Thursday, June 28, 2012

Retiree Leader on Supreme Court Ruling

For Immediate Release                                            Contact: David Blank (202) 637-5275
June 28, 2012                                                                dblank@retiredamericans.org   


Retiree Leader: Supreme Court Ruling
Victory for Current, Future Retirees

Law Helps Millions of Seniors Afford Doctors, Prescription Drugs

The following statement was issued by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act.

“Today is an historic day for Americans of all ages, an affirmation of a law that helps children, workers, and retirees obtain affordable health care.  Americans can now live more secure, knowing that their health and well-being are no longer tied to the whims and greed of the big insurance companies.

“The law has helped millions of seniors better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.  In 2011, over 3.6 million seniors on Medicare saved a total of $2.1 billion on their drug costs, an average of $604 person.  Just last year, over 32 million seniors received at least one new free preventive care benefit through Medicare.  Medicare’s ‘Donut Hole’ – a shameful legacy of the big drug companies’ sway in Washington – is closing, and premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are down 16 percent since the law took effect in 2010.

“But today will be a short-lived victory if this November we fail to elect a President and Congress with the courage to stand up for the middle class.  A repeal vote in the U.S. House, scheduled for the week of July 9, will provide an opportunity for lawmakers to show their constituents where they stand.

“This year’s presidential election provides a clear contrast between Barack Obama, who had the courage to risk his presidency fighting for the middle class, versus Mitt Romney, who would replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that is good for only the healthy and the wealthy.

“Today is a tremendous victory for seniors, their children, and their grandchildren.  But we cannot rest on our laurels.  In the 2012 elections we cannot let politicians roll back the progress we have made.”

Mr. Coyle is available for media interviews by calling 202/637-5275.

###

The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

SOAR Helps Knox Seniors Show Their Stuff


Exercise Group To Resume Normal Operations At Knox Community Center

By: Ben
Published: June 27th, 2012

The exercise group attended the meeting en masse to be heard regarding the council's decision.

Applause filled the room at this week's meeting of the Knox City Council, as they approved a motion to allow an exercise group to resume use of the community center at no charge.

The group had been using the Knox Community Center free of charge since 1998, but were recently asked to move operations to the Girl Scout Cabin in order to avoid paying a fee to use the center. Virginia Wireman-Duncan, the leader of the exercise group, said they felt they should be able to use the center free of charge because they did not charge any of their members any kind of fee in order to exercise with the group.

Councilman Don Kring made a suggestion to allow all no-charge exercise groups to use the center on Mondays and Wednesdays – the days this particular exercise group has met on since 1998 – free of charge. He said the only requirement would be that they do not charge their members any fee in order to use the center.

Wireman-Duncan argued that the group brought business to Knox. She says 30 – 40 people attend each session, and afterward, they visit local businesses to eat and shop. This business, she says, revitalizes the city in more ways than one.

A motion was made to allow the group and all other non-profit, no-charge exercise groups to meet on Mondays and Wednesdays at the center from 9 a.m. to noon. Mayor Rick Chambers will look into having a building-use policy created for the center, but the group will resume normal operations at the community center on Monday.

Wireman-Duncan said she had her concerns about the meeting, but overall, she was pleased with the council’s decision.

“I’m very happy with their decision,” said Wireman-Duncan. “I’ve been a little concerned whether it would be yes or no, but I think they have made an excellent choice because we do do a lot of things for the city of Knox and I feel like this is the best advertisement they have for downtown and we bring more things into Knox. So I’m very, very grateful for their considerations and what they are doing.”

Source: WKVI radio web site

Monday, June 25, 2012

Indiana AFL-CIO Endorses Candidates

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Monday, June 25, 2012
Media Contact: Jeff Harris, Indiana State AFL-CIO, 317.632.9147


INDIANA AFL-CIO ENDORSES CANDIDATES FOR 2012 GENERAL ELECTION
Federation of labor unions endorses candidates that support working families

INDIANAPOLIS — Today the Indiana AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of labor unions representing more than 300,000 active workers, issued the following endorsements of candidates for the 2012 General Election:

U.S. SENATE:
Joe Donnelly (D)

GOVERNOR/LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:
John Gregg/ Vi Simpson (D)

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION:
Glenda Ritz (D)

U.S. CONGRESS:
Congressional District
01 Pete Visclosky (D) (I)
02 Brendan Mullen (D)
03 Kevin Boyd (D)
04 Tara Nelson (D)
05 Scott Reske (D)
06 Brad Bookout (D)
07 Andre Carson (D)
08 Dave Crooks (D)
09 Shelli Yoder (D)

