11 Oct 2019

Tim Lee Visits Washington DC, Discusses Advancement of WEP Reform Bills

Executive Summary:

Recently, the Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director Tim Lee attended Rep. Richard Neal’s (D – Massachusetts) briefing. The purpose of the briefing was to discuss Neal’s bill, HR 4540, proposing to reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

As most TRTA members know, Rep. Kevin Brady (R- The Woodlands, TX) also has his own WEP reform bill, HR 3934, that he introduced last summer. HR 3934 is an improvement on Mr. Brady’s early work on WEP reform.

Watch Tim Lee’s Facebook Live about the WEP!

These bills are largely the same, but differences that do exist may be significant hurdles that Neal and Brady will need to sort through as the bills seek to gain traction in the Congressional process.

The first major difference between HR 4540 and HR 3934 has to do with the rebate provided to current public worker retirees that are already hit by the unfair WEP.

In HR 4540, the rebate is a simple $150 per month for the public pensioner who is already impacted by the WEP. If you are a TRS Texas retiree and hit by the WEP, HR 4540 would provide you with a $150 per month, or $1,800 per year, more in Social Security. This benefit is indexed to cost-of-living adjustments provided to all Social Security recipients, so it will likely increase over time. The rebate is provided to the TRS retiree.

In HR 3934, a similar rebate is provided to TRS retirees. That bill allows for a $100 per month benefit, or $1,200 per year, Social Security increase for any public pensioner retiree. HR 3934 provides an additional $50 per month benefit to a non-pensioner spouse under certain circumstances. HR 3934 also indexes the rebate to cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, so as Social Security benefits see a cost-of-living increase, the rebate provided in this bill increases.

HR 4540 offers a richer rebate for most public pensioner retirees, including TRS Texas retirees.

TRTA members will likely focus on this provision the most, as it does represent the most significant difference in the bill for our membership and our future members.

TRTA supports the highest possible rebate for those impacted by the WEP. In fact, a further improvement on the rebate would be a welcome addition to either HR 4540 or HR 3934.

While this is an important point for TRTA and most of all the education community around the country, it’s not the biggest point of contention between the two bills.

The biggest issue is the idea that HR 4540 provides a “hold harmless” for all current and future active public workers who may benefit from the existing WEP.

For those of us who have worked primarily in the educator community, it seems unbelievable that someone may actually think the existing WEP is beneficial to anyone.

However, some government workers have the ability to make use of the provision in the existing WEP law that exempts a worker from having their Social Security benefits reduced if they have 30 years of Social Security earnings in addition to their public pension benefits.

Various organizations representing the first responder community have not supported efforts to reform the unfair and arbitrary WEP because these organizations don’t see it as either unfair or arbitrary. The WEP was often seen as a path to securing the best retirement possible for these organizations.

While TRTA and these other groups represent very different views of the WEP, we all agree that public workers deserve to have this issue resolved so that current and future retirees are no longer impacted negatively by this unfair provision.

There seems to be a fundamental policy disconnect separating Neal and Brady. The policy disconnect is based on the idea of fairness. Both agree that the arbitrary nature of the WEP is unfair and requires a solution. However, there are difficult questions surrounding the winners and losers of a WEP reform that must be answered so that some positive conclusion can be reached.

Will the debate over providing this hold harmless exemption be enough to kill any attempt to fix the WEP? If that answer is yes, then how is it fair to the millions of people currently hurt by the WEP and to our national educator community that nothing will be done to help them?

The vast majority of education professionals, active and retired, will do better by fixing the WEP issue. If Congress becomes deadlocked on the hold harmless provision with WEP reform, we may see no relief for current or retired educators.

We have taken many steps forward, but the path ahead is far from clear.

As your association and as the nation’s largest association of retired public school workers in America, TRTA supports both HR 4540 and HR 3934.

TRTA supports both bills for what they propose to accomplish, and we support both of these bills because it’s clear that both Neal and Brady care about public workers. It’s critical that Neal and Brady get together to resolve the differences in their bills so that they may have traction in the congressional process.

The arbitrary nature of the WEP is being called out. The time to perpetuate bad public policy at the expense of those who cannot afford to lose their hard-earned Social Security benefits must come to an end.

A better way has been identified. Policymakers, as well as stakeholder groups have agreed to a fairer approach. We must get this issue resolved. Now is the time for bipartisanship to make a difference for all public workers hurt by the WEP.

The bottom line is, the WEP needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to provide relief for those who are suffering under its unfair formula. TRTA is asking that its members contact their congressional representatives and ask for support on both HR 4540 and HR 3934. This site can help you find your representative. Please, contact your representative and ask them to become a cosponsor on both bills.

