10 Nov

Welcome to Foundation Month

Foundation Month, designated by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) Board of Directors as November, is a time to increase awareness of our charitable partner organization’s programs, good deeds, and plans for the future!

Foundation Month is also when the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) makes its annual call for donations. It is a time to give back to the education community and reflect on the great legacy of public education.

TRTF is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of active and retired educators. TRTF makes its presence known through several charitable initiatives.

The most well-known initiative is the “A Helping Hand” program. “A Helping Hand” provides public education retirees with charitable assistance for a one-time special need or other short-term hardship. Recipients include anyone who is receiving or is eligible to receive an annuity from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

Launched in 2010, “A Helping Hand” has provided more than $90,000 in grants for such purposes as medical bills, home repairs, food, and utilities to 94 individuals.

If you or a fellow educator is in financial need, please submit your request here.

TRTF also delivers grants to active educators who strive to improve classrooms through various initiatives for Texas students. Last year, TRTF provided fifteen $500 classroom assistance grants for teachers to purchase supplies and create projects for students. Read more about last year’s recipients here.

TRTF has documented many of these efforts in its “Making a Difference” video series.

Applications for Classroom Assistance Grants are available here. Fifteen grants will be given in March 2017.

This year, TRTF has redeveloped its scholarship program. Beginning Teacher Scholarships provide financial assistance to teachers who are entering the classroom for the very first time. Each scholarship is worth $750, with the purpose of funding certification tests and purchasing classroom supplies. TRTF will deliver ten scholarships in 2017.

Applications for the scholarships are available here. The deadline to apply for both Classroom Assistance Grants and Beginning Teacher Scholarships is March 16, 2017.

Finally, TRTF continues to grow its newly formed endowment fund. The Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund commemorates the work of two pivotal figures in Texas public education retirement history, Mike Lehr and Tom Pritchard. The purpose of the endowment fund is to create a permanent source of funding for the “A Helping Hand” program. You can learn more about the endowment fund here.

Donate Today!

Please help us reach our goal of $100,000 in donations! Donate to the Foundation today!

Donations may be made online here, or you may call and donate over the phone with a credit card at 1.800.880.1650 (please ask for Dawn). The third quarter issue of The VOICE also featured a special article about the Foundation, along with TRTF’s annual appeal letter and donation card. You can mail in your donation using the pre-paid envelope included with your issue. All donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you for considering the Foundation when you do your charitable giving this year. Your donations help educators of the past, present and future!

Thank You

Thank you for your contributions to the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation. Foundation Month is a great way to organize events and raise donations for TRTF via your local units. Be sure to check with your local unit for meetings during the month of November.

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow TRTA on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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09 Nov

Thank You For Getting Out the Vote In 2016

TRTA would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to the education community for all of its hard work during the 2016 election cycle. From the primaries to yesterday’s election, retired and active educators worked tirelessly throughout the state to send informed voters to the polls and promote active participation in our democracy.

Thank you for spreading the word to family, friends and the education community at large, and for volunteering in countless ways to help other Americans vote. Most of all, thank you for getting out the vote.

Texas had a record number of voter registrations this year. Although not all the votes have been canvassed, almost 1 million more votes were cast in this presidential election than in 2012 according to the Secretary of State’s website. This is a point of pride we can all celebrate as Texans.

I encourage you to take a deep breath, a short rest and prepare yourself to switch gears as we ramp up towards the 85th Texas Legislature. The legislative session begins on the second Tuesday of January. However, your TRTA state and local legislative teams started their hard work months ago. They have been building relationships and forming teams to make serious change in the Capitol halls. In 2017, we will unite as Texans and as educators to protect TRS-Care and work towards Cost-of-Living-Adjustments.

Additionally, we will continue our work with the United States Congress to repeal and reform the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset. We have a lot to look forward to, and I am excited to work with our members and government employees to accomplish great things.

Again, thank you for continuing to care so much for the future of our state,

Tim Lee 

Executive Director

Texas Retired Teachers Association

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08 Nov

TRTA Member ALERT: Medicare Part B Premiums to Rise in 2017!

Click here to send an email to your Congressman and help TRTA keep your premiums from increasing!

