Sunday, March 24, 2019

TRS MEMBERS— CALL/EMAIL COMMITTEE MEMBERS MONDAY, March 25!


We won’t have another chance for TWO MORE YEARS!

           Calling all active and retired teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, librarians, custodians, nurses, maintenance workers, classroom aides, secretaries, sign-language interpreters, counselors, police officers, administrators, and all other public-school employees!!!!  Remember: the Texas Legislature only convenes every two years, so when this session ends, they won’t be able to make any changes to our health care and pensions for TWO LONG YEARS!
           Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee will meet.  In that meeting, they will discuss HB 9, which is OUR GREATEST HOPE at making TRS actuarially sound so those still working will be able to collect the pension you are earning now and those of us who are retired have hope of eventually receiving a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).  HB 9 is MUCH better for us than the Senate version, SB 12, and we need to fight for it!
            HB 9 calls for the state to increase their contribution to TRS from the current, low 6.8% (compared to their contribution to the retirement system for all other state employees AND for legislators, ERS, to which they contribute 9.5%) to 8.8% by September 1, 2025.  HB 9 does NOT seek an increase in contribution rate for already-cash-strapped TRS members and school districts, while the Senate version calls for an increased contribution from both.
            Additionally, HB 9 calls for a one-time supplemental payment (aka 13th check) up to $2400 for all current TRS retirees.  The Senate version also calls for this supplemental payment but caps it at $500.  While a one-time payment is not a COLA, by increasing the state’s contribution rate, TRS will become actuarially sound.  Only when this happens will we be able to receive a COLA.   
            So here is MONDAY’s CALL TO ACTION FOR ALL ACTIVE AND RETIRED TRS MEMBERS:

1.  IF you can be at the capitol Tuesday morning, Texas AFT Retiree+ is hoping to “PACK THE HOUSE.”
  The committee meeting begins at 8 a.m. in room E2.026. The time and room are subject to change, so check when you arrive to make sure it has not been moved.
(NOTE:  Please remember this is NOT about which organization is asking for what.  I am a member of the Texas Retired Teachers’ Association (TRTA) and a member of Texas AFT Retiree+.  This is about TRTA, Texas AFT Retiree+, Texas AFT, TSTA, TCTA, ATPE, and all other organizations coming together for the good of all of us!)

2.  IF you canNOT be at the capitol Tuesday morning, PLEASE call and/or email each member of the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee and let them know WE WANT HB 9!!!!!    Here is a quick chart with the phone number, email address, and Twitter handle of each committee member:



3.  Although this committee does not directly handle our healthcare, I, personally, urge everyone to let the committee members know when you call and/or email that WE EARNED HEALTH CARE AS GOOD AS ERS MEMBERS’ HEALTH CARE!  We canNOT wait two more years for them to ROLLBACK OUR HEALTH CARE!




Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com. (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Calling ALL TRS MEMBERS! MONDAY, MARCH 11, IS A DAY OF ACTION!


            According to the TRS of Texas website, there are 1.5 MILLION TRS members, including both active employees and retirees.  Monday, March 11, that should mean AT LEAST 1.5 MILLION people either…
      
       ¨      in Austin for March To The Capitol

      





                                              ¨   or contacting your representative and senator, as well as Gov. Abbott and                                               Lt. Gov. Patrick 
                ·         Click here to find the contact information on your TEXAS HOUSE                    and TEXAS SENATE representatives.  Click on their names for                        the contact information and CALL OR EMAIL THEM TODAY! 
                ·         Call Gov. Abbott’s office:  (512) 463-2000 - Main Switchboard                          (office hours 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
                ·         Call Lt. Gov. Patrick’s office:  Office Line: (512) 463-0001 (8 a.m.                      to 5 p.m.)

TALKING POINTS (Click on all of the purple links below for more information)

If you are a retiree:  Let them know you support HB 9, authored by Rep. Greg Bonnen, because it gives TRS retirees a 13th check and increases the state contribution to TRS over the next five years, from 6.8 percent in 2020 to 8. 8 percent in 2025 and does NOT require an increased contribution from active TRS members or from school districts, as both groups are already cash-strapped.  You may also want to express your opinion about our desperate need for a COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) since most of us have never received one AND respectfully but boldly telling them we need our affordable healthcare restored!
Please consider contacting Rep. Greg Bonnen’s office to thank him for this great start AND respectfully asking him to add in RESTORATION OF TRS AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE FOR RETIREES and a COLA.

If you are an active TRS member (still working):   Let your representative, your senator, the governor, and the lt. governor know where you stand on the $5,000 raise (currently for teachers and librarians only), about your healthcare costs, and about school funding. 