TRTA is looking past the partisanship that often derails so much of the public policy discussion in Washington. We are asking that Neal and Brady work together and solve the differences so that the unfair nature of the WEP will finally come to an end.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association exists to protect your TRS retirement and fights to make it better. Please consider becoming a member and joining the largest community of TRS retirees in the nation.

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01 Oct 2019

October is TRTA Bring a Friend Month!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) welcomes its members to fall! Now that the weather is about to be cooler, TRTA hopes our members will show a warm welcome to friends and colleagues who have not yet joined TRTA and encourage them to join the only association in Texas working solely to protect and improve benefits for our retired educators!

You and Your Friend Could Win $100!

October is the perfect time to bring a neighbor, former coworker, or even an active educator who is planning to retire within the next year to your TRTA local unit meeting. Not a member of a local unit? Please consider attending a meeting in your area (visit this online calendar to see a list of available meetings).

Be sure to enter TRTA’s Bring a Friend Contest, where you and a friend could each win $100!

Current TRTA members can get a friend or colleague to join TRTA for the first time and both the current and new member will be entered to win a $100 gift card. If you win, your friend wins too! In total, three pairs of TRTA friends will win and there’s $600 up for grabs! The contest ends November 15, 2019.

CONTEST ELIGIBLIITY: Read all the details and learn how to submit a contest entry here!

Tell Your Friends about TRTA!

TRTA is focused on reaching 100,000 members. We are very close to our goal with a current membership of more than 88,000! The more members we have, the more influence we have as an advocacy group as we lobby the Texas Legislature and Congress.

Tell your friends TRTA fights every day to protect the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund and TRS-Care and works to repeal the unfair federal Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)!

Tell your friends TRTA worked with the Texas Legislature this year to help make the pension fund sound and get retirees a thirteenth check, putting $589 million directly into retirees’ pocketbooks!

Tell your friends we need their help to continue the fight and ensure the security of retirement benefits for them and their family members in the next generation who are also teachers!

The best ambassadors for TRTA are current members of our great organization. When you bring a friend to TRTA, the entire organization benefits! Watch this great video featuring TRTA First-Vice-President and State Membership Committee Chair Leroy DeHaven and learn why your membership is so important!

Thank You

Join the TRTA 100K Challenge and Bring a Friend to TRTA Today! Be sure to use our hashtags on Facebook and Twitter: #TRTA100K #100KSTRONG #100KCHALLENGE #BRINGAFRIENDTOTRTA

Thank you for your membership to TRTA and for being a strong advocate for retirees, present and future! TRTA will never stop working for retired educators in Texas, and we hope you and your retired friends will always be by our side as we continue to fight for retirement security for all members of TRS.

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27 Sep 2019

New WEP Reform Bill Filed, HR 4540

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is a staunch advocate for reforming the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The WEP is an unfair Social Security issue that negatively impacts thousands of retired educators nationwide, including educators that have paid into the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) as well as Social Security.

TRTA and its national partners are working closely with Representatives Kevin Brady (R The Woodlands, Texas) and Richard Neal (D Massachusetts) to file legislation that will create a fairer formula for retirees. 

Today, Richard Neal filed HR 4540, a bill that proposes to fix the WEP for future retirees and provide meaningful relief to current WEP retirees. 

HR 4540 would replace the current WEP formula with a fairer version that will pay Social Security benefits in proportion to the share of a workers earnings that were covered for Social Security purposes. Congressman Neal’s version of WEP reform couples this fairness provision with an additional benefit guarantee ensuring no benefit cuts relative to current law for all current and future retirees.

TRTA is studying this provision, but since most Texas retirees are worse off under the current WEP formula, we are anxious to see the fairness formula advanced as quickly as possible.

The Neal bill improves the benefits of current retirees impacted by the WEP. If the bill passes, current WEP retirees will receive $150 per month in relief payments.

Previously, Kevin Brady filed HR 3934. Similar to Neals bill, HR 3934 proposes to replace the WEP with a formula equalizing benefits.While Brady and Neal have filed separate bills, both are dedicated to seeing retirees receive fairer share of their earned benefits.

TRTA’s Executive Director Tim Lee will be meeting with the representatives on Monday to discuss the bills and WEP reform.

TRTA is committed to fairness and reforming the WEP. Public employees deserve much needed relief on this unfair provision. Stay tuned to the Inside Line as we provide updates on how you can get involved to reform the WEP!

Medicare Double-Billing Issue in September

TRTA has received reports from several members that Medicare may have double-charged some Medicare beneficiaries who are signed up for automated payments through Easy Pay.

Because the error is related to the premium you pay for Medicare coverage, TRS is unable to resolve this billing issue.

Per TRS, if you are concerned that you have been overcharged, you can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. For more information, please visit this link.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association exists to protect your TRS retirement and fights to make it better. Please consider becoming a member and joining the largest community of TRS retirees in the nation.

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