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30 Jan 2018
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TRS News and Primary Election Update

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has heard from many members lately regarding changes to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance plan, as well as changes in monthly annuity amounts and IRS implications for tax returns. Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions TRTA has received.

Annuity Letters

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) announced last week that all TRS members whose annuity amount will change this year due to new health care deductions will receive a letter by the end of January 2018 stating the new annuity amount and the amount deducted for health insurance.

Another letter will arrive in February reflecting changes in withholding amounts for federal taxes recently disseminated by the federal government. TRS has a dedicated phone line for questions specifically about these letters: 877.570.4192. Additional information about the two letters can be found online by clicking this link.

TRS-Care Grace Period

TRS is offering a grace period for TRS-Care participants who terminated health plan coverage but want to return to TRS-Care. Although the rule has been and remains that the decision to leave TRS-Care may only be reversed in certain limited, special enrollment events like marriage or birth, TRS has offered to allow members who were enrolled in 2017 and decided to leave the program a one-time chance to return.

In order to utilize this grace period, you must fill out an application and send it to TRS before February 28, 2018. Details are listed on the TRS website at this link.

Leaving TRS-Care

Medicare-eligible retirees are still under a special enrollment period with regard to guaranteed issue status and Medicare supplement (Medigap) policies. If you are a Medicare recipient and you were not enrolled in the 2017 Humana Medicare-Advantage tier two option (identical coverage as the current plan), you still have the option to enroll in a plan outside of TRS-Care under guaranteed issue status.

Guaranteed Issue Status means that you cannot be denied coverage in certain Medigap plans because of health problems because you lost your health care coverage through no fault of your own. This special enrollment period (SEP) applies only to 2017 TRS-Care Medicare-eligible enrollees who were not enrolled in the Humana plan mentioned above, and is available until March 4, 2018. Click here to view the TRS webpage with additional information.

Primary Election Update

We are less than a month away from the beginning of early voting in the Primary Election! Early voting begins on February 20, 2018 and continues through March 2. You must be registered to vote by February 5 in order to cast your ballot for this election. Please encourage all retired and active educators you know to verify their registration and be ready to cast their vote during early voting!

In Texas, the Primary Election is significant because more than 90 percent of the candidates who win their primary go on to win in the November General Election. Texas also is an open primary state. A registered voter does not have to choose a political party primary when registering. Voters are free to vote in either primary, and many people vote based on where their vote will count the most.

This option is a great freedom for Texans! Unfortunately, not many Texans take advantage of voting in any Primary Election, and by waiting until November, voters may give up the opportunity to affect the final outcome. This occurs because of the partisan make-up of the state and the way legislative districts are configured.

An excerpt from a Texas Educators Vote illustrates the point:

In the 2014 March Gubernatorial elections, 9.98 percent of registered voters voted in the Republican primary and 4.12 percent of registered voters voted in the Democratic primary. Those percentages aren’t even of eligible voters, but rather registered voters! The turnout among eligible voters is even lower! When it came time for the primary run-off elections in May, a mere 5.53 percent of registered voters participated in the Republican primary, and 1.48 percent of registered voters participated in the Democratic primary.”

With over 1 million active and retired educators in Texas, we have a fantastic opportunity to make our voice heard and push that low voter turnout percentage in a positive direction! Please make a plan to vote in the Primary Election and do your best to convince your active and retired colleagues to do the same. Let’s make a positive difference for Texas public educators!

Stay tuned for the first quarter issue of The VOICE, which will arrive in your mailbox in mid-February. This issue contains detailed information about the importance of voting and how to choose candidates who will support our priorities.

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22 Jan 2018
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Texas Retired Teachers Association Launches New Website

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has launched its new website. One of the biggest features of the new website is its mobile compatibility, meaning that users will be more easily able to navigate the site using phones and tablets.

The site brings a fresh, exciting design to TRTA, and encourages member growth and engagement for both the state and local units. Another new feature on the site is an expansive calendar that includes local unit and district meetings. The meetings are currently listed up through May. If you do not see your local meetings posted, you can use this Google Form to submit meetings.

Another big change is the location of the TRTA member benefits. It is still possible to view what the benefits are under “Membership” and “Member Benefits,” but to access the discount codes and other benefit details, members must use the “Member Login” feature.

TRTA members who joined offline have a username that is their member ID number. The default TRTA member password is trta123. If you do not remember your username or password, you can use the “I don’t know my username or password” feature located under the member login. If you are still unable to find your username or password, you can email the TRTA membership department at membership@trta.org.

For local unit officers, the TRTA forms have been moved under the “Membership tab” and are titled “Member Resources.” Similarly, the TRTA State Standing Committees are now located under the “About Us.”

We’d love to hear your feedback about the new site! Please share your thoughts with TRTA by sending an email to info@trta.org.

Thank You

The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life. If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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19 Jan 2018
0

Voter Registration Deadline Upcoming, Make A Plan to Vote in the Primary Elections

The Texas primary elections are the most direct way retired educators can make positive changes to retirement benefits such as cost-of-living adjustments and TRS-Care. The Texas Legislature is the state’s governing body that determines how much funding the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) receives. By voting for pro-public education candidates in the Texas primaries, retirees can have an enormous impact on TRS benefits.

According to Texas Educators Vote, over 90 percent of Texas elections are determined in the primary. The Texas primary elections early voting begins on February 20 and ends on March 2, 108. Primary election day is on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

The deadline to register to vote is February 5. If you are not registered to vote by February 5, you will not be able to participate in the election. Visit the Secretary of State’s website to register to vote today!

If you are already registered to vote, the make a plan with your fellow educators to vote early in the primary election. The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) encourages all eligible educators, both retired and active, to get out the vote. Work with the local units in your area to learn about pro-public education candidates.

Talk to the Candidates!

The Texas Tribune has a list of all candidates on primary election ballots. Please take some time to reach out to candidates in your area and find out where they stand on issues that affect your retirement benefits! Be sure and share this information with your fellow retirees, neighbors and friends, as well as with TRTA. Feel free to email us at info@trta.org when you hear back from candidates about their stance on education issues.

Great questions to ask candidates:

  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable healthcare of TRS retirees?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care health insurance program are preserved and improved?

Thank You

The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life. If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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