or need for longer stay in the facility or hospital to appeal the claim.
When a claim is denied, then there is NO coverage and ALL hospital costs, facility, treatments, meds, Dr. visits,etc. associated with it are DENIED as well and billed to the patient. THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU OWE IT and you should not pay anything until all the appeals have been processed. Tell the Dr. and facility/hospital why the claims were denied and direct the Dr. and facilities to appeal with proper documentation.
Medicare related cases can take up to 2 yrs to pay without problem.
(Probably a lot of this happens: bureaucracy). If you keep in touch and communicate generally, payment is not pressed as this type of problem is all too common.
The above problems exist with both Medicare recipients and with recipients that have both Medicare and STRS supplemental coverage. Medicare requires a diagnosis and medical necessity for all procedures as do STRS HC providers. The difference is:
1. With STRS supplemental, you must precert facility; with Medicare you can generally use any facility.
2. Be sure your procedure is precerted for medical necessity prior to procedure. Medicare will also deny if not medically necessary.
MEDICARE Soc. Sec. VS. MEDICARE/STRS Supplemental (STRS retirees): Some differences:
* Hospital stays:
Medicare recipients without STRS Supplemental:
Each hospital stay has a benefit period of 1 - 60 days. If multiple stays are within this consecutive day period , it is considered as one period.
The Medicare recipient pays the first $992 for EACH hospital stay 61 or more days apart. If the patient has a medically necessary need to stay such as transplant or serious medical crisis, they pay $248 for each day from day 61 - 90. Should they be approved longer , they pay $496 each day for days 91 -150 and 100% of all days after 150. There are NO stop gap out of pocket maximums for Medicare patients.
The Medicare/STRS HC Supplemental patient pays:
Plus Plan: $500 deduc. and 20% of all costs up to $1500 for a total possible cost of $2000 assuming all procedures and facility costs are medically necessary just as with Medicare above.
* Procedures: no hospital stay is room only and many treatments, meds, Dr.s and procedures are billed:
Medicare patients:
Pay the 1st $131 and then 20% of all costs no matter how high as Medicare does not have any stop gap for out of pocket payments. Therefore if you are having lots of procedures, Dr.'s , meds, etc., you pay 20% of all of it whether $2000 or $50,000.
Medicare/STRS Supplement HC: (STRS retirees):
Plus plan: The $500 deduc. and out of pocket max of $1500 to = $2000 total applies to both hospital and procedures with no distinctions. Therefore $2000 is your max assuming your facility and procedures are precerted for medical necessity and within network. The Medicare 1st $131 is included in your $500 deduc.
Example of payment for $10,000 procedure:
Medicare recipient pays:
1st $131.
$10,000 - 131 = $9869 bal. Medicare patient then pays 20% of the $9869 to = $1973.80. The Medicare patient owes $2104.80 JUST for this ONE procedure.
**First Medicare settles their portion of claim with Medicare paying 80% after the 1st $131 for each procedure. That leaves 20% as shown above for the Medicare recipient to pay.
STRS: This is where the Medicare/STRS HC supplemental plan kicks in. STRS then pays 80% of the remaining $2104.80 after our deductible. We pay 20% up to $1500.
The 1st $131 was included in your $500 deduc. so take $500 from $2104.60 to = $1604.80. We pay 20% of the $1604.80 (because we have a supplemental plan and are not respon. for the total $2104.80 that Medicare recipients are without supplemental ins.) We then have only to pay 20% of the $2104.80 which is $320.96
Medicare recipients pay : $2104.80
**Medicare/STRS supplement retires pay: $500 + 320.96 to = $820.96 towards you total out of pocket stop gap of $1500 annually.
If a procedure is $40,000, then the 1st $131 is paid by the Medicare recipient with no supplement such as STRS and then 20% of the remaining $39,869 which is $7,973.80 for a total of $8104.80.
The Medicare/STRS Supplemental (STRS retirees) kicks in after Medicare settles. So, STRS retirees pay the $500 deduc. which includes the 1st $131. We then pay 20% of the $8104.80 up to $1500 stop gap out of pocket. $8104.80-500= $7604.80. We pay 20% of the $7604.80 to = $1520.96 but we are capped at $1500 so we pay our $500 deduc. + 1500 out of pocket max for a total of $2000.
THIS IS WHY YOU NEVER PAY A BILL UNTIL MEDICARE PROCESSES IT AND THEN IT GOES TO YOUR PROVIDER (Aetna, Med. Mut, etc.). You will receive the Medicare paperwork but you do not owe at this time if you have supplemental coverage. Your insurance provider will send you an EOB (Explanation of Benefits) will clearly states: Patient Responsibility: That is all you ever pay and no facility or Dr., etc. can bill you more. If any try, call Med. Mut or Aetna, give them the name of those trying to bill you and the phone number and they will contact them for you. If paperwork needs appealed, etc., you have 2 yrs according to Medicare to settle bills. Do not worry about your credit as it cannot be affected if you are in contact with those billing you and reasons not to pay exist.
Gary Russell of STRS states restrictions do exist using in network facilities and precerts for procedures to maximize our HC dollars as we do have more limited funds. STRS is self insured. He has never been involved in a case where in network facilities were not as close or closer to out of network facilities.
Russell states he does not think educators would have benefited by paying the 1.45% for the Medicare tax beginning in '86 to get Part A coverage which is overnight stays in hospitals and facilities as STRS provides comprehensive coverage for overnight stays which are favorably comparative if considering the cost output above and considering educators would have paid $500-600 annually for Part A if they had paid the tax.
