Blog

10 Aug
0

TRTA Launches Membership Renewal Website

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) took its next step towards modernizing the TRTA membership experience today with the launch of its Renew Now website. Through this site, members can now renew their dues online!

Renew Now is a huge step forward for the organization. Previously, TRTA members relied upon mail and phone to renew their membership dues. With nearly 80,000 members, the amount of paperwork and manual data entry our staff sees will significantly decrease with the introduction of the online renewal site. This means our staff will have more time to focus on what really matters, protecting your hard-earned Teacher Retirement System (TRS) benefits!

Additionally, the online renewal site will make it more convenient for our members to renew their dues. You will no longer have to call the state office or spend money and time mailing in your renewal form. With a few easy clicks, you can renew your TRTA dues, and rest assured that your access to important news affecting your retirement benefits is at your fingertips!

Of course, we will still offer mail and phone options for our members who prefer traditional methods of payment. We are truly excited for the future of TRTA, and we hope you are too!

Renew your dues online today!

Find Your Local Unit Interactive Map Launched

TRTA has also developed an interactive map aimed at helping our members find and contact their local units.

TRTA’s District Presidents were major contributors to this project, helping us verify and collate the data underlying the map.

Now you can easily select your county and find a local unit near you. Also included is the contact information for the Local Unit Presidents. It is easier than ever to get involved at the local grassroots level.

Contact your Local Unit President to find out the fall meeting date, and join the fight to protect your TRS benefits and repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision.

Local units are the heart of TRTA, and your participation can make all the difference as we prepare for the 85th Texas Legislative Session.

TRTA Local Unit Map

Join Now Site Taking Off

In July, TRTA launched its new Join Now site for members joining the organization for the first time. Since its introduction, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Joining TRTA is easy! Our online sign-up can be completed within minutes.

If you have a friend or family member who is not yet a member of TRTA, now is the best time to encourage them to join. Not only will they enjoy TRTA’s numerous benefits, but they will also start receiving our quarterly news bulletin, The VOICE, and the knowledge that their money is going toward protecting their retirement benefits.

TRS continues to see outside attacks from organizations such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Let’s stand up together to protect our benefits! Please encourage your fellow teachers to stand with you and your fellow retirees and join TRTA.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership in TRTA. Your membership ensures our continued protection of your retirement benefits. The technological advances we’ve made this year are just the beginning.

Through the increasing use of digital applications, we will be better prepared to improve and maintain your benefits. As the world becomes more digitally inclined, so must TRTA, and through our new join and renewal sites, we are better prepared than ever before to achieve our goals!

We have supplemented our Before the Bell project with its own Facebook page. It provides excellent education-centric stories and is rapidly expanding its content! Please take a moment to like this page.

Sincerely,

Tim Lee, Executive Director

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05 Aug
0

Help Us Repeal the WEP by Visiting This Web Page

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) has been a thorn in retired educators’ sides for far too long. First implemented in 1983, the WEP prevents retired educators, as well as policemen and firefighters, from receiving the Social Security benefits they earned.

We have developed a web page specifically dedicated to repealing the WEP. On the page, you can find the Congressional Representatives who have and have not co-sponsored HR 711, a bill that proposes to repeal the WEP.

Please share this page with your fellow educators and family members. If your Congressman has not co-sponsored HR 711, please contact them and encourage them to do so.

Please remember the WEP is a national issue, and repealing it requires action from your Congressman, not your Texas Senator or Representative.

The WEP is designed to eliminate the “windfall” of Social Security benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security.

Ninety-five percent of educators in Texas do not pay into Social Security through their school districts. Whenever one of these educators works in a field that pays into Social Security, such as working in an alternative field before or after becoming an educator or working a summer job, they are subject to be penalized by the WEP.

On average, the WEP reduces TRTA members’ monthly incomes by $400. These reductions are very significant for retirees who live on fixed monthly incomes.

Fortunately, a solution has arrived. HR 711, also known as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, would reduce the WEP’s penalties on current retirees by as much as 33 percent. Future retirees would see the WEP reduced by as much as 50 percent!

Congressman Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) introduced HR 711 on Feb. 4. The bill is currently sitting in Brady’s House Committee on Ways and Means. The bill requires more co-sponsors to advance. Help us create a national movement to repeal the WEP by supporting HR 711.

Use this web page to find your Congressman, and implore them to support HR 711. Additionally, contact your friends and family members outside of Texas and ask them to contact their Congressmen about HR 711.