INDIANA STATE SENATE:
State Senate District
02 Lonnie Randolph (D) (I)
03 Earline Rogers (D) (I)
07 Brad Thompson (D)
08 Jim Arnold (D) (I)
10 John Broden (D) (I)
12 Jim Ball (D)
16 Tom Keen (D)
24 Charles Bender (D)
28 Michael Adkins (D)
30 Tim DeLaney (D)
32 John Barnes (D)
33 Greg Taylor (D) (I)
34 Jean Breaux (D) (I)
35 Mark Waterfill (D)
36 Mary Ann Sullivan (D)
37 Jim Cahill (D)
50 Vaneta Becker (R) (I)

INDIANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
House District
01 Linda Lawson (D) (I)
02 Earl Harris (D) (I)
03 Charlie Brown (D) (I)
05 Jerod Warnock (D)
06 Pat Bauer (D) (I)
07 David Niezgodski (D) (I)
08 Ryan Dvorak (D) (I)
09 Scott Pelath (D) (I)
10 Chuck Moseley (D) (I)
11 John Hart (D)
12 Mara Candelaria Reardon (D) (I)
13 Mark Straw (D)
14 Vernon Smith (D) (I)
15 Thomas O’Donnell (D)
16 Rich Ludington (D)
19 Shelli VanDenburgh (D) (I)
22 John Bonitati (D)
23 Kerry Worthington (D)
24 Shane Evans (D)
26 Rick Cornstuble (D)
27 Sheila Klinker (D) (I)
30 Chuck Sosbe (D)
31 Katie Morgan (D)
33 Andy Schemenaur (D)
34 Sue Errington (D)
35 Melanie Wright (D)
36 Terri Austin (D) (I)
40 Sam Follis (D)
43 Clyde Kersey (D) (I)
45 Kreg Battles (D) (I)
46 Jim Mann (D)
47 Chris Grider (D)
52 Charles Odier (D)
54 Tom Saunders (R) (I)
55 Dave Moeller (D)
56 Phil Pflum (D) (I)
57 Todd Day (D)
60 Peggy Welch (D) (I)
61 Matt Pierce (D) (I)
62 Jeff Sparks (D)
64 Mark Norton (D)
66 Terry Goodin (D) (I)
67 Tom Cheek (D)
68 Jake Hoog (D)
70 Terry Miller (D)
72 Sharon Grabowski (D)
73 Sandra Blanton (D)
74 Mike Schriefer (D)
75 Kevin Derr (D)
76 Trent Van Haaften (D)
77 Gail Riecken (D) (I)
79 Mike Snyder (D)
80 Phil GiaQuinta (D) (I)
81 Win Moses (D) (I)
82 Mike Wilbur (D)
83 John Good (D)
84 Lee Jordan (D)
85 Evan Smith (D)
86 Ed DeLaney (D) (I)
87 Christina Hale (D)
92 Karlee Macer (D)
93 Ryan Guillory (D)
94 Cherish Pryor (D) (I)
95 John Bartlett (D) (I)
96 Gregory Porter (D) (I)
97 Justin Moed (D)
98 Robin Shackleford (D)
99 Vanessa Summers (D) (I)
100 Dan Forestal (D)

(D = Democrat/ R = Republican/ I = Incumbent)

“After careful consideration and a thorough examination of the candidates’ records and positions on issues impacting working people, the Indiana AFL-CIO is proud to make these recommendations,” said Nancy Guyott, Indiana AFL-CIO president. “We need more people in elective office who will work for working people, rather than the moneyed interests of the big corporations and out-of-state interests groups.”

“We are confident that these candidates will do what is right for all working people and will work to restore the balance to the halls of government.”

The affiliated unions of the Indiana AFL-CIO held its 2012 C.O.P.E (Committee on Political Education) on Friday, June 22, 2012 in Indianapolis to review candidate questionnaires and vote on endorsements. Additional endorsements of candidates slated in caucuses before June 30, 2012 may be made at a later date.

The Indiana State AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) is a federation of 800 local unions across the state belonging to 50 International Unions. In total, the Indiana State AFL-CIO represents more than 300,000 working Hoosiers.

For more information on please visit www.inaflcio.org or call 1-800-433-8423.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-22-12


‘Name Our Campaign’ – Alliance Summer of Action
Thousands of Alliance members, seniors and allies across the country will mobilize this July 30th, on the 47th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, to warn against drastic cuts discussed in Congress - like the Paul Ryan budget plan, which would threaten the retirement security of future generations. Watch for new reports and materials. In August, the anniversary of Social Security will trigger more events and actions. Please think of a tagline to “Name Our Campaign” for the summer activities! Last summer’s slogan was Senior Summer: Protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The campaign kicks off in early July; you can be the one to name this year’s! Go to www.bit.ly/NdmaFV and enter by this Sunday. If your slogan is chosen, you will receive a tote bag and tee shirt, as well as a mention in a future Friday Alert, and your slogan will be used in materials throughout the summer!

