Monday, December 9, 2019

Texas’ Retired Educators Begging for Affordable Health Care Part I – The Prescription Nightmare and a Letter from CVS Caremark


            Talk to retired public-education employees in Texas, and ask them if they expected to spend their retirement years begging for affordable health care.  Regardless of whether we expected it or not, that is exactly what we are doing today.
            When I retired in 2013, I had affordable health care through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).  I paid close to $300 per month for the high plan.  I had a $400 deductible and a co-pay of $25 or $30.  It was pretty much the promise I heard throughout my career, that even though my pay as a teacher was nothing to brag about, in retirement, I could expect a pension and affordable health care.
            Then the 2017 Texas Legislative Session happened.  During that session, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the Texas Legislature forced me--and all of my fellow public-education retirees under the age of 65--into a health-care nightmare.  Suddenly, that affordable-health-care promise was shattered.  My monthly premium went down to $200 but for a high-deductible plan.  Instead of a $400 deductible, we now have a $1500 deductible.  Instead of a $25 or $30 co-pay, we now have to pay 100 percent of our health care and prescriptions (except a list of standard, generic drugs) out of pocket until we reach our entire deductible, and for married couples, that deductible is $3000—not $1500 for each but the full $3000. Until then, Aetna does not pay one penny.  Not one, unless it a procedure from the short list of preventive care.
            However, the Texas Legislature kept the health care for themselves and all other retired state employees—except public-ed retirees—much more than affordable.  You see, they still have a $0 monthly premium.  Zero.  They also have a $0 deductible for their health care, and a $50 deductible for their prescriptions.  Imagine our retired legislators having a $0 deductible and forcing public-ed retirees (not just teachers but everyone who worked in public-school districts across the state) to live with a $1500 deductible and NO CO-PAY!  Think of our bus drivers, our cafeteria staff, our custodians, our maintenance staff, and others whose pension checks are definitely less than ours.
            Things have gone from bad to worse over the past two years since our nightmare began.  Then, a few weeks ago, I received a message from one of my close friends about a letter she received from CVS Caremark. CVS Caremark handles the prescription end of our high-deductible Aetna plan. Here is that letter, with my friend's name and address redacted:




            My friend called CVS at the number provided in the letter, but the individual who answered the phone had no idea what she was talking about.  How in the world do you send out a letter like that—certain to upset individuals who take medications because they have to, not because they want to—and not first train your employees to be prepared for the calls?
            Finally, my friend spoke to someone who had “some” information about the changes.  Since my friend’s doctor will NOT allow her to take a generic form of Synthroid, he said, she would have to pay the difference between the generic form and the brand-name form.  (God forbid a Texas public-ed retiree should get a brand-name medication!)  She asked how much that difference would be, and he said he did not know.  (And the difference between the two is NOT applied to her deductible or her maximum out of pocket!)  Again, how in the world do you send out a letter, certain to cause anxiety, without being ready to provide customers the additional amount they can expect to pay?
            My friend called me, beside herself with worry over this added expense.  I wanted to try to help her, so I called the number on the letter; however, because I did not have her account information, I could never get past the frustrating non-human on the line.  So I contacted the Communications Department at TRS to get to the bottom of this.
            Lucky for me, Meaghan Bludau, health care analytics and engagement director at TRS, is the one who responded. She listened carefully to my story about what happened to my friend and then promised to contact CVS and have them contact my friend directly.  She also promised to research the situation and get back to me, which she did—the very next day. 
            This is what every TRS retiree who received a similar letter from CVS Caremark NEEDS to know, information that was not IN the letter but should have been:
1. You or your doctor’s office can contact CVS Caremark at 1-844-345-4577 to start the request for the exception.  The Customer Care Representative can fax the questionnaire directly to the doctor’s office or mail you a copy.  You will need to notify the Customer Care Representative if this is an URGENT request so he/she can speed up the process.
2.  Ask your doctor to complete the “exception paperwork”.  It is a short questionnaire that explains why you need the brand-name medication instead of the generic.  The turn-around time is 24-72 hours.
3.  CVS will communicate with you and your doctor about the outcome of the request.  The doctor will receive a fax 15-20 minutes after the approval.  You will receive a letter in the mail in 8-10 business days.

            Now you know the rest of the story!

NOTE:  In Part II, I will share the shameful, horrifying health-care story of a TRS retiree over the age of 65.  In Part III, I will tell you the latest on what has happened to my friend who received this letter from CVS.  And there will surely be additional parts to this story about Texas public-ed retirees being forced to beg for something we were promised.