Here are some additional resources (Knowledge is power!) and CALLS TO ACTION for today:




4.  If you are on Twitter, follow the events in Austin at #Marchtothecapitol

5.  I will be posting on my FB education page during the rally and other events in Austin.  I will be on the McAllen AFT bus, and we will be posting there throughout the day, too, as will other groups.  (Keep in mind, this is NOT about one group vs. another group.  We’re all in this together.)

TAKE ACTION MONDAY, MARCH 12
SHOW UP!  STAND UP!  SPEAK UP!
And invite your family members, friends, current/former students, and your community to join us!

Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com. (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Compare TRS of Texas and ERS of Texas - IT'S TIME TO MARCH!


The definition of “equity” from the Cambridge Dictionary:  equal treatment; fairness

As you read through the chart below, which outlines the stark differences between the two retirement systems in the State of Texas—TRS of Texas and ERS of Texas—you will undoubtedly see, quickly, there is no equity. The extreme nature of this inequity is a result of the 2017 Legislative Session.  Now, during the 2019 Legislative Session, there is talk that the 86th Texas Legislature is trying not to make our benefits worse.  That is not good enough!  We are calling for our legislators to MAKE IT RIGHT, to ROLLBACK OUR HEALTHCARE TO PRE-2018 BENEFITS (at the very least), to RESTORE OUR AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE!  Where is the EQUITY between TRS and ERS?

TRS of Texas:  Although called the “Teacher Retirement System of Texas,” it is the pension and healthcare (in retirement and, for many school districts in Texas, for current employees) system for ALL public-education employeesteachers, bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, librarians, maintenance workers, classroom aides, nurses, sign-language interpreters, administrators, etc.  (NOTE:  Those who work for TRS of Texas--who by state law are not allowed to lobby on behalf of TRS members-receive their pensions from TRS but their healthcare in retirement from ERS—so why is this not done for TRS members?)

ERS of Texas:  Employees Retirement System of Texas is the pension and healthcare system for all other state employees, some higher-education personnel, and for retired Texas legislators

NOTE:  All  items in bold black above and below are links.  Click on them for more information.


TRS – Retirees under 65
AETNA for TRS-Care
ERS – Retirees under 65
HealthSelect for ERS Healthcare
TRS – Medicare-eligible (65+)
HUMANA Medicare Advantage for TRS-Care
ERS – Medicare-eligible (65+)
HealthSelect Medicare Advantage for ERS Healthcare
Monthly premium – member only
$200
$0
$135
$0
Monthly premium – with spouse/
family
$689 retiree and spouse
$408 retiree and child(ren)
$999 retiree and family
(
SOURCE)

$358 retiree and spouse
$239.70 retiree and children
$597.70 retiree and family
(
SOURCE)
$529 retiree and spouse
$468 retiree and child(ren)
$1029 retiree and family
$140.92 retiree and spouse
$140.92 retiree and children
$281.84 retiree and family
Healthcare deductible
Retiree Only:
$1500 – in network
$3000 – out of network

Retiree must pay all of the costs from providers up to the deductible amount
before this plan begins to pay, except for preventive care.

Retiree with Family:
$3000 – in network
$6000 – out of network
The overall family deductible must be met before the plan begins to pay.


Retiree Only:
$0 – in network
$500 – out of network

Retiree with Family:
$0 – in network
$1,500 – out of network

Deductible:  $500

Co-Pays Only After Meeting Deductible:
Primary Care Physician Visit: $5*
Outpatient Hospital Stay: $250*
Specialist Visit: $10*
Total Inpatient Hospital Stay: $500*

Co-Pays Before Meeting Deductible
Urgent Care: $35
Emergency Room: $65

Preventive care benefits are covered at 100%.

Deductible: $0

$0 for doctor’s office visits, specialty physician’s office visits, diagnostic lab services, allergy injections, routine eye exam, etc.
Prescription deductible
$1500 (Healthcare and prescriptions together) except for a list of standard, generic drugs
(
SOURCE)
$50 per person
No deductible
Copays based on whether the prescription is generic, preferred brand, or non-preferred brand
No coverage gap or donut hole.

$50 deductible
Copays based on short-term or long-term medications with three tiers in each group.
(
SOURCE)
Dental coverage
Not covered
State of Texas Dental Discount Plan
Retiree: $2.25 per month
Retiree and spouse:  $4.50
Retiree and children:  $5.40
Retiree and family:  $7.65
(Two other plans available for ERS retirees under 65)


Same as ERS Retirees under 65, with this exception:  One other plan available besides State of Texas Dental Discount Plan
(SOURCE
Vision coverage
Not covered
State of Texas Vision
Retiree:  $6.02 per month
Retiree and spouse:  $12.04
Retiree and children:  $12.94
Retiree and family:
$18.96
(
SOURCE)


Same as ERS Retirees under 65
Retirement
Eligibility
1.  At least 10 years of service credit in TRS. (May include up to five years of military service.)