Evidence of Affordable Care Act Success Comes as Supreme Court Decision Nears
Health insurance companies are due to pay out $1.1 billion in rebates to employers and individuals this summer, under a new industry regulation imposed by President Obama’s health care law, the administration said on Thursday. However, whether the rebates actually reach those recipients depends on if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a ruling expected by the end of next week, experts said.

Yesterday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that 12.8 million Americans will benefit from $1.1 billion in rebates from insurance companies this summer, due to the Affordable Care Act’s “80/20 rule.”  These rebates will be an average of $151 for each family covered by a policy. The health care law generally requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of consumers’ premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement. Insurers can spend the remaining 20% on administrative costs, such as salaries, sales, and advertising. “The Affordable Care Act is projected to reduce the federal budget deficit by about $1.4 trillion over the next twenty years,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “It slows the persistent rise in health care costs by requiring efficiency and holding health care providers and insurance companies accountable.”

The Obama administration is planning to move forward with the major parts of the Affordable Care Act even if the requirement that nearly every U.S. resident have health insurance is declared unconstitutional.

AFL-CIO Launches Unprecedented Campaign to Protect Voter Rights
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker held a press conference last week laying out a plan for labor, with partners including the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza and the Generational Alliance by her side, to respond to increasing attacks on voting rights coming from Republican legislatures throughout the country. Legislators in 34 states have introduced controversial and discriminatory voter identification laws that change the rules for voter eligibility. “These laws are designed to intentionally disenfranchise minority and low income voters by raising identification requirements,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Low income and minority voters are the groups that have the greatest difficulty obtaining sufficient forms of identification, and these new voter ID laws impede their ability to cast their votes in a fair and intimidation-free manner,” he continued.

The AFL-CIO has pledged, along with its partners, to tackle this issue by registering voters, helping registered voters obtain the necessary identification to be able to vote, and educating voters whose right to vote are infringed upon by these laws. The website www.MYVOTEMYRIGHT.org and the voter hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE will be made available to voters to provide information on their state’s voting laws and how to meet the voting requirements.

In Wisconsin, according to the blog thinkprogress.org (http://bit.ly/KHRHy8), 95-year-old Florence Hessing of Bayfield said that she’d voted in every election without any problems until that state’s voter ID requirement was enacted. However, her driver’s license expired when she stopped driving at the age of 90, and because she was likely born via midwife, she didn’t have a birth certificate required to get a new photo ID. Lawyers were eventually able to find an exemption for Hessing that will allow her to vote, but approximately 300,000 Wisconsin adults lack photo ID.

60 Plus Association Distorts the Truth Again
The conservative 60 Plus Association has made a $2.1 million ad buy in Ohio and Florida targeting Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Florida Senator Bill Nelson.  60 Plus is attacking the senators because of their votes in support of the Affordable Care Act, in addition to the economic stimulus passed during the recession.  The group’s ads warn that that under the law, “unaccountable bureaucrats” will be able to “ration care.”

“The 60 Plus Association has crossed the line with undeserved attacks on these two U.S. Senators,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  “Senator Nelson and Senator Brown both cast their votes on the side of seniors to drive down medical costs and to pull this country out of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.  The last thing we need at this time is $2.1 million dollars in lies to be flooding our airwaves.”

In all, about $235 million has been spent on ads attacking the law since its passage in March 2010, according to a recent survey by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group it, driving up public disapproval. Only $69 million has been spent on advertising supporting it.

Lee Saunders is elected to be President of AFSCME
Lee Saunders was elected President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on Thursday. He had been the union’s Secretary-Treasurer and succeeds Gerald McEntee, who had been President for 31 years. “Lee Saunders has been a great friend and strong supporter of the Alliance,” said Mr. Coyle. “We congratulate him and look forward to working together during the 2012 election season and beyond. We also extend our congratulations to Laura Reyes, who was elected to be the new Secretary-Treasurer.”



For a printable version of this document, go to bit.ly/LGgJke.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-15-12

Romney's Health Plan: Perfect for the Healthy and the Wealthy
As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, Mitt Romney laid out a plan on Tuesday in Orlando that would make the health insurance system more like a “consumer market” - leaving it to competition to drive down prices and increase quality. Romney also promised to take federal funds away from Medicaid and other federal benefit programs and give them to state governments, then place the states in charge of covering the uninsured. In addition, the likely Republican presidential nominee said that if the Supreme Court does not overturn the health care law in full, he would work to repeal whatever remains of it on his first day as president by granting a waiver to all 50 states to opt out of the legislation’s restrictions. For more, go to The Washington Post article at http://wapo.st/LTb2hr.

Obama Campaign Spokeswoman Liz Smith warned in a statement that Romney’s plan will take Americans back to a time when insurance companies could discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions and force Americans to choose between paying their health-care bills and going bankrupt. In an interview with Jay Leno as recently as March, Romney continued to oppose helping those with pre-existing conditions obtain health insurance. He argued that “you’ve got to get insurance when you are well.”

