Blog

08 Nov
0

November is Foundation Month! Read About TRTF’s Classroom Assistance Grants

November has been designated by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) Board of Directors as a time to raise funds for and honor the charitable endeavors of our partner organization, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF).

TRTF just launched its annual appeal to raise funds for its four primary charitable programs and its endowment fund: “A Helping Hand,” Classroom Assistance Grants, Beginning Teacher Scholarships, the Disaster Relief Fund and the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund. TRTF hopes to raise $100,000 in donations to support its programs to help educators of the past, present, and future!

Each year, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) distributes thirty $500 classroom assistance grants to educators all across Texas. The grants are awarded to public school teachers who demonstrate commitment to the education of Texas children through the creation of programs, events, learning platforms, or other innovative classroom projects.

Since 2008, TRTF has provided more than $480,000 to educators of the past, present, and future, including $78,000 in grants to public school teachers.

We challenge our members to watch the video below and really see how donations are changing lives! You can also read more about all of TRTF’s charitable endeavors in the third quarter issue of The VOICE.

Please consider making your year-end, tax-deductible donation to TRTF this November. To donate online, please click here. To make a donation by phone, please call 1.800.880.1650 and ask for Sarah.

Bryan Teacher and Students Create “Texan Brews” Coffee Cart

One of this year’s classroom assistance grant recipients was Dena Favors, a middle school teacher in Bryan, Texas. She put her $500 towards starting a coffee delivery service for students in her SAILS class. SAILS stands for social academic independent living skills. The class is for scholars who have mild to moderate disabilities.

Favors’ students go door-to-door between classrooms delivering coffee to teachers. They charge $1 per cup of coffee, and each student is assigned a role. One student will knock on the door and greet the teacher. Another student will collect the money, and the other students help prepare the coffee, hand it over and check the teachers’ punch card. Teachers are ordering the coffee via a Google Form, and each Tuesday and Thursday, the students deliver the orders.

The students are working on basic living skills, according to Favors.

“Some of our students are learning to communicate. They have low verbal skills,” Favors said. “They’re getting to learn social skills.”

Since the program has started Favors has seen progression in those communication skills. One of her students has started to lift his head more when speaking. Others have become more confident in their ability to communicate with adults.

“I love watching them come in and asking about coffee cart,” Favors said. “That gives me joy to watch them grow.”

Favors was ecstatic when she found out that TRTF had selected her application for a grant.

“It was such a huge help. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to start it. I’m really grateful that we were able to get the money,” Favors said.

Applications Now Available!

TRTF is now accepting applications for Classroom Assistance Grants and will award thirty $500 grants to public school teachers in Texas for the 2019-2020 school year. To download an application, please click here. Applications are due to the TRTF office no later than 5:00 p.m. on February 28, 2019.

Read More
05 Nov
0

Election Day is Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2018 is General Election day! We know many members and friends of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) early voted between October 22 and November 2. In fact, voter turnout in Texas has soared beyond the turnout for the most recent midterm election held in 2014!

Per the Texas Tribune, “preliminary data shows turnout over 12 days of early voting in those 30 counties (where 78 percent of registered voters live) . . . surpassed the entire turnout of the 2014 midterm election — more than early voting and election-day voting combined.” Read more about voter turnout by clicking here.

However, if you have not yet cast your vote, tomorrow is the day! Here are few helpful resources for you as you make your voting plans. Be sure to invite a friend, family member or colleague to come and vote too! Be prepared to wait in line, but sure to stay and cast that vote!

Where do I vote on Election Day?

It depends on your county! In some counties, voters can vote at any polling location; but in other counties, voters must vote in their precinct. Check your county election website to find your voting location or check www.VOTE411.org.

What is on my ballot?

Find your ballot on your county election website or check www.VOTE411.org, which will have all statewide races and local races if there is a League of Women Voters in your community.

Who or what do I vote for?

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office. However, it is easy to compare candidates on the non-partisan website www.VOTE411.org. You can even print your choices before going to the polls. For more information pertaining specifically to education issues, try visiting Texas Educators Vote, another non-partisan group. You can also check with your fellow TRTA members if you have questions about the candidates running for office in your district.

What about voter ID?

Don’t forget your ID when heading to the polls. Learn more about what types of identification are acceptable by clicking here.

TRTA has many dedicated members putting in effort to civically engage their communities. Thank you! You should feel great about what we have accomplished together so far! Let’s celebrate by crossing the finish line together and have EVERY EDUCATOR VOTE!

TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: TRS-Care

TRTA has been sounding the alarm for TRS-Care for many, many years. In 2017, these alarms finally sounded loud and clear, and became a new reality for many retirees when the TRS-Care budget shortfall caused increased premiums and decreased benefits for participants.

TRS-Care has been suffering the consequences of a funding formula that relies on active teacher payroll. The funding for retiree health care isn’t linked to the actual costs of running the program. In general, costs for providing health care have sky-rocketed in recent years, and TRS-Care has not been immune from these changes.

The rising health care costs have caused the program to undergo numerous budget shortfalls over the years. Retirees shouldered much of the $1.1 billion shortfall in 2017. Between the state and school districts, the Legislature added $484 million to TRS-Care during the regular session. The special session in August 2017 saw the Legislature put an additional $212 million into TRS-Care.