AND

2. Must meet Rule of 80 (sum of age and years of service credit in TRS equals or exceeds 80
-OR-
30 or more years of service credit in TRS (including purchased service).


To be eligible to retire:
ERS member’s service credit must be established (not withdrawn) with ERS at the time of retirement, and the member must be at least age 60 with a minimum of five years of service credit.
Member may retire under the Rule of 80 if years and months of service credit (at least five years) and years and months of age equal or exceed 80.
(SOURCE)

LEGISLATORS:
At age 50 with 12 years of service or at age 60 with eight years of service.

1.  At least 10 years of service credit in TRS. (May include up to five years of military service.)

AND

2. Must meet Rule of 80 (sum of age and years of service credit in TRS equals or exceeds 80
-OR-
30 or more years of service credit in TRS (including purchased service).

Same as ERS retirees under 65
Contribution rate
State:  6.8%
TRS Member:  7.7%
(
SOURCE)

State:  9.5%
ERS Member:  9.5%
State:  6.8%
TRS Member:  7.7%
State:  9.5%
ERS Member:  9.5%
How monthly pension is calculated.
TRS uses the following formula to calculate a normal-age monthly standard annuity:
1. Average of Highest Five* Annual Salaries (based on creditable compensation) = Average Salary
2. Total Years of Service Credit x 2.3% (multiplier) = Total %
3. Total % x Average Salary = Annual Annuity
4. Annual Annuity ÷ 12 = Monthly Standard Annuity
(
SOURCE)
Gross monthly standard annuity is calculated by multiplying years and months of service by 2.3% per year (2.8% for 20 years or more of CPO service) and then multiplying the product of this by your average salary. The calculation of average salary includes base pay, longevity pay, Benefit Replacement Pay (BRP) and hazardous duty pay, if applicable.
If hired on or after September 1, 2009, ERS uses the average of the member’s highest 48 months of salary. If hired on or after September 1, 2013, ERS uses the average of highest 60 months of salary.
(
SOURCE)

How monthly pension is calculated for state legislators:
Your monthly standard annuity is calculated by
multiplying the percentage value of your months and
years of retirement credit times the current state salary
of a district judge. Instead of using the state salary of
a district judge, your benefits may be based on your
average salary (highest 36 months) as a state employee
(certain eligibility factors are required). The monthly
standard annuity for a member retiring from the elected
class may not exceed 100% of the state salary of a
district judge. The percentage value for service credit in
the elected class is 2.3% per year. To determine your
service percentage, see the table on page 4.
Monthly retirement annuities that are calculated based
on the state salary of a district judge are automatically
adjusted each time judicial salaries change. While
members of the elected class have the option to retire
under the service retirement benefit formulas available
to members of the employee class, the benefit
calculations are different, and annuity increases after
retirement are dependent upon legislative approval.
Current salary of a district judge in Texas?  $140,000 and it is being proposed during this legislative session that they receive a $21,000 raise.
Who decides the salary of the district judges?  THE TEXAS LEGISLATORS!


Same as TRS retirees under 65


Same as ERS retirees under 65
Cost-of-Living Increase
(COLA)
The last time TRS retirees received a cost-of-living increase was in 2013. It was a 3% COLA, capped at $100 per month, and it only went to TRS retirees who retired before September 1, 2004. Any TRS member who retired after that date, 14 years ago, has NEVER received a COLA.

ERS retirees have not received a COLA since 2001.  Retirees who retired after 2001 have NEVER received a COLA.
Same as TRS retirees under 65
Same as ERS retirees under 65

Full-time work allowed after retirement

If you retired before January 1, 2011, as a TRS retiree, you may work, as follows, beginning at least one full month after retirement, without losing any annuity payments:
• any position;
• any employer; and
• any amount of time.
If you retired after January 1, 2011,  After the required one full, calendar-month break in service following your retirement date, you can work, as follows, without losing any annuity payments:
• as a SUBSTITUTE, without any limit on the number of days (provided you do not perform any
other type of work for a TRS-covered employer);
• as much as ONE-HALF TIME, each month;
• in a COMBINATION OF SUBSTITUTE AND WORK UNDER THE ONE-HALF TIME OR LESS
EXCEPTION, provided the total number of days worked (or days that you used paid leave)
in the combined positions each calendar month does not exceed one-half the number of
workdays in that calendar month;
• in FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT (greater than one-half time) after a 12 full, consecutive calendar-month break in service after the effective date of your retirement.
(
SOURCE)


If you retired from a state agency on or after May 31,
2009, a state agency cannot hire you until at least 90
days after the retirement date.

Same as TRS retirees under 65.

Same as ERS retirees under 65.


TRS members and all who support us, what do you think after reading this?  I think it’s TIME TO MARCH!  PLEASE JOIN ME!


Note:  Click here for more information on MARCH TO THE CAPITOL!

Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com. (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen)