Monday, August 03, 2009

Duane Tron: A message for Laura Ecklar and STRS

From Duane Tron, August 3, 2009
Subject: Continued Denigration of Current Retirees
Please feel free to share the following with others and members of the STRS Board. Mr. Nehf will be attending our CCRTA meeting tomorrow here in Champaign County and I will not be attending! Why? Because I would rip him up one side and down the other and I don't want to create a confrontation or allow myself to become that upset! After reading in the local newspaper where our local superintendent just retired with 35 years and an annual salary of $117,000.00 I am outraged! This means he will only receive a pitiful annual retirement check in excess of $90,000.00/year.
I'm sure all of you out there are receiving such a wonderful retirement package aren't you? Then to top it off he accepted a position as interim superintendent for a rural district just north of us for a paltry annual salary of $77,800.00/year, plus he's being paid a consulting fee for the staying here until he moves to the job up there! If my math is correct he will only be knocking down a cool and pathetic $170,000.00/year plus the consulting perk which will push his salary for the next twelve months to about $200,000.00/year! I'm sitting here paying nearly $17,000.00 out of my retirement check for health insurance and deductibles, for myself and my non-teaching spouse, out of my $36,800.00 annual retirement check and listening to the STRS Board advocate eliminating the 3% COLA to save money.
If you read what I just reported above I can tell them where they need to start saving OUR money and it sure as hell isn't in eliminating the 3% COLA for those of us who retired prior to 1999!! Wow! I'd be happy to have just half of his annual retirement and I assure all that he didn't pay in during the past 35 years at any higher rate than the rest of us except for maybe the past four years! These scenarios are what is dragging our fund down and not 3% COLA's for the poorest of the retirees! So much for the OEA line of BS that the 35 year and 88% Ponzi scheme is cost neutral!
A number of people have told me that the STRS Board CANNOT reduce the 88% being paid to current retirees because it was guaranteed when they retired! Really! Why Not??? When I retired in 1998 I was promised the spousal subsidy and four years later it was eliminated and I was required to start paying 100% of the cost of health insurance for my wife!
The STRS Board didn't find any difficulty in breaking a promise to those of who had already retired and in consideration of the fact that STRS Ohio was the only pension fund out of five state pension funds to eliminate the spousal subsidy for those already retired, the only pension fund to NOT grandfather those who had already retired!! Unlike OEA the IUE have been fighting for the benefits earned by its retirees and the retirees are outraged because they are having to pay $185.00/month for health insurance for them and their non IUE spouses! $185.00/month??? Whoa! That's totally outrageous isn't it? How does that stack up to our $1,000.00/month +?? And they think they're getting a raw deal??!! Try being an Ohio STRS retiree who retired prior to 1999 and participate in our "we got royally screwed by our worthless and self serving union," and then they would have a lot to complain about! Read the letter I sent below and note I never received any reply from Ms. Ecklar, not that I'm surprised!
Mr. T
Dear Ms. Ecklar,
I'm sorry but you do NOT understand the plight of present retirees, those of us who went out prior to the 35 year and 88% windfall. Our only crime? We didn't know that the STRS Board would develop it's own Ponzi scheme to benefit itself and those retiring after 1999. It's obvious to all of us out here that the STRS Board doesn't really understand our plight either. I'm wondering how many of you, as well as board members, would sit idly by and watch your parents reduced to poverty after they spent their lives working to help children? I am presently paying nearly 40% of my annual pension check to pay for health insurance, co-pays, deductibles, prescription, and related medical costs each year. This wasn't what I was anticipating when I retired and I never had any idea that the people I trusted and respected at STRS would do this to us after we retired. All of the other four state pension plans grandfathered their most vulnerable retirees and avoided this outrageous treatment of their own. Only at STRS did we receive this kind of treatment. Only at STRS were we lied to and told a multitude of stories that just weren't true.
The problem at STRS is you continue to penalize the poorest among our retirees. Whenever sacrifice is required it's always being passed on to those among the poorest 35% of retirees, those with the least means to pay! Those going out with $80,000.00 + pensions aren't severely impacted if they have to pay 100% of the cost of health insurance for a spouse. Even though they have much more money the STRS Board, and those of you involved in decision-making , are going to continue to negatively impact the lowest paid retirees. This has been taking place for the past seven years and continues unabated! The poorest among us will continue to bear the brunt of ALL cuts and the upper class retirees get a free pass and go on unscathed.
I feel sorry for all of you involved in running OUR retirement system. You see I could never do the things to others that you have done to us during the past ten years. I couldn't place my head on my pillow and go to sleep at night. When I served as Fire Marshal in our fire district I turned down a request by a couple to house six young children in a mobile home that had a wood burning stove. A supervisor with the Department of Job and Family Services came and ripped into me. She wanted to know why I refused to allow them to house foster children in the mobile home. The mobile home didn't have enough space available per the Ohio Basic Building Code and Fire Code. The mobile home was unsafe and posed a serious threat to the lives of the children. I looked at this woman and said, "I didn't approve the application because I have to go home and lay my head on a pillow every night and go to sleep. In the morning I have to get up and look at myself in the mirror! I won't approve this and then investigate the remains of a bunch of children!"