The additional funding was able to save the program. But the cuts were deep and the changes were severe.

As a result of the changes to TRS-Care, more than 36,000 participants left the program. This is because despite additional funding received from the state, the program as it existed in years past was replaced with a one size fits all plan that doesn’t actually fit all needs for all participants. As a result, many plan participants went to health care marketplace to seek other options.

We are asking all TRTA members to reach out to their legislators and candidates running for political office.

Tell them that your health care costs are too high. The state base funding is too low. We need a permanent solution to this ongoing health care problem. At TRTA, we’ve studied this problem for years. We recommend that the state increase its base funding for TRS-Care by 1 percent now and by .25 percent every year for the next 8 years. Thousands of retirees have contacted TRTA and want the traditional Medicare supplement option for retirees age 65 years and older added back to the plan.

Everyone running for office in Texas should know, understand, and agree that TRS retirees deserve retirement security including affordable, accessible health care. TRS Retirees Deserve Better!

Read TRTA’s full list of TRS-Care recommendations!

Read More
01 Nov
0

TRTA’s Only Endorsed Benefit Group: Association Member Benefits Advisors

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has been made aware that there are insurance agents contacting retired educators in Texas marketing Medicare supplement plans. In some instances, it may appear as if these messages are originating from TRTA.

TRTA has only one endorsed benefit group: Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA). Our colleagues at AMBA are partnering with Via Benefits to offer an education-based, low stress approach for members or spouses needing assistance with private market Medicare supplement plans outside of TRS-Care.

TRTA’s partnership provides members with an entire marketplace of highly rated Medicare supplement options. The options are from multiple companies. Again, this is the ONLY program backed by TRTA and being offered directly to our members. If the private Medicare option you are considering is being offered by anyone other than Via Benefits or AMBA, then you are not working with a TRTA-endorsed program.

If you have any questions, please contact Via Benefits at 1.888.651.7306 (TTY: 711) or TRTA at 1.800.880.1650.

Is Via Benefits a solution for me?

TRS-Care has provided health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of retired educators and many dependents for more than three decades. It’s a much-needed benefit for those who dedicated their lives to school children and who live on modest fixed incomes. Legislative changes in 2017 resulted in a one-size-fits-all plan that may not currently fit all needs for all plan participants, especially in the individual Medicare market where plentiful options exist. If you’re happy with your TRS-Care insurance, you don’t have to do anything!

TRS reports that more than 37,000 retirees left TRS-Care in 2017. Ninety percent of the participants who left are age 65 or older. TRTA members want us to make sure that all retirees and their dependents who chose to enter the individual market last year, or who made this choice long ago, have access to the best individual plans, most affordable prices, highest quality sales and service experience. TRTA looked for a benefit partner that offers the most options and the best customer service to meet the needs of all our members who make this choice.

TRTA is proud to announce our partnership with Via Benefits brought to you by our benefits partner AMBA. This is the ONLY program backed by TRTA and being offered directly to our members and their dependents.

Via Benefits was selected as our partner for the following reasons:

  • CHOICE. Via Benefits offers thousands of plans from over 125 regional and national insurers. This means more coverage options for you.
  • SERVICE. Via Benefits will review your current plan and your 2019 coverage needs and budget. If you are in TRS-Care and have questions about your coverage, Via Benefits advisors can explain your options. It may be that their recommendation is that TRS–Care is still the right plan for you, or they’ll be able to educate you on alternatives if you wish. For those not participating in TRS-Care who want a higher quality, well-priced plan with a TRTA backed service provider, Via Benefits can help you too. There is no pressure to change plans and this service is provided at no cost to you. If you choose to enroll in an individual plan, Via Benefits will provide lifetime customer service and support.
  • GUARANTEED ISSUE Plans. Via Benefits offers guaranteed issue plans which means there is no underwriting, additional questions or hassle.

Who is a Good Candidate for the Via Benefits marketplace?

Potential candidates for the Via Benefits marketplace include any TRS retiree age 65 or older who is no longer in TRS-Care, TRS retiree dependents who are considering or already are in the individual Medicare market, or any TRS retiree who has questions about coverage options in the individual market.

TRTA’s objective is to help any TRS retiree or dependent who participates in or is reviewing the individual Medicare marketplace. If you need to shop for options and want a trusted partner who supports TRTA and our work with TRS retirees, Via Benefits is great option to consider.

What You Can Expect When You Call Via Benefits

A no pressure sales approach! We chose this partner because they support TRTA and its work to protect your retirement security. Via Benefits promises a personalized and informative experience. They will help you look at your options, including TRS-Care, and help you compare plans to find the one that fits your needs and budget. They are your Medicare resource whether you remain with TRS-Care or choose another plan. Many agents market Medicare supplement options, but there is only one partner backed by TRTA and that is Via Benefits. We want you to have the peace of mind that your questions will be answered by a group that shares TRTA’s values, and that whatever plan you select works for you.

Remember, if you are satisfied with your TRS-Care coverage and do not want to leave the program or make any changes, there is no need to do anything. TRS will continue to be your provider in the coming plan year.

How do I contact Via Benefits?

Call Via Benefits toll free at 888.651.7306, Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Central time or visit the website at my.viabenefits.com/TRTA.

Read More