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07 Jul
0

TRTA Breaking News: Abbott Adds Thirteenth Check for TRS Annuitants to Special Session Agenda

Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation to call a special session of the 87th Legislature. The session will convene on Thursday, July 8 at 10:00 a.m.

Here is the link to Gov. Abbott’s proclamation. The proclamation includes a list of agenda items that will be addressed.

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) will be happy to know that, per the proclamation, “legislation similar to House Bill 3507 . . . relating to a ‘thirteenth check’ or supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas” has been added to the list of special session priorities.

As our members may recall, TRTA asked Gov. Abbott to add a benefit enhancement for retirees to the call. Bills that were filed during the regular 87th Legislative Session to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or other benefit enhancement failed to pass.

A letter composed by TRTA President Leroy DeHaven in June stated that “members of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) who retired after September 1, 2004, have never seen an increase in their retirement checks. Seventeen years is too long for retired educators to go without a meaningful benefit enhancement! A raise is long overdue. Inflation is on the rise, and the only way retired educators will receive help is if the Legislature takes action.”

TRTA is very pleased to hear this news, and we are working to ensure TRS retirees receive the best possible benefit increase.

Please stay tuned to the Inside Line for information about bills that are filed and urgent Action Alerts that will be needed on this vital issue! If you haven’t joined us yet, please do so today! If you’re already a member, be sure to renew your dues.

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14 Jun
0

TRTA to Provide Testimony on WEP Reform

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is advocating on behalf of retired educators to reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Tomorrow at 1 p.m. Central, there will be a meeting of the U.S. Ways and Means Committee, which manages Social Security issues. The meeting will be available to watch here.

TRTA’s legislative committee member for District 4, Mary Widmier, will be testifying to the Ways and Means Committee. She will be sharing her story about being negatively impacted by the WEP. She worked for 36 years as an educator in Texas and 21 years in the private sector.

The 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.

The WEP is particularly harmful to many retired Texas educators. 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.

TRTA has partnered with the Mass Retirees to form the Public Retirees Alliance. The goal of the Public Retirees Alliance is the reform the WEP, and the help get retirees back the money that they earned during their careers.

TRTA is working closely with Rep. Kevin Brady (R – TX) on reforming the WEP. Brady serves as the co-chair for the Ways and Means committee, and his support is significant towards making progress on this issue.

Rep. Richard Neal (D – MA) serves as the chair of the Ways and Means committee. His bill, H.R. 2337, proposes to provide relief to current and future retirees.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow at 1 p.m. Central to watch Widmier’s testimony to the Ways and Means Committee.

Thank You

The TRTA membership drive is underway for the coming 2021-22 membership year. No other group focuses solely on your TRS retirement security! Please join us today!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest updates and communicate with your fellow retirees.

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02 Jun
0

ACTION ALERT: TRTA Calls on Gov. Abbott to Add a COLA to the Special Session

TRTA asking members to share this message with fellow retirees and to take action today!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is asking Gov. Greg Abbott to add a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or other benefit increase for retired educators to the special session call.

CLICK HERE TO USE OUR ACTION ALERT!

Members of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) who retired after Sept. 1, 2004, have never seen an increase in their retirement checks. Seventeen years is too long for retired educators to go without a meaningful benefit enhancement! A raise is long overdue. Inflation is on the rise, and the only way retired educators will receive help is if the Legislature takes action.

The Legislature has the ability to direct TRS to grant a COLA. The pension fund currently meets the statutory requirements to provide a benefit enhancement. Contact Gov. Abbott’s office today and ask him to add a COLA for retired educators to the call of the special session.

Tim Lee, TRTA’s Executive Director, wrote a letter to Gov. Abbott last week making this request. He wrote, “TRS retirees believe that elected leaders made a promise to help them when the TRS pension trust fund was actuarially sound. Now is that time. A COLA would improve the retirement security of all TRS members, as well as preserve the TRS fund. It is the right thing to do. It would benefit approximately 400,000 Texans who dedicated their lives to the service of Texas communities, parents, and students. Now is the time to help them.”

Leroy DeHaven, TRTA’s President, issued a statement last week wherein he described why a COLA failed to pass this session.

“By the end of session, the answer provided by the Legislature to TRS retirees on what killed the COLA seems to be…TRS is not yet fiscally stable enough, therefore, not now.” Dehaven wrote. “TRS is actuarially sound. More than 130,000 TRS retirees are earning an annuity of $1,000 per month or less. More than half of all current TRS retirees have never received a COLA during their retirement. The federal government is still treating our retirees unfairly with both the WEP and the GPO. NOW is the best time for the Texas Legislature to act on a COLA.”

Join our effort to pass a COLA for retired educators by using our Action Alert today!