Recession-hit Seniors Forced to Draw from Social Security Early
Many older Americans who lost their jobs in the recession have been forced to claim their Social Security benefits before they had initially planned.  About 200,000 more people filed initial claims than the Social Security Administration had predicted in 2009 and 2010.  This trend is likely to continue in the near future due to chronic unemployment and underemployment.  Seniors have been left with no choice but to draw from Social Security as job prospects have lagged behind those of other age groups.  The Government Accountability Office reported that less than a third of those aged 55-64 who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2009 had found work by January 2010, compared with 41 percent of people 25 to 54.

An analysis by Richard W. Johnson of the Urban Institute found that 37% of older workers who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2011 and could not find work claimed Social Security at age 62. According to The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/KWTcNq), drawing from Social Security early may prove to be a stopgap for seniors in the short run, but cuts their long-term benefits by up to 20-30 percent per month compared to those who are able to wait until their full retirement age.

“It is such a shame when seniors are forced to draw early from their Social Security because of forces beyond their control,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “The Alliance will continue to fight so that all seniors can retire with dignity and on solid financial ground.”

Over Half of Seniors Now On-Line, Study Says
53% of Americans over 65 now use the internet and e-mail, a significant increase from prior years.  The results, from a new Pew Research Center study, show a growing trend that has broad implications for retirees’ daily lives as well as their civic activism. “Because seniors are the top target of election year lies and scare tactics, politically savvy seniors should go on-line to learn more about both the issues and the candidates,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  The Alliance continues to grow its on-line presence by posting fact sheets and news updates on our website, www.RetiredAmericans.org, and Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/RetiredAmericans. Retirees who want to “Tweet” how Mitt Romney would be bad for seniors can do so by using the #MittBad4Seniors hashtag.

President Declares June 15TH as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
President Obama has proclaimed today - Friday, June 15th - as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Obama wants to use the day to call attention to the tragedy of elder abuse, which can rob seniors of the security that they have worked their whole lives to build.  He is also using the day to urge Americans to expose elder abuse, and is calling on federal, state and local officials to protect seniors and prosecute those who abuse them. The Elder Justice Act is one tool at their disposal for doing so. The President is calling on all Americans to learn the signs of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and to raise awareness of the issue in their communities.

“I encourage everyone to take a stand with the President on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to stamp out this often-violent, particularly-terrifying form of bullying against our loved ones who many times aren’t even able to defend themselves,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Colorado Alliance Education Fund Holds Convention, Elections
Colorado held its founding convention for the Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans Education Fund on June 14th in Denver. Delegates elected Sam Domity as President; David Nefzger, Secretary; and Sherry Goodman, Treasurer. The Vice Presidents are Ken DeBay, Dean Ames, John Stoffel and Mack Goodman.  Delegates heard from the Alliance’s Dana Kennedy on the Paul Ryan budget; Ann Ragsdale, state Colorado Alliance Organizer; and Mike Cerbo, Executive Director of the Colorado AFL-CIO. Attendees thanked the leadership of the Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans, including President Frank Lay, for his vision in working for the creation of the new organization.

Florida Alliance for Retired Americans (FLARA) Holds its Annual Conference
Ms. Easterling was in Orlando on Monday for the Florida Alliance’s Annual Conference. More than 90 people attended the two-day gathering as Tony Fransetta was re-elected State President. J.B. Clark, Regan McDaniel, Irwin Scharfeld, Sarah Jones, Robert McNatt, Tom Snover, and Vivian Silbiger were elected Union Executive Vice Presidents.  Steve Protulis, Syd Bykofsky, Judy Kohler, Joe Bowyer, Julia Brown, and Angelica Marroquin were elected Community Executive Vice Presidents. The information-packed conference included an emphasis on upcoming elections, ballot initiatives, and voting rights, as well as national and state issues, and left those in attendance fully energized for the campaign season!


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/Labo67.


MIke Pence Blah Blah Yammer Yammer Yammer

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why Obama?

 The SOAR Executive Board unanimously endorsed President Barack Obama for reelection and strongly believes he deserves to be re-elected for a second term.  He has earned the right to continue the job he was elected to do in 2008.  He has turned around our economy that was in the midst of a deep recession by focusing his efforts on creating jobs, recommitting our nation to manufacturing and enforcing U.S. trade laws.

President Obama and his Administration have succeeded in regulating Wall Street and passing health care reform. Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies no longer can deny care to those with pre-existing conditions, no longer can drop people when they get sick, and no longer can they place lifetime limits on care.

Because of President Obama’s emphasis on jobs and his administration’s emphasis on enforcing our nation’s trade laws in his first term, our members who work in a wide range of industries including, steel, aluminum, glass and paper making; auto parts and wind turbine manufacturing; copper mining, tire building, and oil refining all have benefited from his policies.

