28 Sep 2018

BREAKING: WEP Legislation Filed by Congressman Brady

Congressman Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) has filed legislation to replace the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) with a formula equalizing benefits for certain individuals with non-covered employment. The bill is labeled HR 6933, and it is a bipartisan bill co-authored by Richie Neal (D- MA).

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is an unfair federal provision preventing retirees from receiving the Social Security benefits they are owed. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of Social Security benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security.

Brady created this press release about the bill.

Ninety-five percent of Texas public school employees do not pay into Social Security through their work with Texas schools. However, many have other jobs before, during, or after their employment in education in which they do pay into the federal program.

The bill, known as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2018, is similar to a bill filed in 2016, H.R. 711, the Equal Protection for Public Servants Act. The bill failed to receive a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee in the summer of 2016, of which Brady is the Chairman.

Congressman Brady has communicated with the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and other interest groups multiple times over the past two years, indicating his strong desire to continue working to correct an issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of retired public servants nationwide.

TRTA, along with our friends at the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) and other active and retired public employee organizations, thank Chairman Brady for his ongoing efforts to fix the unfair and arbitrary WEP. His work with Richie Neal is greatly appreciated.

While there are other bills suggesting a complete repeal of the WEP and the GPO, this is the only bill with Congressional support that may actually be able to move through the very difficult process of getting passed in Congress.

TRTA will have a longer update about this coming as we receive more information.

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25 Sep 2018

Countdown to the General Election: A Simple Plan

The November 6 mid-term General Election is shaping up with many good candidates and considerable political fodder for marketing gurus. When you hear the next amazing fact that sounds too good to be true or an out-of-context statement excoriating a political opponent, remember it is the job of marketing experts to make their candidate appear superhuman and their opponent seem weak. Do not let political ads goad you into voting based solely on an emotional reaction!

The problem with all the marketing glam and sham is that it works! It’s easy to get caught up in the spectator sport of politics and take sides based on how we feel instead of what will help us achieve our priorities. It’s fun to watch the commercials, but it’s a show with the purpose of making viewers act on instinct instead of reason.

Here is a simple plan to remind TRTA members why we encourage you to vote based on facts and what we stand for as educators. Use these tips to reflect on your emotions after seeing the same commercial for the 50th time or receiving yet another mud-slinging flyer in the mail.

Answer these five grounding questions about voting:

Why? It is simple. As public servants, our livelihood (monthly annuities, health care, and Social Security) and the programs young Texans need to carry us into the future are determined by elected officials. Our unified voice is our strongest asset, helping us elect leaders who care about our priorities and make them their priorities.

What? This non-presidential mid-term election features a U.S Senate race, all U.S congressional seats, Texas statewide leaders (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, and Land Commissioner), half the Texas State Senate and all Texas State House Representatives. You must be registered to vote! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. TRTA leaders are pushing for 100 percent voter registration for the TRTA membership. Just do it!

When? Voter registration ends on October 9. Today is National Voter Registration Day. Early voting for the General Election begins on October 22 and continues through November 2. Election day is November 6. Mail-in ballots can be requested through October 26. Request them now and send them in when early voting begins to ensure your ballot arrives on time.

How? Voter turnout is determined by motivation to act. Motivation can stem from fear and anger, which is what political consultants want; but motivation can be strategic and based on priorities, such as our economic future. Voters decide who wins, and elected officials work for us–not the other way around! However, democracy is not a spectator sport! Please plan to vote early and then persuade every educator you know to vote in this election, particularly active educators.

Who? You decide who to vote for and your vote is private, so no one will know unless you tell them.  TRTA does not endorse candidates or political parties, but we do encourage you to consider our priorities and who you think best supports public education overall. We encourage you to talk to TRTA local unit legislative committee chairs and people you trust who have the same priorities as you to get the facts you need. You can also go to the following websites to research candidates’ stances on education and retiree issues.

The Texas Tribune election app

These non-partisan sources contain personalized ballots, links to the candidate websites, candidate surveys, voting records, a list of candidates who pledge to stand by education principles, and more. Talk to your friends, attend campaign forums, or contact the candidates to glean more information.

We hope this simple list helps you consider what’s at stake before you vote. There are only fourteen days until the voter registration deadline. Keep up the good work, stay focused, and stay tuned to the Inside Line as we near election day.

Next Tuesday, we will feature a special detailed message about TRTA’s priorities from the state legislative committee.

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20 Sep 2018

Breaking: TRS Makes No Changes to TRS-Care Benefits

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees is holding meetings today and tomorrow. The board was considering increasing premiums to non-Medicare retirees by $50 per month.

However, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie has stated that the staff recommendation is to not increase these monthly premiums. Since the benefits committee didn’t act on the proposal to increase premiums, the board won’t increase or change the benefits structure.

Guthrie updated the Benefits Committee on the improved status of TRS-Care. He said that the fund is facing a $238 million budget shortfall. This figure is on the smaller side of previously projected ranges, which were between $400-$600 million.

As a result of the lower figure, and letters from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Joan Huffman (R – Houston), as well as support from Sen. Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), Guthrie stated that the perceived legislative intent was to help fill the shortfall during the upcoming legislative session.

“Now that the projections are significantly better this year than they were last year… we received feedback that the legislative intent has changed,” Guthrie said. “We trust the legislative process.”

Guthrie attributed the improved number to contract negotiations. TRS-Care also received additional federal reimbursements this year. TRS released the following statement on the issue:

“While working on plan year 2019 contract negotiations with Humana, the current third-party administrator of TRS-Care Medicare Advantage; TRS got an improved rate from Humana – TRS’ risk group resulted in enhanced revenue from CMS to Humana, thus allowing TRS to reduce the rate it pays Humana.”

If the Legislature doesn’t make any changes to TRS-Care funding, it’s likely that TRS will increase premiums, or make other benefit changes, during a board meeting following the legislative session.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) will continue to keep its members informed about the nature of the TRS-Care budget shortfall. Stay tuned to the Inside Line for continued updates on this issue.

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