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, November 10, 2019

Current/Retired Firefighters, Police Officers, and Educators: We Need You in the Fight for Social-Security Fairness

            Fighting for Social-Security fairness has to be a national effort.  So said Congressman Vicente Gonzalez—my congressman—when I had a Facebook LIVE conversation with him August 22.  We need to unite our brothers and sisters who are current and retired firefighters, police officers, educators (which includes most of our bus drivers, secretaries, counselors, custodians, librarians, administrators, cafeteria staff, maintenance staff, social workers, and all others who worked, or who worked, in our public schools), and others affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision, which became law in 1983.  We also need the help and support of all those who support us in this effort.
            What is WEP?  If you don’t know, here is a simple fact sheet:





            Since 1983, firefighters, police officers, educators, and some government employees in these 15 states have been affected by WEP:

Alaska                                                                         Maine
California                                                                    Massachusetts
Colorado                                                                     Missouri
Connecticut                                                                 Nevada
Georgia (certain local governments)                           Ohio
Illinois                                                                         Rhode Island (certain local governments)
Kentucky (certain local governments)                        Texas
Louisiana

            What does it mean for us?   It means that because we do not--or did not--pay into Social Security while we were working as public servants--even though so many of us pay into SS working side jobs before retirement and/or working after retirement—we cannot receive our rightful SS benefits.
            I retired six-and-a-half years ago, and I am currently doing freelance/consulting work for five local companies.  I am a freelance writer/editor, a social-media manager, a sales/fundraising coordinator, and a college-essay coach.  Every time I receive a check from one of these companies, I immediately take 40 percent and place it in a savings account so I can pay the taxes on my earnings at the end of the year.  That includes SS.  I have my SS quarters already, yet because of WEP, I will not be able to collect the SS benefits I earned.  What I have to PAY into SS is not reduced, but what I will EARN is dramatically reduced.  I, along with my police officer, firefighter, educator, and other brothers and sisters , am penalized because I work in a state that chose not to collect SS and because I receive a pension I earned and paid into. How UNfair is this?  It’s time for us to fight to stop this insanity!
            September 27, U.S. Representative Richard Neal (D-MA), who serves as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act (H.R. 4540).  In a press release put out that day by his staff, Chairman Neal said, “The WEP negatively affects nearly 2 million retired public servants across the country, including about 73,000 in Massachusetts.  Public employees like firefighters, teachers, and police officers should not miss out on the Social Security benefits they earned over decades of hard work. With this legislation, these valued members of our communities will have greater retirement security and peace of mind.”  As of October 31, 43 members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors.
            According to Rep. Gonzalez, this is what MUST happen over the next year if we have any hope of H.R. 4540 passing:
  •     Current/retired police officers, firefighters, educators, and government employees in all 50 states need to come together to fight for those impacted by WEP.  We need to show the strength of our brotherhood and sisterhood.  We come together to fight for what’s right for all.
  •     We must, Rep. Gonzalez, said, “grow our circle.”
  •      ALL members of Congress must be lobbied.  As we know—and as Rep. Gonzalez reiterated—members of Congress care most when they hear from THEIR constituents.  Is YOUR member of Congress a co-sponsor of H.R.4540?  If yes, contact his/her office to say thank you.  If not, we need unions, organizations, and individuals from all 50 states to write letters, visit his/her office, and make phone calls saying, “I/We expect you to support Social Security Fairness!”  
  •        ALL presidential candidates and Congressional incumbents and candidates need to be asked where they stand on Social Security Fairness.
  •      In South Texas, Rep. Gonzalez said, we need to ask our Winter Texans to join us in our efforts by contacting members of Congress in your home states!  (I LOVE this idea!)

            Who’s in?  PLEASE contact me at cardis1022@aol.com ASAP if you are so we can start putting together a map and spreadsheet to show which unions/organizations/groups across the country are working for SOCIAL SECURITY FAIRNESS!!!


Side Note:  Currently, there is not an effort like this to fight against GPO, which affects the same group of individuals.  This should also be our fight!

Side Note #2:  Be sure to click on the links embedded in my post for more information!

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)

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Life of a Retired Educator in Texas


Dear Governor Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and the Texas Legislature,

WARNING!  What I am about to share with you is very personal and extremely difficult for me to discuss; however, this needs to be said.

            I suffer from anxiety. 