President Obama has extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund through strict enforcement of fraud protections and has enhanced Medicare by changes made through the Affordable Care Act. President Obama is committed to protecting Social Security and is a strong advocate of keeping Wall Street’s greedy hands out of the Social Security Trust Fund.

This President has upheld his commitment to the working middle class and retirees of this great nation and deserves to be reelected President of the United States of America!

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Divide And Conquer

The Attack On The Middle Class, 
                           Divide And Conquer

The disappointing results of the recall election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin have revealed the challenges workers and the middle class are faced with. The least of which is not the unbridled, obscene amounts of money corporate interests and billionaires poured into this race, outspending the opponent 8 to 1.

What should be a wake up call for all of us is the statement by Walker that his strategy in stripping state employees of their basic work place democratic rights is based on a divide and conquer approach.

This strategy simply pits one worker against another, based on the premise that one is getting more than the other. Thereby diverting attention to what is really causing both to lose and causing workers to vote against their own best interest.

Putting aside the fact that most of the problems with funding public employee pensions and other state budgetary problems and that our overall economic problems were and are caused by wall street/big bank misdeeds, many would rather attack what some other worker is getting. Rather than a race to the bottom, let’s stand up, fight back. Support your union.  

Why as retirees and seniors should we care? For many reasons, including our concerns for the well being of our children and grandchildren, but also to protect the attack on our benefits including Medicare and Social Security. The Republicans have already started a generational divide on their budget proposal regarding these programs.

Bill Gibbons, PACE Board Member of SOAR

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wisconsin - Not Our Waterloo


If you listened to right-wing commentators after the Walker recall election, you heard about the declining influence of organized labor. This was not our last stand! Unlike Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo, we have not been defeated and exiled never to be heard from again. If anything, we have been reenergized in our fight to prevent the one per centers from destroying our country. As USW International President Leo W. Gerard stated, the defeat was “disappointing, but we’re not done fighting for workers’ rights.”

The two biggest factors in the recall was the huge amount of money spent by the Walker campaign to keep his job, thanks to the “Citizens United” ruling by the Supreme Court and the debate on whether utilizing the recall procedure for anything rather than malfeasance is the proper use of this type of referendum.

This was a perfect example of corporate money drowning out the voices of real people. According to the New York Times, Walker and his Republican allies spent $45.6 million on the race as of May 21, while Barrett and his allies spent $17.9 million. The other factor was the recall itself. In exit polling results compiled by the New York Times, 68 percent of those voting for Walker believed recall elections should only be held for reasons of official misconduct, which I believe played a major role in the outcome of this election.

We should all be proud of our union and all of organized labor’s work in this election. If anything, our resolve to stand up and fight to protect our rights from the corporate elite is stronger than ever and battle tested. The challenge is great but as our past USW President George Becker was often quoted, “failure is not an option!”

Connie Entrekin, SOAR President

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Important Notice To All Steel VEBA Participants

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL STEEL VEBA PARTICIPANTS

Steel Industry Retirees Need to Pay Close Attention to VEBA Enrollment Rules and Consider Their Options

On June 5, 2012, a bankruptcy court in New York approved the creation of a new Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) for steel industry retirees who are eligible for the health care tax credit (HCTC).  This VEBA, which is known as the “Steel Retiree VEBA Trust,” is the creation of three trustees and a San Francisco law firm with no prior connection to the steel industry or its retiree population. 

The USW is concerned that the introduction of this new VEBA and the efforts to sell the VEBA to retiree populations could create risks for some of our retirees.  For that reason, we are sending this message.  To be clear, this new VEBA is not sponsored, affiliated or endorsed by the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

Many of the potentially eligible participants of this new VEBA are either already covered by a USW-negotiated VEBA or are eligible for the health coverage tax credit if they are between the ages of 55 and 64, receive a pension from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) and are not covered by Medicare.

If you are currently covered by a VEBA, closely check your enrollment rules if you are considering a change.  Many VEBAs prohibit re-enrollment once you give up your coverage. For example, VEBAs covering Republic Steel and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel retirees prohibit retirees who terminate their participation from re-enrolling.  If you drop out of a VEBA that prohibits re-enrollment, you may be barred in the future from re-enrolling if you become dissatisfied with the “Steel Retirees” VEBA or if that VEBA ceases to exist.

While initial coverage and premiums may be similar to existing VEBA, you should investigate the longevity of any new plan. The new VEBA approved will be funded solely by HCTC reimbursements and retiree premiums, and does not guarantee continuing coverage after the first year. 

Unlike many USW-negotiated VEBAs, there will be no company contributions and with HCTC scheduled to expire in 2013, there is no certainty in projecting premium costs in upcoming years.  In addition, the administrative costs of the new VEBA appear to be higher than many existing VEBAs negotiated by the USW.