ANYONE who questions or who has concerns over any item they read, question or experience: Please contact:
and order:
'Medicare and You 2007' numbers and contact info on medicare website.
Basic plans have higher deduc. and higher out of pockets generally held by healthier recipients hoping not to have high annual HC costs.
All procedures and care must be handled by skilled staff and timelines are dictated by both Medicare and STRS supplemental providers. For ex., if you go to a skilled care facility for rehab, you are covered for a week or 10 days (it is up to you to know the time line). If your Dr. feels you need to stay and it is NOT precertified FIRST with Medicare or your Insurance Provider such as Aetna or Med. Mutual, you will be billed for the entire second period for the facility, the treatments, the skilled care, meds, etc. by Medicare and or your insurance provider. Medicare and STRS have nothing to do with this and it is up to you to ensure each subsequent period of time is precertified with Med. Mut., Aetna and/or Medicare. Ask how long each period is for so you or your family can avoid complications.
The facility may tell you that the precertification has been approved (I was victim to this with my husband and with my mother) and you rely on their word. If Med. Mut. or Aetna DOES not concur with the facility's determination of ability to care for yourself, your claim will be denied. For ex., we were told my mother was precertified for a second week due to a phone conversation with Med. Mut./OPERS contract. The therapist submitted she could walk 60 steps unassisted (not true, it was with a walker and she collapsed afterwards and was an independent living patient not yet able to assume her daily care which we were told had to be the case). We were billed for all the costs of the second week saying it was custodial care. We fought it and appeals were denied. Finally after months, our version of what we were told stood up but only with supporting instances proving multiple standards of untruths and bad care. Otherwise, we would have been billed in entirety. Lesson: write everything down and take names. Nursing homes for any are red flags and expect such so you are protected.
IT was not OPERS Med Mut. though I sure wasn't happy at the time. It was not Medicare. It was how claims were submitted 3 TIMES. My mother never owed $50,000+ because it was billed incorrectly and gets cast off as custodial care or medically unnecessary. The hospital tried and tried to get her discharged when her Dr. insisted she needed to stay. WHY? One recent patient told me, about 50% of the patients do not have coverage. So, it seems , they have to generate enough costs to pay for them thru us. That is why insurance is so high.
*Where does STRS enter into the claims process? STRS Staff may help with appeals if necessary and work with HC providers for clarification. STRS does not settle claims; the HC providers do (Medicare, Aetna, Med. Mut.). STRS becomes involved when the appeal is under way and the Dr. or facility have been working with insurance providers (Medicare, Aetna, Med. Mut.) for add'tl info due to insufficient or incorrect claims submitted as a claim CANNOT be paid in this case and may appear to be medically unnecesary or custodial in nature. Generally, STRS does not see these cases until appeals nearly completed as it is between the insurance provider and the Dr. and or facility.
The system in the U.S. needs changed. That is a whole other topic.
I have asked and have been advised that ORTA, STRS and OEA-R will provide some form of statement and of info in newsletters to help retirees avoid problems. It will be major points only to alert membership for their sake.
This is what I have asked: It is up to each organization to decide what is appropriate for their membership. I hope that contact info and resources are added to provide accurate and individual specific advice.
Many retirees of completely unaware of these conditions and or think a simple precert at the beginning of treatment is all that is necessary. I do not see in the 2007 HC booklet anything beyond the initial percert. I learned thru experience with my mother who had MedicareOPERS/Med. Mut., hospital and facility stays are approved in blocks of time by Medicare and Med. Mut., Aetna, etc. and not by Dr. recommendation. This must be done through your medical provider (Medicare, Med. Mut., Aetna , etc. not STRS).
Please put a notice in newsletters at least yearly, if not more, informing retirees of this responsibility to precert and to know each approved benefit period while in a facility or hospital and to precert EACH additional benefit period which many only learn of after receiving large bills as a service to your retirees.
Molly J.
Addendum (4/9/07)
1. MEDICARE: Please add to the report where appropriate. There is still some question about Part A. Even if you do not qualify for Medicare Part A, you DO receive the equivalent of Part A through STRS.
If you do not qualify for Medicare Part A, STRS acts as our Part A. It is just not called that. It is called comprehensive hospital coverage instead for all overnight stays in hospital and facilities. That is what Medicare Part A is for: overnight coverage for hospital and facilities.
STRS provided this equivalent of Part A FREE. So, in effect, we all have Part A thru Medicare or thru STRS which provides us with equivalent coverage. Difference is we have stop gaps max costs and Medicare does not but we have to use in network facilities and get precerts (which just about all have to do anyway as Medicare requires a diagnosis and symptoms).
Everyone has Part B.