            It is actually one of the reasons I decided to retire.  The anxiety over things I could no longer control at work--relentless meetings, class sizes, loads of paperwork, lack of funding for even the basics in my classroom (my entire budget for my final year of teaching was approximately $67.  Yes, $67)—became overwhelming.  I would have worked 35-40 years if it was just about TEACHING because I miss my students to this day, but “teaching” is definitely no longer about teaching. 
            So back to anxiety.  I experienced a dramatic decrease in anxiety when I retired.  However, over the past year, it has been building, and recently, that overwhelming feeling of anxiety has been coursing through my body.  Anyone who suffers from anxiety will tell you it is not just mental.  It is definitely physiological, as well.
            At least 10 years ago, I was given a prescription for a generic anti-anxiety medication.  I didn't need it every day, but at those times when I felt anxiety creeping in, it made a BIG difference.  I have carried that same bottle with me all this time. (You are probably thinking it was expired and no longer good, but I assure you, that little 0.5 mg pill could "stop the coursing.")  This week, when I reached in my purse for it, knowing I still had 2-3 left, I discovered the bottle had opened in my purse, and because they are so small, they were crushed. 
            But the pathetic, shameful insurance you--Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and the 2017 Texas Legislature--gave all retired educators under 65 in Texas starting January 1, 2018, prefers for us to "visit" a virtual doctor through Teladoc rather than our own doctor.  I signed on Thursday to renew my prescription.  Well, sorry, the Teladoc doctor was unable to write a new prescription for me.  Guess what THAT did to my anxiety?
            You may be asking why I didn’t just call my family doctor here in McAllen and go for an office visit.  First of all, I don’t think I have seen her since our healthcare nightmare began, and let me tell you why.  Thanks to YOUR legislation in 2017, as of January 1, 2018, my deductible went from $400 to $1500.  As if that were not bad enough, I have to pay 100 PERCENT OUT OF POCKET—NO COPAY--until I reach that $1500, as if you know so many retired educators (and I include in this our bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, classroom aides, counselors, nurses, librarians, cafeteria staff, interpreters, and administrators who are all in the same boat) with $1500 readily accessible. For those of my retired colleagues under 65 whose spouse is on their insurance plan, they have to reach a $3000 deductible—not $1500 per person but $3000 total, OUT OF POCKET, before their insurance will pay a penny.  All of this thanks to you, Governor, Lt. Governor, and all members of the 2017 Texas Legislature who put this into motion and 2019 legislators who did not fix it.
            Meanwhile, all other retired state employees—including our retired legislators—are covered under a different plan that has a $0 deductible for medical care and a $50 deductible for prescriptions.  The difference between $0 and $1500 is $1500, and the difference between $50 and $1500 is $1450 OUT OF POCKET!  Oh, and they also have a $0 monthly premium.  Mine is $200 per month for pathetic insurance.  What does this say about equity in the State of Texas?           Back to why I haven’t gone to my own doctor, despite my rising level of anxiety.  For a year and a half now, I have avoided doctors as much as I can because of the out-of-pocket expense.  Nevertheless, this is what I am faced with at this moment:
  • Annual mammogram I cannot miss because my sister passed away from breast and lung cancer at the age of 50.  $615.98 – Negotiated to $277.19.  Paid by Aetna as it is preventive , but my surgeon had to make it a screening mammogram rather than a preferred diagnostic exam because a diagnostic mammogram is not covered.
  • Required annual thyroid sonogram because of multiple nodules – Cost for only the sonogram:  $981.72.  Aetna negotiated discount: $539.95.  MY 100-PERCENT OUT-OF-POCKET RESPONSIBILITY:  $441.77
  • Radiologist bill for thyroid sonogram:  Not yet received, but 100 PERCENT MY RESPONSIBILITY. 
  • Follow up with surgeon to discuss thyroid sonogram results:  $73.34--MY 100-PERCENT OUT-OF-POCKET RESPONSIBILITY
  • Dermatologist to check growth.  $65.14—MY 100-PERCENT OUT-OF-POCKET RESPONSIBILITY.  In-office procedure to remove the growth is scheduled for next week:  MY 100-PERCENT OUT-OF-POCKET RESPONSIBILITY.

           
            Then, yesterday, I received The Pulse, the TRS newsletter.  The top story?  “NEW:  TRS-Care Standard Will Offer Virtual Mental Health Services Starting Sept. 1, 2019.”  So I clicked on the link.  Please forgive me if disbelief and disgust immediately followed my initial feelings of hope.  The site reads: “Visits with Teladoc Mental Health providers are only available through video conference via a computer, smart phone or tablet”—because God forbid a retired educator in Texas should get any necessary help face-to-face.  And if that wasn’t enough, this came after:
  • Initial Psychiatry Session                                                        $185
  • Follow Up Psychiatry Session                                                $ 95
  • Therapy Session with Licensed Psychologist or Therapist     $ 85

OUT OF POCKET, of course!!!! But what “great” news. (Can you hear my sarcasm?)--all costs go toward my deductible!
           
            They should have added:
  • A simple refill of my anxiety medication                               N/A – SUFFER, TEXAS                                                                                                        RETIRED EDUCATORS!

             And suffering is what I am doing right now as I contemplate crossing the border to Mexico to get the medications there, something I have never done, but…
            Do you know what the irony in all of this is, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Texas legislators?  I feel quite certain there is a dramatic rise in the need for mental-health services and prescriptions for retired educators in Texas because of what YOU did to TRS-Care and to retired educators across the state.

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 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)