Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dennis Leone: Comments on HPA 2/18/10 Straw Proposal to STRS

From Dennis Leone, February 20, 2010
Subject: RE:'s HPA's straw proposal as presented to STRS
………….and NO substantive recommendation from OEA on changing the FAS from 3 yrs to 5 yrs.. The proposal to seek FAS legislation that would give the STRS Board the ability to change the FAS also it would give OEA more ability to stop a FAS change through its own OEA clones on the STRS Board. OEA knows that our Legislature will be instantly willing to have a new 5 year FAS and that OEA won’t be able to stop it unless the STRS Board wants to stop it first. Everything has an ulterior motive. Let’s see……….OEA also wishes to wait until 2023 for the 35-year service requirement to kick in, but by god we need to reduce the COLA in 2011. I wonder why Ann Hanning didn’t’ sign it? Someone should ask her. The whole thing is an embarrassment for ORTA, like so many things..
From John Curry, February 20, 2010
Subject:'s HPA's straw proposal as presented to STRS
Pensioners get their COLA "whacked" right away but actives have years and years!
[Straw Proposal outlined in the two posts immediately below]

HPA Straw Proposal presented to STRS Board February 18, 2010 (p.1,2)

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HPA Straw Proposal presented to STRS Board February 18, 2010 (p.3,4)

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RH Jones re: the HPA straw proposal

From RH Jones, February 20, 2010
Subject: "Whatsoever you do to the least of us ..."
To all retired educators:
Just as former STRS (retired seat) board member Dennis Leone predicted, retired educators are getting shortchanged once again. A Christian Bible quote seems to be appropriate here: "Whatsoever you do to the least of us you do unto me". If any of these (HPA) Healthcare & Pension Advocates attend church tomorrow, they may need some forgiveness. They are not going to be forgiven by this retired teacher -- not being able to keep up with inflation and HC/Rx "take-always" has already been diminished too much.
I can understand that the public school administration and college department head HPA members may be inclined to cut our fixed COLA but my union's ignoring retired teachers' interests in order to cut our modest and flat COLA is "beyond the pale" of comprehension. The union HPAdvocates are the ORTA, OEA, OEA-R, OFT and the Inter-University Council of Ohio. The other administration HPAs are listed far below in John Curry's attached message. [See above 2/20/10 posts on HPA straw proposal.]
Personally, I believe in America and Ohio. Governor Strickland does, too. The HPA must have forgotten his recent State of Ohio speech; I wonder. The facts are: America has overcome adversity since the American Revolution, and all the ups and downs we have had since then. We are already coming out of the "Great Recession" that started in 2008. In these modern times of spectacular technological achievements, thinking Americans should know that we have, and can, overcome our economic setbacks.
The HPA should have come to the conclusion that a modest employer contribution to the STRS is the proper thing to do. To cut the retired educator COL A is not only improper, it may be even of greater expense to the employers, and the unions, who may be weakly backing the desire to cut retiree COLA. It is not unreasonable to think that expensive court settlements and their costs could come down on both, and even those who may be responsible for this diminution. It is best for the ORSC not to go through with this HPA plan. In order to continue to garner prosperity for its citizens, Ohio needs great teachers to compete with other states and nations. Retired educators unable to reasonably keep up with inflation, without decent healthcare and R/x, will work against Ohio hiring the best professionals to teach.
RHJones, an OH STRS retired teacher and PUFL member of ORTA, OEA, OEA-R
Click to enlarge.

Mike's no stranger to COLA cutting!

From John Curry, February 20, 2010
He's been there and done that before!
(Click image to enlarge)


Flashback: Revisiting the, it's not a dead-and-buried issue!

PowerPoint by Rich DeColibus, October 2008
Click images to enlarge; and maximize your screen for best view.

Friday, February 19, 2010

STRS Legislative News Feb. 2010

From John Curry, February 19, 2010
Despite some credibility issues by some officials at STRS (remember the ethics convictions?), there is one Associate at STRS that this retiree has the utmost respect for, Terri Bierdeman. Terri is the Director of Governmental Relations and is really aware of the current political trends in Columbus as well as Washington.
I know, many educators dislike anything that has even a slight odor of politics but, let's face it, when you have a retirement system worth billions of dollars, there will always be politicians and political interests it or not.
Ms. Bierdeman, in my opinion, is a straight-shooter, to the point and usually hits the political nail right on the head. Below is a link to her report that was made available as a hand-out at the Feb. 2010 STRS Board meeting. It is well worth your while to see what it contains.

RH Jones: Certifying in pension & health care issues

From RH Jones, February 19, 2010
To all retired educators:
In addition to other retiree associations that you may belong to, I would like you to go on the Web and check out: The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. This is their “Mission and Vision” statement []:
(Click image to enlarge.)
If you would like to be certified in pension and health care issues, this would be the association to join.
RHJones, multi union member

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the worst funded ratio of them all???

From John Curry, February 18, 2010
From the most recently released report by the ORSC on 2/17/10, this is page 27. Compared to Ohio's other retirement systems..... we didn't do so well, did we?
Here is a link to this document:

(Click to enlarge.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whether you are a (active or retired) fireman, a law enforcement officer or an educator, you have been and are being ripped off.... the GPO/WEP. Did you know that we can do something about it? If enough of us are heard things can change but first we have to get their (the legislators) attention. At the end of the article below are suggestions about what YOU can do about this.
Read on.........
Social Insecurity
How (and why) GPO and WEP can eat up your pension.
By Mary Ellen Flannery and Alain Jehlen
Click images to enlarge.
In 1968, Lois Grenfell’s husband died at the age of 31. Her children were seven and 11. “Our family was devastated emotionally and financially. I had no savings, very little life insurance, and no job,” she recalls. Grenfell, who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, returned to college part-time while supporting her family, earned a teaching degree, and began teaching in 1976. She was rebuilding her life—but there was more bad news to come.
“I soon learned that I would never receive one penny of my Social Security widow’s benefits after I retired, even though my husband had worked continually from the time he was 16 until his untimely death,” she wrote to This Active Life. What happened to her widow’s pension? The Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO/WEP).
David Stephenson is a retired educator from Rhode Island, where teachers have a state pension and do not participate in Social Security. But he did pay into Social Security through part-time jobs and a small business. Even so, he’ll get only half as much from Social Security as he expected. “I don’t think I will be poor,” he says. “I don’t think I will go hungry. But I do believe that I should be able to receive the Social Security benefit that I have earned.”
These are two of many angry members who answered our call for GPO and WEP stories. “I understand that [WEP] is the law, but I do not understand why,” wrote David Fish of Nipomo, California. “People who give years to government service should be rewarded, not penalized.”
WEP or GPO may cut your benefits if your employer contributes to a state pension system but does not pay into Social Security. Or if your spouse is in that situation. Or if you or your spouse were once in that situation. Or if you ever are in the future. In broad strokes, here’s how WEP and GPO work (visit the Social Security Administration Web site for details).
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)
Social Security is more than a pension plan. It’s also a safety net designed to keep the elderly and the disabled from falling into poverty. It is intended to provide extra help for those with very low incomes.
The Social Security Administration says the pension for workers earning $65,000 a year before retirement is a little more than a third of their salaries. Low-income workers get a higher percentage, because if they only received a third of their incomes in retirement, they might starve.
The pension benefit formula involves income brackets, a little like the brackets of the income tax. You get a 90 percent pension for income in the first bracket, 32 percent in the second bracket, and 15 percent in the third.
In 2009, the 90 percent bracket covered income up to $8,928 a year; the 32 percent bracket was for income up to $44,868; and the 15 percent bracket for income above that (up to a limit educators probably don’t have to worry about).
Let’s say you retire from a job covered by Social Security that pays $65,000 a year. To keep things simple, let’s say that was your income—adjusted for inflation—for the past 35 years (Social Security uses 35 years of income to figure your pension).
You get:
(The actual calculation also includes how old you are when you apply for benefits and other complications. The Social Security Web site has all the details.)
But what if you work for 10 years at a job that’s covered by Social Security, and then you get a teaching job that doesn’t pay into Social Security because it offers a state pension instead? Your 35-year average Social Security income will be very low because for many of those years, you may have no Social Security income at all.
So, should your Social Security pension reflect the high percentage that the system gives low-income earners? In 1983, Congress said no, arguing that you also have your state pension. Instead of the 90 percent pension on your first $8,928, you only get 40 percent. That’s why your Social Security check may be a lot smaller than you expected.
The Government Pension Offset (GPO)
This affects spouse and survivor benefits.
GPO was supposed to make Social Security fairer, but in practice, it slashes benefits for many educators and others eligible for state pensions and outside Social Security.
Say Alice worked under a state pension plan and did not pay into Social Security. Now retired, she is receiving a state pension of $6,000. Her husband, John, receives $4,000 from Social Security.
Tragedy strikes and John is killed in a car accident. Instead of transferring the $4,000 pension to Alice, Social Security first subtracts 2/3 of Alice’s $6,000 state pension—which leaves her with no survivor benefit at all. We set up this example to keep the arithmetic simple, but it’s very common for the 2/3 GPO rule to completely wipe out the Social Security survivor’s benefit.
How could anyone call that fair? Well, it turns out Alice is not being treated worse than if she were in Social Security herself. If Alice and John were both in Social Security when John died, she would get the larger of the two pensions, not both added together. That’s a 100 percent offset—compared to the 2/3 offset for someone on a state pension outside Social Security.
But here’s why the GPO really isn’t fair to Alice: We left out a crucial part of the story—Alice’s state pension is her only employer-funded pension. If she were in Social Security, her employer would probably provide a second pension, which would not be subtracted from John’s Social Security in figuring out her survivor benefit.
The bottom line: Alice with her state pension probably fares worse than she would if she had Social Security plus an employer-funded pension.
Many other NEA-Retired members came forward with their GPO/WEP stories. Each was a little different, but the retirees all share a conviction that they are wrongly penalized for their public service under these laws. Here are their accounts.
Betty Porrazzo, Venice, Florida
Widow, retired teacher, victim of GPO/WEP -- Betty Porrazzo is still fighting for her survivor benefit. PHOTO: CHERYL ZIEMKE pilot, was killed in action in Vietnam. Now, more than 40 years later, she’s still struggling to get her rightful survivor benefits.
“I don’t want to say I’m angry, but I am disappointed in my government because I don’t think they take such great care of survivors. Left out in the cold are the people left behind,” said Porrazzo, whose son was just six months old when his father died.
Porrazzo, a retired Massachusetts teacher, knows that she is owed almost a thousand dollars a month. She has a pamphlet, published by Social Security decades ago, that promises an exemption to the offsets for those receiving benefits before 1977, like she did. She knows of another war widow who appealed and received her rightful share.
But still, Social Security rejected her once, twice, and now has taken nearly a year to schedule an appeal before an arbitrator. While waiting for that final chance to prove her case, Porrazzo has contacted her senator in Florida, where she lives comfortably, she said, and she promises not to give up.
In the meantime, what does the loss of that monthly $1,000 mean? It means Porrazzo can’t afford to buy an airplane ticket to Boston for the rededication of the Louis Porrazzo ice skating rink. It falls to her son, now a New Hampshire teacher, to pay the way.
“I guess I am a little bitter about it. My husband gave his life for this country.”
Lynn Brooks Hunt, Bangor, Maine
From her vantage point behind the desk of the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor, Lynn Brooks Hunt gets to see a lot of people coming and going. But travel isn’t exactly in the cards for her—not on an income of $25,000 a year.
Retirement means not working, right? Then why must Hunt, who retired after 30 years in Maine classrooms, work two jobs now? In addition to manning the hotel desk, she also keeps the books for her condominium association.
Hunt was 45 when her husband died at age 53. Fifteen years later at age 60, the earliest age that survivor benefits can be collected, she went to the Social Security office to inquire. The helpful employee took out a pencil and did some calculations on a sheet of paper. Voila! She should receive around $1,700 a month.

