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13 Apr
0

Texas House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility Discuss Resolution to Repeal GPO, WEP

Today, the Texas House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility met to discuss several bills, including HCR 101, a resolution that would urge Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of the Social Security Act.

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know about these two unfair federal provisions, and that TRTA has been fighting for repeal or modification of them for more than three decades.

The resolution, filed by Representative Abel Herrero (D – Robstown), is one that has been filed during every Texas legislative session by Herrero over the past 12 years. If passed, it is sent to the President of the United States, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, as well as to all the members of the Texas congressional delegation with the request that this resolution be officially entered in the congressional record.


Tim Lee meets with Rep. Abel Herrero.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of the resolution, reminding the members of the committee that these unfair provisions take away earned benefits, either spousal (GPO) or one’s own earnings (WEP). Texas educators are often caught off guard by these federal provisions, which financially punish educators during retirement. GPO often eliminates a spousal or survivor benefit completely, while the WEP eliminates up to two-thirds of a retiree’s Social Security earnings.

While TRTA is supportive of HCR 101, we also know that Congress has shown little movement to repeal the GPO and the WEP over the past three decades. TRTA supports the more other measures to repeal the current WEP formula proposed by Congressman Kevin Brady. As you may have read in a recent Inside Line update, Congressman Brady affirmed to TRTA that his top personal priority as a legislator is to pass WEP reform.

While Brady, who heads the Congressional House Ways and Means Committee, is focused on major policy issues such as tax reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) right now, we can expect to see a new bill addressing the WEP this congressional cycle. During the last congressional cycle, Brady filed H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, which proposed to provide a rebate to retirees who fall under the WEP, as well as reforming the unfair formula for future retirees.

H.R. 711 received considerable support, including more than 100 Congressional cosponsors. However, stakeholder groups could not come to a final agreement on the bill’s changes to the WEP. The bill was delayed in committee, with a promise from Brady to continue moving forward with even better resolutions. When Brady re-files this legislation later this year, the bill will have a new number.

Congressman Brady also vowed to continue working closely with all stakeholders, including TRTA, to make the legislation work for everyone. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) may also be a part of this conversation. According to the congressman, it is possible that the GPO could be addressed in any upcoming legislation reforming the WEP as well.

What You Can Do Now to Support Repeal of the WEP and GPO

While there is not yet a bill number for reforming or repealing the WEP and GPO, members can still call their congressmen today and express their support for Congressman Brady’s efforts to change these unfair provisions. Let them know you want to see these unfair provisions reformed and you would like their support when Congressman Brady’s bill is filed later this year.

Find your U.S. Representative by clicking here.

Call your U.S. Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, using the phone numbers listed below:

John Cornyn: 202.224.2934        Ted Cruz: 202.224.5922

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here. Be sure to read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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12 Apr
0

Senate Bill 788 Pulled From Consideration

Earlier today Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) removed Senate Bill 788 from the docket to be considered by the Senate. The bill would have made major reforms to TRS-Care, including creating a high deductible health care plan for pre-65 retired educators and switching all Medicare eligible retirees to Medicare Advantage.

Now that the bill has been pulled, alternative legislation needs to be proposed to fund and maintain TRS-Care. If no alternative legislation is proposed and passed, TRS-Care will not be able to continue. According to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), without new funding and plan design changes, TRS-Care will be sent into a “death spiral.” If this occurs, retired teachers’ health care will go away. TRS-Care’s current budget shortfall is $1 billion.

Retired teachers are willing to do their part in contributing towards a solution to this shortfall. However, some of the provisions in SB 788 were beyond retirees’ means. In particular, the $4,000 deductible and $7,150 out of pocket maximum, combined with no prescription drug plan, was untenable for many pre-65 retirees. The plan could have forced many retirees into poverty in order to maintain the health care plan.

With no Senate action on the immediate horizon, the need for TRTA members to support the House of Representatives’ efforts to propose and pass legislation reforming TRS-Care has increased. We will work with House leaders and appropriators to craft a solution that helps our members and allows them to have access to affordable health care.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) would like to thank the members of the Senate for supporting retired teachers, and we ask them to remain dedicated to finding ways to keep TRS-Care affordable. We look forward to working with legislators to pass legislation to keep TRS-Care sustainable now and into the future.

The legislative process is complex and fast moving. More details will be forthcoming as we receive them.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here. Be sure to read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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12 Apr
0

TRS-Care: What’s Next

Dear TRTA Member,

Thank you for your tireless advocacy efforts in protecting your benefits provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

Your calls, emails and visits to legislators are truly making a difference. Legislators have heard your voice, and are formulating plans to try to help our cause.

However, many legislators are preparing to leave their offices for Easter break.

I want to ask all of you to simply take a breath and rest through this weekend.

There are moments when the best action is to rest, allow others to work on our behalf and reengage when needed. Now is a good time to wait on sending additional communication to your legislators.

It is a critical time in the legislative process. Many legislators are working hard to solve the TRS-Care issue. The issue of funding TRS-Care’s $1 billion budget shortfall to provide health care to retired educators is complicated and challenging.

TRTA is looking forward to working with our House members to create a piece of legislation that keeps TRS-Care affordable.

Our friends in both the House and the Senate are evaluating the best steps to take with the time remaining this session to address the TRS-Care issue.

I am suggesting to you that we give them some time to work together on your behalf, to evaluate what we know and determine the best course of action to pursue.

Our work is not over, not by a long shot, BUT we can and should take a pause on our communication efforts into the legislature. Please rest up for what will be a busy last half of this regular legislative session.

Thank you for all that you do to help us. I say so often that our TRTA members are the best advocates in ALL of Texas. You are all AMAZING!

Please enjoy the weekend break, and let’s all agree that we will regroup next week.

Gratefully yours,
Tim Lee
Executive Director
Texas Retired Teachers Association

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