Full Recap of Retiree-Related Bills That Passed

TRTA worked to pass a number of meaningful, important pieces of legislation this session. These successes include a bill that includes additional state funding for TRS, the TRS Sunset bill, a golden ticket into TRS-Care bill, two return-to-work bills, two tutoring bills, and a Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset reform resolution.

SB 1 – The State Finance Bill

The state finance bill was the most important piece of legislation that TRTA worked to pass. It was critical for the state to keep its promise from last session to increase its contribution to TRS. This year, the Texas state appropriation to TRS is $5 billion. Nearly $1 billion of this total appropriation is new funding from the state general revenue fund that keeps the state on track to fully fund the TRS actuarial soundness bill passed in 2019.

HB 1585 – The Sunset Bill – Authored By: Lambert | Joint Authors: Canales | Paddie | Goldman | Cyrier | Co-Authors:  Dean | Fierro | Guillen | Ordaz Perez | Ramos | Rogers | Slaton | Spiller | VanDeaver | Senate Sponsor: Lucio, Jr. | Co-Sponsor: Blanco

The TRS Sunset bill made a number of important changes to the state agency, including a mandate for TRS to be more responsive to member needs and the creation of an ombudsman position at TRS to assist members with agency issues, a requirement for TRS to publicly report financial bonuses the agency makes to its investment managers, and increased customer service in health care appeals. TRTA members have been working on these issues since 2019, and we are proud to see the Legislature’s responsive action on ALL the issues we raised in this process.

HB 2022 – Golden Ticket Bill – Authored By: Darby | Joint Authors: Rogers | Johnson, Jarvis | Morales Shaw | Herrero | Co-Authors: Allen | Burns | Campos | Dean |Frullo | Guillen | Harless | King, Ken | Kuempel | Lopez | Minjarez |Price | Raney | Smith | Spiller | Tinderholt | Vo | Zwiener

The golden ticket bill opens the door to allow certain Medicare age-eligible TRS retirees to return to TRS-Care. After the changes made to TRS-Care in 2017, thousands of retirees left the health care program. Once out of the program, retirees couldn’t return. The golden ticket bill will allow those retirees who left between 2017 through 2019 a one-time opportunity to rejoin TRS-Care. Please note, this measure is awaiting action from the Governor, but as long as he does not veto it, it will become law on September 1, 2021. As always, TRS retirees interested in this matter, or any TRS-Care matter, should speak with a TRS counselor before making any decisions relating to their health care insurance options.

SB 288 – Return-to-Work Bill – Authored By: Seliger | Co-Authors: Blanco | Buckingham | Lucio | Paxton | Schwertner  |Springer | Zaffirini | Sponsor: Wu | Co-Sponsors: Anchia | Dean | Ordaz Perez | Allen

For many years, retirees who returned to work in the classroom faced losing an entire pension check if they went over the allowed work period by even a small amount. SB 288 provides a much greater flexibility for retirees to return-to-work by exempting all retirees before Jan. 1, 2021, from work limits. It also institutes a required warning for the first offense from TRS before any penalties are assessed if retirees inadvertently work over the time limits.

HB 3207 – Return-to-Work Disaster Bill – Authored By: Herrero | Joint Authors: Anchia | Parker | Capriglione | Stephenson | Co-Author: Morales Shaw

Similarly, HB 3207 provides a path for retirees to return-to-work during times of disaster, such as during and after winter storm Uri.

SB 1356 – The Tutoring Bills – Authored By: Hughes | Co-Authors:  Gutierrez | Zaffarini | Sponsor:  Dutton

And HB 1525 by Huberty | Joint Authors: VanDeaver | King, Ken | Dutton | González, Mary | Co-Authors: Capriglione | Lopez | Lozano | Morales Shaw | Morales, Eddie | Spiller | Sponsor: Taylor | Co-Sponsors: Bettencourt | Lucio | Paxton

SB 1356 allows organizations, such as the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF), to offer tutoring services to school districts. It’s a significant step forward to help school districts by offering tutoring services through retired educators. The language from SB 1356 was amended onto HB 1525 just to make sure that legislation enabling our tutoring program had a back up, in case anything bad happened to SB 1356. Learn more about TRTF’s tutoring program here.

SCR 17 – WEP Reform – Authored By: Hughes |Co-Authors: Blanco | Buckingham | Creighton | Gutierrez | Hall | Hinojosa | Kolkhorst | Lucio | Springer | West | Sponsor: Herrero | Co-Sponsors: Munoz, Jr. | Parker | Capriglione | Toth

SCR 17 is a request from the Texas Legislature to the federal government to repeal and reform the harmful Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

Thank You

The TRTA membership drive is underway for the coming 2021-22 membership year. No other group focuses solely on your TRS retirement security! Please join us today!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest updates and communicate with your fellow retirees.

Read More