The only way we can change the WEP is through congressional action. We need Congressmen from across the United States to co-sponsor HR 711.

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. It is through your membership that we are able to create information pages such as this one. The best way to encourage change at the state, local and national level is to stay informed. If you haven’t already, please follow us on our social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

If you are not already a TRTA member or if you know a friend who would like to join, please encourage them to use our new Join Now website. It’s quick and easy, and will help ensure TRTA’s continued success.

Sincerely,

Tim Lee, Executive Director

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31 Jul
0

TRTA Standing Committee Meetings Underway

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is as busy as ever, and already planning for the 85th Texas Legislative Session. During the past week and through August 14, TRTA is hosting its biannual standing committee meetings.

The Legislative Committee features 20 members.
The Legislative Committee features 21 members.
View the list here.

These meetings include important groups such as the Legislative Committee, which is responsible for meeting with legislators and forming an action plan for the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. The Legislative Committee features 20 members, one representing each TRTA district, and a Chairman.

The 21 members volunteer a great deal of their time to meeting with 150 Representatives and 31 Senators across the state, and their lobbying doesn’t just begin and end during a legislative session. A significant portion of TRTA’s success is tied to communicating with legislators during the interim, the time in between regular legislative sessions.

During the Legislative Committee’s July 27-28 meeting, the team recapped the events of the 84th Legislative Session, and began planning strategies to have an even more successful campaign in 2017. Three primary points of focus during the meetings were the TRS-Care crisis, the protection of defined benefit plans and the need for a cost-of-living adjustment for all TRS retirees.

Addressing TRS-Care During the Interim

Bill Barnes is the chairman of the Legislative Committee.
Bill Barnes is the Chairman of the Legislative Committee.

The TRS-Care crisis is still relevant even though TRTA was able to secure $768 million towards the health care program last session. More than 240,000 retired educators rely upon the health care program provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The funding provided by the Texas Legislature will keep TRS-Care benefits and premiums stable for the next two years, but TRTA will need to ask the Legislature for upwards of $1 billion in 2017 to keep the program solvent.

The crux of this issue is based on the funding disparity between active teacher payroll, which is a primary source of income for TRS-Care, and rising healthcare costs, including skyrocketing prescription drug prices. Since active teacher salary is not related to medical expenses and does not increase at the same rate, TRS-Care is in need of a fundamental change in its funding structure.

The Legislative Committee will be busy this year and next educating Senators and Representatives about this important issue, and speaking with a study group formed by the Texas Legislature as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 1940. The members of the group, which is charged with studying ways to improve and sustain TRS-Care, have not yet been named. When that does occur, you can expect an important Inside Lineupdate in your inbox, so keep your eyes peeled!

Fighting For A Cost-of-Living Adjustment

Additionally, the Legislative Committee spoke extensively about the need to provide a cost-of-living increase to TRS annuitants who did not receive one in 2013, and how to best protect defined benefit plans. The Texas Legislature missed an opportunity to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) during the 84th Legislative Session, and the Legislative Committee will actively pursue a COLA for retirees in 2017.

Protecting Your Defined Benefit Plan

Rueben Saenz is District 1's committee member.
Ruben Saenz is District 1’s committee member.

TRS was recently attacked by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). In an unwarranted attack, James Quintero stated that defined benefit plans “run contrary to sound budgeting principles that stipulate that taxpayer-funded programs should be predictable, viable and not reliant upon gimmicks or market conditions.” While his article was met with little fanfare, these types of attacks can create doubt in the minds of legislators about the viability of our pension plan.

TRTA responded with force in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Legislative Committee is well aware of the dangers and pitfalls associated with groups like TPPF who want to strip you of your hard-earned benefits, and our team will work hard to protect your retirement security.

The Importance of Voting and How You Can Help

The Legislative Committee also discussed the importance of encouraging voter turnout during primary elections. Primary elections are preliminary elections, which determine the field of candidates eligible to be elected. With increased voter turnout at these elections, TRTA can increase its ability to influence policymakers. Texas primary elections begin in March 2016.

The best way to help the Legislative Committee achieve its goal of protecting your benefits is to stay informed. If you haven’t already, find out when your first fall local unit meeting is being held. Contact your local unit president, and let them know that you are excited about participating in your local meetings. Also, be sure to stay connected with TRTA via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The next two years could very well determine the future of TRS-Care and a possible COLA, and your involvement is paramount to TRTA’s success. Thank you for your membership, and if you have a friend or family member who is a retired educator and is not yet a member of TRTA, please encourage them to join us by using our new Join Now website!

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