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may have heard that premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient care, are projected to rise in January 2017.

Our members may recall that last year, due to there being no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries, premiums were estimated to increase by 50 percent for 2016 for about 30 percent of Medicare Part B participants. That situation was rectified, in part, by a one-time infusion of funds from Congress in the amount of $7.5 billion. Premiums still increased for many participants from the standard $104.90 monthly rate to $121.80 in 2016, however.

This year, things are somewhat different. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a COLA for its beneficiaries of 0.3 percent, effective January 2017. But like last year, the concept of “hold harmless” will once again place the burden of the majority of the projected Medicare Part B increase on just 30 percent of participants.

Right now, this could mean that Medicare Part B premiums could increase by 20 percent or more for those who are not held harmless! This will impact many of our members!

Why is this Happening and What is “Hold Harmless?”

Social Security recipients who are on Medicare must, according to law, have their Part B premiums withheld from their monthly Social Security payments. (This is true for the majority of Medicare Part B participants, but not for those who do not receive Social Security at all. Many public pensioners, including Texas retired public education employees, pay for Medicare Part B out-of-pocket).

The “hold harmless” provision is a rule that Social Security benefits cannot decline for beneficiaries from one year to the next. (This applies to married couples earning less than $170,000 modified adjusted gross income or individuals earning less than $85,000).

In most years in the month of October, Social Security announces a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for the following year for beneficiaries. When a COLA is announced, Medicare can boost Part B premiums, resulting in more money being deducted from people’s COLA-adjusted monthly Social Security benefits, essentially preventing the loss of income brought on by the premium increase.

The “hold harmless” rule means that most people who have their Medicare Part B premiums deducted from their SS checks are protected: their Medicare charges can’t increase by any more than their Social Security income goes up. For those 70 percent of beneficiaries, their Medicare Part B premium will rise only as much as 0.3 percent in 2017, but it will be covered by their SS raise.

Unfortunately, the projected increases in Medicare Part B expenses for 2017 are so high that Medicare does not expect to be able to absorb the extra costs. By law, Medicare must collect about 25 percent of Part B expenses from beneficiaries. Because Medicare cannot collect those funds from the 70 percent of beneficiaries who are held harmless, it must collect the 25 percent ratio from beneficiaries who are not held harmless.

Who is Not Held Harmless?

Those not held harmless from this projected increase in Medicare B premiums are:

  • New enrollees to Medicare in 2017;
  • People with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) above $85,000 ($170,000 on joint tax returns);
  • Those who pay their Medicare Part B premiums out-of-pocket, either because they haven’t yet begun receiving Social Security benefits or will never receive Social Security benefits.

Ninety-five percent of Texas public school employees do not pay into the federal Social Security program! This means potentially hundreds of thousands of TRS Texas retirees could be impacted by this premium increase! (People with low incomes who have their premiums paid by their state are also not held harmless, but this means state budgets would take the financial hit).

How Much Could Medicare Part B Premiums Increase?

Right now, we do not know the exact answer to this question. As mentioned earlier, right now Medicare Part B premiums for those who are not held harmless may increase by 20 percent or more as of January 2017.

An example provided by Money magazine states that “people who aren’t receiving Social Security and who pay $121.80 a month for Medicare now may have to pay $149 a month, up 22 percent.”

Much of this decision will depend upon Congress and their plans to address this unfair increase. Last year, Congress chose to defray part of the cost.

Congress returns to session shortly after the election ends.

What Can Be Done?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is not able to fix this issue on its own, and must rely upon Congress to take action.

This potential premium increase affects public sector retirees disproportionately!Much like the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), it is unfair.

Now is the time for our members to reach out to their Congressional members and tell them that Texas public education retirees should not have to subsidize the premiums of the other 70 percent of Medicare Part B enrollees across the nation!

Legislation must be filed and passed this year to prevent exorbitant Medicare Part B premium increases for people who do not receive Social Security!

We need your help reaching out to your Texas Congressional members today.

Click here to send an email to your Congressman now!

Thank You

Protecting your health care benefits is TRTA’s top priority, and your participation can make all of the difference. Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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