Friday, June 15, 2018

Letter to Robin Rayfield, June 15, 2018

Hi Robin --
I just finished reading your remarks in the June ORTA newsletter, and am delighted and impressed that you were able to get Mike Nehf and the senior STRS staff to meet with you in your office! I doubt if that's ever happened before, so kudos to you! I'm glad they were willing to talk and answer questions.
The five year wait for the return of any Board discussion of our COLA is a bit distressing, however. I'm sure many retirees are wondering why they aren't revisiting that issue at least on an annual basis, particularly if the economy continues to improve. Time is of the essence for many retirees. You and I know many of them won't be around in five years, and I'm sure the STRS Board is well aware of that. Gee, another cost-saving device for them!
Anyway, thank you for continuing to keep the COLA issue on front burner at STRS. If the STRS Board had its way, it would be buried for those five years. It's very hurtful for retirees to see STRS employees continue to receive raises, and the investment department to receive humongous bonuses on top of theirs, no matter what the economy does, when there are retirees struggling daily just to make ends meet. Retirees get no raises. Too bad our benefits aren't through OPERS, like everyone who works at STRS. We'd be in much better shape (like them) if we were.
Thank you for your hard work in preserving the Part B Medicare reimbursement, Robin. No doubt the STRS Board would have taken that away from us, too; more chipping away at our hard-earned benefits. Retirees are well aware that STRS is under no obligation to provide healthcare for us, but we have come to depend heavily on this "gift", particularly since many of us would not be able to afford it otherwise. Keeping our COLA would have helped a lot.
Well, I got off the track. I started to write to give you a heads-up on a mass protest coming up at next week's STRS Board meeting, to protest the loss of our COLA and to push for its reinstatement. You may already be aware of it. The protest has been organized by two retirees from Cincinnati, Dean Dennis and Bob Buerkle, whom you have no doubt heard speak at STRS Board meetings. We will be assembling in the STRS Board Room on Thursday, June 21, by 10:00 a.m., wearing black shirts; some may be carrying signs. After the public participation, we will take our protest to another location, possibly the Statehouse. It would be nice if ORTA were to be a part of this. There will probably be some TV cameras around, too.
Best wishes,
Kathie Bracy

Sunday, June 10, 2018

POP 5 rears its ugly head.....AGAIN

If you're like me (Kathie Bracy), you've probably received literature in your mail at least three times in the last two years, promising action to save our pension and soliciting your support in the way of membership dues. To date I've seen no evidence on their part to help "save" any of the five pension systems; no reports, nothing. All they do is collect your money. They will not get a penny from me. A Google Earth search for their business address turns up a
house in suburban Columbus (see photo). I'm sure Mr. Winegarner enjoys walking to his mailbox every day to collect all those checks coming in from retirees. 
The Ohio Retired Teachers Association has recently posted on its website ( a good piece by Executive Director Dr. Robin Rayfield, who has been fielding inquiries from retired educators about POP 5. Here is what he says:

ORTA Position on Protect Ohio Pensions (POP 5)

From the ORTA Executive Director, Dr. Robin Rayfield:
"Recently recipients of STRS benefits across the state received a letter from an organization calling themselves ‘Protect Ohio Pensions’ or POP 5. The letter is addressed to STRS Retiree, Survivors, and Disability Recipients and asks retirees to join POP 5. Many ORTA members were asking questions about this group and wanted to know if ORTA was affiliated with POP 5.
The short answer is NO. ORTA is not affiliated with Protect Ohio Pensions nor are there any plans to join with this group. In fact, a call to the other executive directors of public pension retiree groups in the state (Police and Fire Retirees of Ohio, School Employee Retirees of Ohio, and Public Retirees Inc.) indicates that NONE of these groups are affiliated with Protect Ohio Pensions. ORTA’s reasons NOT to become affiliated with this group are:
• ORTA has a 70 years history of advocating for and protecting STRS member benefits. Over that long history
• ORTA has been the ONLY association whose mission is to work on behalf of retired teachers, administrators, university educators, and other associated educators. ORTA’s efforts have insured the stability of the STRS system and the health care programs offered by STRS.
• ORTA views the efforts by POP 5 as redundant and an unnecessary expense to members of our organization. For example:
• ORTA attends all STRS board of trustee meetings, offers testimony, and speaks with one strong voice on behalf of retired educators. Our relationship with STRS has been developed over the 70-year history and is strong at the current time. Although we respect and support any effort by any group that advocates for public pension recipients ORTA is convinced that we know the problems our members face and are in the best position to advocate on STRS recipient members behalf.
• ORTA remains committed to its primary mission to protect the defined benefit program at STRS, maintaining an affordable health care system for Medicare and non-Medicare eligible retirees, providing many other benefits through the AMBA program, and enhancing the lives of STRS beneficiaries through its 88 local chapters across the state.
• ORTA sits on HPA (Healthcare & Pension Advocates for STRS committee). In this role, ORTA is able to recommend policy and offer advice to STRS as they manage our pension system.
As the longstanding voice for STRS recipients ORTA has fought to maintain our pension for over 70 years. Our standing as a recognized tax-exempt, non-profit entity provides for transparency in our advocacy efforts. ORTA members need to be careful with their limited resources. Paying an additional fee for advocacy that is already taking place may not be in the best interest of our members.

Please feel free to contact me at the ORTA office phone (614-431-7002), by email , or by cell phone (419) 583-6924.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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