Quite simply, it could be risky for any retiree currently covered by a USW-negotiated VEBA to change coverage. Some 250,000 retirees are currently covered by USW-negotiated VEBAs that were established with the sole purpose of providing the highest quality of coverage at the most economical price.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, 6-8-12

Wisconsin Governor Wins Recall Election but Appears to Have Lost State Senate
Governor Scott Walker (R) held onto his office, but appears to have lost the state Senate, after Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall elections. Walker won his own race over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), 53%- 46%, despite union voters’ backing Walker’s recall, 75 percent to 25 percent. If former state Sen. John Lehman’s (D) victory over Walker ally/state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R) holds up, it will give Democrats a one-seat (17-16) majority in the state Senate. With all precincts counted, Lehman holds a 51 percent to 49 percent lead—about 800 votes over Wanggaard. But the incumbent has not conceded and indicated he may seek a recount.

Earlier, last Friday, 11,000 Wisconsin retirees had taken part in an Alliance telephone-town hall to discuss issues important to seniors prior to the elections.

Officials from the Election Protection Coalition reported a number of voters who would have been able to vote in 2010 but weren’t on Tuesday because of the state’s 2011 election law changes, including new 28-day residency requirements for Election Day registration. Voters also reported poll workers turning away people for not presenting photo ID, although the Wisconsin photo ID law has been enjoined. “This issue could rise again in Wisconsin in November,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “The Alliance will remain focused on voter protection there.”

Alan Simpson Update: Have You Signed Our Petition?
More than 1,600 people have already signed a petition denouncing former Senator Alan Simpson’s attack on California Alliance for Retired Americans seniors in a recent letter (details at http://politi.co/Jd39BJ). Simpson was the co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and he has recommended that much of the national debt be addressed through cutting guaranteed Social Security benefits. He advocates both raising the Social Security retirement age and lowering cost-of-living adjustments. If you would like to add your signature to the petition, please go to http://signon.org/sign/oppose-alan-simpsons.

AIG CEO Says Retirement Age Might Have to be Raised to 80!?
American International Group Inc. (AIG) Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche said last weekend that Europe’s debt crisis shows governments worldwide must accept that people will have to work more years as life expectancies increase. “Retirement ages will have to move to 70, 80 years old,” Benmosche, who turned 68 last week, said during an interview at his seaside villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia. “That would make pensions, medical services more affordable. They will keep people working longer and will take that burden off of the youth.”

“Mr. Benmosche’s statement is disgraceful,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Most 80-year-olds have health issues that would make attempting to work extremely stressful on their bodies and even dangerous. Forty-five percent of workers in the 62-69 year age range work in physically demanding or difficult jobs.” A new study (http://bit.ly/Lc8goJ) from the Economic Policy Institute finds that hardships for older workers due to proposed Social Security cuts would be significant—and that the “just work longer to make up the difference” argument doesn’t hold up. Health problems, caregiving responsibilities, lack of suitable work and unemployment all play a role in making it difficult or impossible for many entering their would-be golden years to keep working.

In another related study, the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) has found additional evidence that people whose jobs require more physical activity and manual labor tend to retire earlier. Further increasing the full retirement age would impact them disproportionately, AIER Research Fellow Dr. Shelly Liang found, because many “are no longer physically capable of doing their jobs and need to retire earlier, regardless of incentives.” For more, go to http://bit.ly/KXFQQC. For the full report, go to http://bit.ly/L3dVyS.

Follow the White House’s Senior Health Town Hall Online
The Obama Administration would like to invite you to take part in a live Senior Health Town Hall on Monday, June 11th from 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. from the White House. You can follow it on-line at www.whitehouse.gov/live and www.hhs.gov/live. The event will include an opportunity for viewers to ask questions on Twitter and will feature an interactive, open dialogue with stakeholder groups and members of the media to highlight what the health care law - the Affordable Care Act - means for seniors and caregivers. It will include Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS); Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging at HHS; and Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center of Medicare at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It will begin with opening remarks, followed by the question and answer period. The White House will be taking questions using the Twitter hashtag #Seniorshealth.

Ohio Alliance Seniors Help Prevent Loss of Their Landline Telephone Service
In Ohio, landline phone customers don’t have to worry about their service ending next year. Ohio’s Springfield News-Sun reports that lawmakers on the House Public Utilities Committee won’t move forward with a bill that would allow telephone companies to withdraw landline phone service in “competitive” areas. Lawmakers said a study required previously - on the impact of higher service fees and longer time to restore service - should be completed before more changes occur. Ohio Alliance members were among those phoning their legislators in opposition to the bill, which many feared would force seniors and people living in poverty to pay more for basic service.

Florida Voters’ Rights in the News Again
Voters’ rights remain an issue in Florida. State officials had taken action to remove non-eligible voters from its voter lists, after the state's Republican Gov. Rick Scott pressed the state to identify non-U.S. citizens who had registered to vote illegally. However, in the midst of a widespread public backlash, the U.S. Department of Justice is questioning the legality of the action. On June 1, Ron Labasky, a lawyer for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, advised all counties to stop the removal of names from the voter rolls until the Justice Department's concerns are resolved. The so-called “voter purge” would remove names from Florida's voter rolls months right before the 2012 presidential election, when Florida is likely to play a key role as a battleground state with a large number of electoral votes. For more, go to http://bit.ly/LbKebO.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/L4JqII.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

What is Alan Simpson Afraid Of?


Alan Simpson, co-author of the Bowles-Simpson plan that has been cited as a starting point for this year’s round of deficit negotiations, has a colorful way of speaking and an axe to grind against our Social Security system. Simpson has been particularly vocal about trying to defend “young people,” so Social Security Works gathered a group of young experts who didn’t see how Simpson’s plan to cut the system would help save it:





For more information, visit http://www.strengthensocialsecurity.org/youngexperts

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Warning Sign for Workers and Retirees


Behind Alan Simpson Bluster, A Warning Sign for Workers and Retirees
By Barbara J. Easterling

Behind the shock and awe of Alan Simpson's hate-filled letter to the California chapter of my organization -- he recently wrote that members of the Alliance for Retired Americans were "a wretched group of seniors" and "greedy geezers" -- lies a cautionary tale for workers and retirees: Beware of politicians looking for political cover to cut Social Security.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Social Security's death have been greatly exaggerated. The little-known truth is that the Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.7 trillion surplus, enough to fully pay all benefits through 2033 and a vast majority through 2086. Mitt Romney and Alan Simpson and others spread these popular myths of gloom and doom to deflect attention away from a major cause of our deficits: unneeded tax breaks for the rich and big corporations.

The December 2010 recommendations of a fiscal commission co-chaired by Simpson continue to greatly influence the Social Security debate. Mitt Romney and GOP congressional leaders want to lower Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age to as high as 70. Romney, like George W. Bush before him, wants to privatize Social Security, putting seniors at risk while Wall Street profits from gambling Social Security savings on the stock market. A more responsible approach is one by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to significantly strengthen the Social Security Trust Fund by removing a loophole that allows upper-income Americans to avoid paying their fair share in Social Security payroll taxes.

In the debate over Social Security's future, what often gets forgotten is that the average senior on Social Security must get by on just a little over $1000 each month. This stands in stark contrast to the lifestyle of Social Security critics like Simpson and Romney. Simpson, who became a business lobbyist after leaving the Senate, receives a $43,000 annual federal pension. Romney makes more by 6:00 a.m. on January 1 than many retirees do for the entire year. Both of them show a cold insensitivity to the daily needs of struggling seniors.

As a retiree, I am particularly upset by Simpson's repeated portrayal of seniors as selfish. Today's seniors raised children and grandchildren, built strong neighborhoods, and sacrificed for our nation to preserve its freedoms for future generations. Retirees who are fortunate to have economic security and good health want the same for their children and grandchildren when they reach this age.
Before Social Security, many people worked until the day they died. We have come a long way in this country, but we cannot let politicians like Alan Simpson and Mitt Romney turn back the clock on our progress.

Barbara J. Easterling is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. She was previously the secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org or call 1-800-333-7212.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Retirees Medicare Preventive Services

Medicare covers a full range of preventive services to help keep you healthy and help find problems early, when treatment is most effective. Ask your doctor which of these services is right for you.

Those on Medicare can get the following preventive services.

  • One time "Welcome to Medicare" Preventive Visit within the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B.
  • Yearly "Wellness" Visit - get this visit 12 months after your "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit or 12 months after your Part B effective date.
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening
  • Bone Mass Measurement (Bone Density Test)
  • Cardiovascular Screenings (cholesterol, lipids, triglycerides)
  • Colorectal Cancer Screenings
  • Diabetes Screening
  • Diabetes Self-management Training
  • Flu Shot
  • Glaucoma Test
  • Hepatitis B Shot
  • HIV Screening
  • Mammogram (screening for breast cancer)
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy Services
  • Pap Test and Pelvic Exam (includes a breast exam)
  • Pneumococcal Shot
  • Prostate Cancer Screenings
  • Smoking Cessation (counseling to stop smoking)

Your "Medicare & You" Handbook has more information about these preventive services, including costs and conditions that may apply. Visit
www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf

Source: CMS Product No. 11420
Revised May 2011

Friday, June 01, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-1-2012

Wisconsin Recall Elections to Take Place on Tuesday
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) is fighting for his political life in the upcoming June 5 recall election, with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) hoping to unseat him. The governor drew widespread ire when he introduced his landmark proposal to curb dramatically the collective bargaining rights of the state’s public employees several months ago. Walker has raised about $31 million since he took office, including a remarkable $5.9 million in the last five weeks. Thousands of Wisconsin Alliance members are expected to join a tele-town hall on behalf of Barrett this afternoon. The call will feature Rep. Gwen Moore, State Senator Lena Taylor, and Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt.

Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) is also facing a recall election; hers is against Democratic nominee Mahlon Mitchell of Madison, the head of the state firefighters’ union. In addition, control of the state Senate is at stake next week. Currently, there are 16 Democrats, 16 Republicans and one vacancy. If Democrats win any of the four senate races being voted on this Tuesday, they take control of the chamber.

“The Alliance has mailed information to all of its Wisconsin members regarding seniors’ issues in the recall elections,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the national Alliance. “Thank you to Wisconsin Alliance President Leon Burzynski and everyone in Wisconsin and other states who have worked so hard on the recall elections. Please just keep it up for 5 more days!”

Alan Simpson Fallout Continues
Last week’s attack on California Alliance seniors by Sen. Alan Simpson (http://bit.ly/JCtz4B) has sparked nationwide reaction. Simpson, co-chair of the White House’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, has put forward a plan to address the national debt by cutting Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age. Trudy Lieberman, a writer with the Columbia Journalism Review, said that she hopes Simpson’s remarks, “will start sparking some better reporting about his fiscal plan.” (http://bit.ly/L9EtMn) Simpson has accepted a debate challenge from young people associated with the group Social Security Works. To see their video, which features Alliance Senior Legislative Representative Sarah Byrne, go to .  Also, watch for a petition to Members of Congress denouncing both Simpson’s comments and his recommended policies, coming soon!

Indiana Alliance Supports U.S. Auto Workers
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) attended the Indiana State Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) convention in Indianapolis on May 24. Speakers included: Ms. Easterling, Indiana State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott, and U.S. Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN). Rep. Carson is one of a bipartisan group of 188 U.S. Senators and Members of Congress who sent a letter to President Obama in March to express “serious concern” about China’s massive subsidies and policies to support its auto parts sector unfairly. The letter encouraged the President to “use all existing authority under the law to preserve and protect U.S. production and jobs” in America's auto parts chain.  At the Indiana Alliance convention, AAM Field Coordinators Michael Mitchell and Rachel Bennett Steury spoke to attendees about the auto parts campaign and asked them to sign postcards to their elected officials.

Romney Clinches Republican Nomination for President
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finally clinched the Republican presidential nomination with a victory in the Texas primary on Tuesday. The Texas victory gave Romney 1,191 delegates, more than the 1,144 he needs to win. “The Republicans are nominating a candidate who wants to raise the retirement age and privatize Social Security,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Raising the retirement age would be particularly difficult for workers in blue collar, manufacturing, service sector and other physically-demanding jobs. Privatization, meanwhile, would undercut the future financing of the program. Let’s all hope there is no Romney Administration to enact those policies.”

Florida Alliance Protests Corporate and Congressional Wrongdoing
The Florida Alliance has had a busy month. Last Friday, while shareholders of NextEra Energy were approving the company's executive compensation plan at its annual meeting, a small group of activists took off their jackets to reveal protester T-shirts and began chanting, “Pay Your Fair Share!” They were soon ousted by NextEra's security. FLARA President Tony Fransetta, member Leo Solar and others were escorted out and then spoke with the press. NextEra Energy, the parent company of Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL), is the most profitable corporation in South Florida, reporting U.S. profits of nearly $7 billion over the last three years. “How much did FPL pay in federal income taxes in that time? A grand total of zero,” said Mr. Fransetta. “In fact, during those years, FPL received refunds and tax breaks of $42 million, giving them a negative tax rate of -2.0 percent. As if that wasn't enough, FPL was asking for a rate increase of $690 million annually.”

On Tuesday in Boca Raton, FLARA members protested the Medicare stance of Rep. Allen West (R). West had voted to slash preventive Medicare benefits for 150,000 seniors - nearly 20% of his constituents in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, which he currently represents.

Something on Your Mind? Write Letter, Win Pen!
Is there something you want retirees in your community to know about?  Take a moment to write a letter to the editor, and if it is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. “Letters to the editor are free and are often widely read,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “With the wealthy business interests we are up against, it’s nice to have an option that doesn’t cost money.” Most recently, Rich Austin, Janice Ayres, Charlie Balban, Joyce Brown, Mr. Burzynski, Barbara Cunningham, Doug Curler, Robert Dougherty, Robert Foster, Mr. Fransetta, Bob and Joni Lawrence, Joseph Martinez, Ken Sagar, Beverly Saylor, Bill Wallace, and Charlie Williams contributed to their local papers. If you have had a letter published, please e-mail aracommunications@retiredamericans.org.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/LSuttx.