Some Medicare questions from a retiree

April 10, 2007
Actually you are not getting Part A for the same cost as you get it for a spouse under Medicare are you? Isn't it much more expensive than getting Part A and B under Medicare (if you paid into Social Security)? Under Social Security, you also get a financial stipend for the spouse. Where is ours for STRS, if we get equal to Medicare and Social Security which we were promised?

Public employees have earned every last penny of their pensions

Cleveland Plain Dealer
(From RH Jones, April 9, 2007)
Sunday, April 8, 2007

Once again, The Plain Dealer has positioned itself as the organ of proprietary interests and, as such, a divisive rather than unifying voice of the region. The April 1 article "Public workers' pensions growing" singles out public-sector pensions for unwarranted criticism. What can possibly be gained by tearing down one group with a stable retirement system when clearly the "higher calling" is to work to achieve increased retirement stability for a larger number of people?

Where is the broadside that, in all fairness, should be leveled at the corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies? Where is the rancor at huge corporate profits and underfunded pension plans of the rank-and-file workers, while top execs continue to collect their golden parachutes?

Finger-pointing won't solve the problem of retirement plan disparity. Working together to require accountability in both the public and private sectors is a crucial first step in addressing this issue.

David A. Lipstreu
Newbury Township
The Plain Dealer's one-sided article on public pensions is intended to pit blue-collar workers from LTV Steel against blue-collar workers from local and state government. What is not mentioned is that these public workers pick up the garbage of the city residents, and the sewer workers clean and maintain the waste of the city residents. Any volunteers?

When I started working for the affluent city of Rocky River in 1982, the average city worker started at less than $5 an hour. What was the average starting pay for an LTV worker? I would venture to say much more.

I sympathize with what happened to LTV workers, and others who were robbed by employers such as Enron. Why not write about the outcome of the lives of these employees and where the blame lies? How is it possible that their money just disappeared with no accountability?

Thomas P. Krych
The Plain Dealer has done a tremendous disservice to Ohio's pub lic employees. This newspaper frequently reports on the dire state of the area's economy. This problem is not caused by public employees. It is caused by companies that export jobs and default on employee pension plans. Denying public employees the pensions they have earned will not help. Making sure that every worker can look forward to a secure retirement will.

Anne W. Conway
Bay Village
As future retirees in the private sector cover shortfalls by paying higher Social Security taxes, investing more in IRAs and 401(k)s and postponing retirement, maybe it's time for employees of public systems to pony up for their own public retirement systems' shortfalls.

Cindy L. Pierce
Cleveland Heights
When I was in college and made the decision to become a teacher, many of my friends wondered why I had made that choice. They said I would never make anything.

What I have made over the last 29 years is a difference in thousands of young people's lives. I never begrudged the salary I made in comparison to what my peers made in other professions, because I loved what I did and was able to support myself on my salary. I have had good benefits and the opportunity to earn a pension. As I reflect on my career and begin to think about retiring, I couldn't be more proud of my chosen vocation.

Critics of public pensions had the opportunity to choose public service for their careers, but instead chose the private sector. I am not sure everyone is cut out to spend 30 years in a classroom by themselves with 25 young children or young teens, just as not everyone could be a firefighter or a police officer. These are careers that require specialized training, as well as a lot of heart.

Linda Day Simon
The public employees' pension story made me laugh. Just a few days prior, you had an article on Circuit City's CEO issuing an order to fire employees and hire said employees back at a much lower wage. The stated reason was so Circuit City could make a larger profit. Of course, he saw nothing ironic in the fact that his compensation was several million dollars.

I also find it ironic that this newspaper publishes executive compensation, yet editors obviously don't see anything obscene in said compensation.

The main reason people have lost benefits and pensions, as well as jobs, is that top managers feel it is their duty to make themselves millionaires at the expense of the working class. Hence, all of the jobs that have been exported out of the country.

As to the media, they investigate only the "little" people. Maybe if the media had started earlier investigating the real thievery going on, we might not have so many executives and politicians being indicted. But I don't expect this newspaper to change, since it is a big part of "Big Business."

Marcella J. Lowry
Fairview Park
Double-dipping is a nonissue

I am offended beyond words at the negatively written and disparaging front-page headline "Double-dippers retire, rehired - Some draw a pension along with a salary" (Monday). Have you no real news to report? These people earned their pensions and have the right to continue working if they elect to do so and someone wants to hire or rehire them.

The Plain Dealer completely ignores the so-called windfall elimination provision, which affects thousands of people who worked under both the Social Security and public employment or teaching systems. Taking their teaching or public pension may prevent them from getting any Social Security benefits whatsoever, although they paid into the Social Security program for years. Our legislators have seen fit to steal those benefits. Where is the justice in that?

Mark Haas
First, let me say that I am not a gov ernment employee, and other than my five years in the Army, I probably never will be. I am sick of this nonstory getting trotted out every few years. At first glance, it gets people upset, but a little thought shows just how weak the argument is.

If someone retires from a position, a person has to be hired to fill that position. It will be the same amount of money, whether it is the same person hired back or a different person.

Government pension benefits may be too generous and collected too early, but those issues are entirely unrelated to double-dipping.

John Black
North Olmsted
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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