I guess what sets me apart from so many at STRS is I have a 'conscience' and I make decisions based on the best interests of ALL concerned. I have never gotten into making decisions that negatively affect the welfare, and safety, of others because it was expedient, and the easiest thing to do at the time. Earlier this year my worst nightmare became reality when four small children burned to death in a mobile home less than two miles from my house! Even though everyone on the department did the right things they are still struggling with this horrible disaster. And I understand as I'm still dealing with the ghosts and demons of other disasters after many years! The memories become more distant but they never totally go away.
As I type this I can see everything as if it happened yesterday and I can still smell the smells! You people have no idea, you don't have a clue about much of anything. Compassion? Mercy? Understanding? Empathy? You are all clueless! And for those of us who served during Vietnam we have even more vivid memories than any of you. It's kind of like the men and women who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I remind you that you and those overseeing our board are making life and death decisions for many Ohio retired teachers. Eliminating a 3% COLA doesn't sound like much to all of you but it hasn't even come close to helping me recover the increases I have had to pay to insure my wife, and all because she is a non-teacher. Maybe it would be the just and right thing to require ALL STRS employees to pay 100% of the cost of health insurance for spouses not employed at STRS? What do you think about that, Laura? I think it's a great idea!
Maybe every school system across Ohio should require every teacher, and employee, to pay 100% of the cost of health insurance for non-teaching spouses and dependents? That sounds fair to me since I'm paying nearly $17,000.00/year out of my $36,800.00 pension check for these services! Laura, I continue to work because I can never retire until they throw the dirt over the top of me. Eleven years after retiring I'm still working although I've been blessed to have a part-time job I actually love. I would still go and help the children even if I wasn't getting paid! I guess some people still have different sets of values and priorities than the greedy and powerful, Huh?? What a wonderful retirement and awesome legacy STRS has provided for thousands of retirees.
In December, I underwent serious prostate surgery. I had put off going to the doctor to try and save money. They removed a mass of 158 grams from my prostate and I had to have blood transfusions as a result. Then I had to battle with Medical Mutual of Ohio because they said they wouldn't pay for my hospitalization past four days as that was the norm for prostate surgery. I had to battle and stress over that mess even though I was unable to get out of bed for nearly a week following surgery.
I think they were finally able to get me up and walking the day I came home. Oh! But they should have sent me home after four days??! Brilliant! They had put off heart surgery to repair my prostate because the mass collapsed my urinary tract and I almost died prior to the surgery. I had to be rushed to the ER for treatment and then the cardiologist and urologist had to battle with what they were going to do first. After multiple phone calls and correspondence Medical Mutual did pay the hospital for all of the days. I got home just before Christmas Eve! Apart from the many times I came home from overseas for Christmas it was one of the best Christmases even though I was in a lot of physical pain and agony.
In April I had my heart surgery and not to disappoint anyone at STRS I have been doing great. Prior to the cardiac procedure I had to go in and have them open up my urinary tract due to a build-up of scar tissue which was shutting it down again. Tomorrow I am having surgery again to open my urinary tract which has almost closed due to the ongoing problem of scar tissue building up. On the other hand my cardiac rehab has been going great. There are four men in my group and they are ages 41, 44, 51, & 53. None of them are obese, or overweight, and they have all experienced heart attacks and have had triple or quadruple bypass surgery. So much for the argument that younger is healthier and will bring health care costs down?? Me? I had two stents implanted and three balloons. I am in better physical condition than all of them. My point? Age doesn't really have a lot to do with health costs and who has health issues. Note! None of these men were smokers, didn't abuse alcohol, and ate lots of fruits and veggies. Amazing!
When I speak to groups of retired teachers I keep encouraging all of them to pursue healthy lifestyles and live to a very old age! Why? To drive the people at STRS nuts! I keep telling them we need to all stay around for a very long time to debunk the myths propagated by a handful of people who claim that older age requires much higher health costs. Granted, the system has had to pay some big bucks for me during the past year but that's not bad when you review the past 65 years. Then add to that the fact that my health and overall physical condition is actually very good compared to a lot of younger people. I'm presently walking two miles every day and working out with weights. I plan to disappoint all of the "we want you all to die as soon as possible crowd," so health insurance will be cheaper!
Laura, it's time for STRS to stop dumping on the poorest of our retirees every time reductions need to be made. It's time to stop penalizing those of us with non-teaching spouses, and passing all of the expenses on to us, and thus reducing our lower annual pensions. It's time to start looking at the "fat cats," those at the top of the pension ladder, and start requiring them to share in the suffering, to start making some sacrifices. After all nobody gave a rats you know what when the spousal subsidy was eliminated causing severe financial hardship for a large number of us. It's time to spread the pain around.
It's past time to raise contributions from actives. These people are earning salaries right now that were unthinkable to all of us ten years ago. It's time to share the pain with the 88% crowd! It's time to increase requirements for retirement to age 62. It's past time to provide fair and equitable oversight, and treatment, for ALL actives and retirees! It's time to eliminate the two tier system of the "haves" and the "have nots," which is what has been put in place! I really anticipate a lawsuit over the spousal subsidy thing in the future. I have a crystal ball and my crystal ball tells me that a jury is going to side with retirees, and the contention we were lied to, and a disparate retirement system has been created counter to Ohio law, you know the good old ORC 3307.15? Dang, I keep hoping we can get this in court because there isn't a jury in the state, or nation, for that matter that would side with STRS on this! Most Americans can empathize with what has happened to us at the hands of STRS and those running it. My take for what it's worth! Have a great day!
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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