N BRUSIE Ohhh, wait a second. You’re a teacher?
Then it’s actually $188 a month.
“If I knew there was $1,000 more a month, or $1,500, that’d be incredible!” Hunt exclaims. She thinks about the rising costs of dental and health insurance, and her IRA, recently decimated by the recession.
Like others, Hunt has written to her legislators and also to financial news columnists. Too many policymakers are unaware of the unfairness perpetrated on public employees, she believes.
“I told both of my kids, ‘Don’t go into teaching.’”
Cecil Moreno, Anchorage, Alaska
Cecil Moreno began contributing to Social Security as a 14-year-old grocery store bagger. Add in 20 years of service as a United States Air Force officer, plus the countless jobs he worked to pay for his college degree in education, and that adds up to a lot of money invested in the federal retirement system.
Too bad he’s not getting it back.
Based on his Air Force income and contributions, Moreno expected to receive about $1,300 a month from Social Security. “I was fat, dumb, and happy, and figured I wasn’t going to have worry about steady income.” In reality? He gets little more than $700 a month after taxes.
Moreno isn’t starving. He shops at the local military base’s commissary and saves a good chunk on his groceries there. “How do people on the outside swing it?” he wonders. But he’s also still driving his 1985 Honda and worrying about what he’ll do when the engine finally quits. “As long as it’s running, I’m fine.”
In the meantime, Moreno is an advocate for GPO/WEP repeal. He writes to his Congressional representatives and encourages others to do the same. What’s needed, he believes, is a coalition of public employees who won’t relent until reform is realized.
David Fish, Nipomo, California
David Fish has served his country—first in the Army, which he joined at age 17, and then in the Peace Corps, where he served two years in Chile. He paid into Social Security during those years, and then for almost 10 years as a construction worker who toiled hard to pay f
or college.
In an ideal world, this service would be rewarded, he figures. And yes, hard work has its own rewards. But how about his own money that he invested in Social Security? “Those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to have parents pay for our college educations are being punished for our hard work!” he says.
Fish figures he’s entitled to $1,000 a month, but will lose $400 of that to the vagaries of the Social Security system. (Although he’s retired after more than 20 years of teaching, he is waiting until age 66 to collect Social Security.) “It isn’t devastating, but it does feel unfair,” he said.
“If I work for something and it’s taken away because of a poorly written law, it just feels so unfair—especially when the people who write the laws are double- or triple-dipping.”
So many teachers are career-changers, hoping to make a difference in the lives of children. Although Fish says he’s going to be okay, he wonders about all of them. “When they find out they’re losing 40 percent of their Social Security, it’s just traumatic.”
What You Can Do
Easy as 1-2-3.
1. Go to Check whether your Senators and Representatives are in favor of repealing GPO and WEP.
2. Sign NEA’s electronic petition to Congress. If you are or will be personally affected by GPO or WEP, add your story to the pre-written text. If your elected officials have taken a position for repeal, thank them. It’s important that they know it matters to you.
3. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask for your Representative and Senators by name, and tell them to repeal GPO and WEP.
Got a little more time?
Write a letter to your local newspaper explaining why GPO and WEP should go.
Click here for video.
Penalties for Public Service
See for yourself how unfair laws threaten the retirement security of educators. Women are disproportionately impacted. Tell Congress to support the Social Security Fairness Act and repeal laws that discourage qualified educators from the profession.
From John Curry, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

RH Jones: Letter to the ORSC

From RH Jones, February 15, 2010

To the OH Retirement Study Council and all retired educators

Re: Why the OH STRS retiree delayed compensations should best be left only as is, or improved upon.

In two of John curry’s e-mails to me on 02-13-2010, the first one sent at 3:59 PM mentioned an analysis by Jon Margolis of the Vermont News Guy, and the second sent at 5:15 PM mentioned an article in the 02-12-2010 publication of The Colorado Statesman by Marianne Goodland. Both have statements that there is the possibility that the state may become legally liable for violation of law and could “get the state sued”.

First, Vermont’s Margolis writes: “… {State Treasurer Jeb}Spalding and the leaders of the Legislature isn’t final unless and until it becomes law. Or maybe not even then. The public employee pensions are not simply laws. They are constitutionally protected contracts with each worker, and ‘any aggrieved individual can always challenge’ any contract change in court, as Spaulding acknowledged. Especially because the Vermont-NEA has agreed to these changes, a challenge might fail. But fighting it would cost the state some of that $15 million it expects to save.

This constitutional complication is not merely theoretical; it is, for instance, one reasonKraus and the VSEA {Vermont State Education Association}are so far standing firm in opposing any change in their pension system. But it does not seem likely to scuttle the deal with teachers, which came as something of a surprise when it was announced two weeks ago.” And, … “ ‘if the Legislature chose to adopt the Commission’s injunctive relief, possibly an award of damages, and possibly a substantial attorneys fee award to the aggrieved state employees.’ ”. {Jes}

Second, Colorado’s Goodland writes: “Former Assistant {Colorado} Attorney General Stephen Smith said he believed everything in SB 1 is legal except the COLA change. ‘They’re setting themselves and you up for failure,’ he told the committee. … “As the specter of lawsuits that may be filed against the pension plan, {Greg} Smith said the law is uncertain and ‘we will be making law in the process…the appropriate response is to pass SB 1 and resolve it in court.’ That didn’t set well with {Cherri}Gerou, who said she did not like passing laws that would get the state sued.” Also, mentioned beforehand in the article was: “Several who opposed the COLA changes is SB 1 asked that an interim committee be formed to study the issue for another year. Gary Justus of said it was too early to make a $50 billion decision and that a year of study, similar to what was done for Pinnacol Assurance, was necessary.”

These above statements support that which I have been emphasizing in previous e-mails that our OH STRS retiree delayed compensations are pre-existing; and, therefore, are best to be left alone; and, can be improved upon, only. It is not only the moral thing to do; it is probably illegal to take any of them back. Some have already been taken back and should be restored.

This report is from, and in the opinion of, Robert H. Jones, an OH STRS retired teacher

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