Monday, February 25, 2013

USW District 7 Statement - Steve Skvara

For Immediate Use:  February 25, 2013
Contact:    Sal Aguilar, 219-886-2596;

USW District 7 Statement Stephen Skvara, Retired Steelworker, Raised a Voice for Justice
              Gary, IN (Feb. 25) – The United Steelworkers (USW) issued the following statement from Jim Robinson, Director, USW District 7, in recognition of the death last week of Stephen Skvara, 65, a retired steelworker activist, President of an Indiana Chapter of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), and who served on the district SOAR executive board.
              “Our union has many unsung heroes and Stephen Skvara was certainly among them during his retirement years when he raised his loud Steelworker’s voice for justice on healthcare for everyone, retirement security for seniors, and fairness to workers who lose their benefits in corporate bankruptcies.
              “His voice was loudest in Chicago when he stood up at a 2007 AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Debate Forum to ask a question that was nationally televised to more than one-million, plus thousands who were seated at the event to say: ‘Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can’t afford her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?’
              “Stephen Skvara’s question was applauded by us all. We needed answers and the presidential candidates then began talking more about the healthcare crisis all across America. Barack Obama was on that Chicago candidates’ stage, he heard Steve’s voice and today we have Obamacare.
              “The Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees empowered Stephen to standup and fight back for us all. He testified before Congress on the issue of corporate bankruptcies that need to give workers greater protection of their benefits; he stood up in the nation’s capital to defend against budget cuts of the State Children’s’ Health Insurance Program; and he raised his voice during the 2012 election in support of now U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was being falsely attacked by her opponent for protecting steelworkers’ benefits during the bankruptcy of LTV Steel Corp.
              “Our retired union brother will be missed for his helping make our steel community and nation a better place. We offer condolences to his family for their loss of Stephen, a husband, father, and grandfather. He was beloved by all active and retired USW members in Indiana and Illinois.” 
              Mr. Skvara began worked in East Chicago at Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., which later became LTV Steel. He retired as an electrical repairman with 34-years-service after a disabling injury from an auto accident in 1997. A family service is being held today in Valparaiso at the Moeller Funeral Home at 7:00 pm, with visitation starting at 4:00 pm. Mr. Skvara passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at Porter Portage Hospital. He is survived by his wife, four children and a granddaughter.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Steve Skvara Obituary

NW Indiana Times – Feb. 24, 2013
Stephen Skvara
STEPHEN SKVARA VALPARAISO, IN Stephen Skvara, age 65, of Valparaiso, passed away Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at Porter Portage Hospital. He was born the son of Stephen and Julia (Reidy) Skvara in Galesburg, IL on May 1, 1947. Stephen retired from LTV Steel Mill and was an active member of S.O.A.R. On August 28, 1971 in South Holland, IL. he married Sandra (DeWitt) who survives him. Also surviving are his children: Magen (fiance John) Skvara, Bridget Skvara, Rachel (Zachary) Hunt, and Stephen (Michelle) Skvara; one grandchild, Chloe Skvara; and two sisters. He was preceded in death by his parents. Following cremation at Angelcrest Crematory, a memorial service will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, February 25, 2013 with Father Doug Mayer officiating and a memorial visitation will be from 4:00 p.m. until time of service, both at Moeller Funeral Home, 104 Roosevelt Rd., Valparaiso, IN. Memorial donations may be made to Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (S.O.A.R.), 5 Gateway Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-22-13

Alliance Lobby Week Comes Just Days Before Sequester Cuts are Set to Kick In
Alliance members scheduled more than 70 district meetings with their elected officials for this week’s President’s Day Lobby Week. The appointments came as the Senate is set to vote next week - right after the Congressional recess ends - on a plan to stop the March 1 sequester (automatic budget cuts) without harming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On February 14, Senate Democrats released their plan to avert the sequester for the rest of the year — it contains $110 billion in deficit reduction, evenly divided between spending cuts and new revenues. During Lobby Week, Alliance members have been asking senators to vote for this package and asking House members to vote for it should it come to the House.

Included in the Lobby Week events: a rally and petition drop outside House Speaker John Boehner's (R) office in West Chester, Ohio on Wednesday (coverage: For a map of where all the meetings have been taking place, go to

Among those at risk if the cuts come to fruition: homebound and disabled seniors behind closed doors – “the hidden hungry” across the U.S.A., according to Larry Tomayko, interim chief executive officer of the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA). If congressional domestic-spending cuts take effect on March 1, MOWAA faces an estimated 5.1% reduction in Older Americans Act funding.

According to Americans for Tax Fairness, a recent Hart Research poll  found that found that two-thirds of voters nationwide want the richest 2% (by 66% of voters) and large corporations (by 64% of voters) to pay more in taxes. The poll also found that 59% of voters say that we still need to do more to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes:

House Democrats Reaffirm Commitment to Vital Seniors’ Programs
One hundred and seven Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), released a letter last Friday in which they implored President Obama not to agree to any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid as part of an upcoming deal over the sequester cuts. In the letter, the Representatives adamantly state that they will not agree to a “compromise” that includes cuts to earned benefit programs, including implementation of the flawed “Chained CPI” method of calculating Social Security cost of living adjustments. To read the letter and see if your Member of Congress signed it, go to

“It is very encouraging to see a majority of the House Democratic Caucus sign onto this strong statement supporting seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We urge President Obama to follow their lead and make it clear to Republicans that cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, including implementation of the Chained CPI, is not an option.”

New Bowles-Simpson Outline: Particularly Bad for Seniors
The former heads of the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — unveiled a new debt reduction plan Tuesday that they said is intended to pressure the White House and Congress to stop squabbling and act. Among other cuts, their plan slashes $600 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, in part by reducing provider payments under Medicare, and demanding that more money come from Medicare beneficiaries’ pockets. Their plan would also adopt the chained CPI. Go to to read Politico’s article.

“The new framework that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson outlined on Tuesday cuts tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and corporations - those who need it least,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Some of the ways that they ‘accomplish’ this are by cutting earned Social Security benefits, transferring health care costs to seniors, and reducing federal employees’ retirement benefits. It is a particularly bad deal for seniors.”

Voting Rights Project Releases 2012 Election Report
The Voting Rights Project, a division of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights, has just released a comprehensive report on voting problems during the 2012 elections. The report details how countless Americans, including many seniors, were either unable to vote or had to wait in line for hours due to voter registration problems, understaffed polling places, malfunctioning voting machines, unjust voter ID laws, and many other flaws in our voting system. These voting issues are especially problematic for seniors, who are less likely to own photo IDs and are not always physically able to wait in long lines for several hours. Click on to read the findings.

“This report illuminates many areas of our voting system that need to be reformed,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Instead of making it harder for seniors to vote by passing unnecessary voter ID laws, our lawmakers should work to increase voter turnout by implementing mail-in voting and increasing the number of polling places and poll workers.”

America’s Work Force Radio Show Airs in Cleveland, Can be Heard Nationally
America’s Work Force, a daily labor-radio program, has been on the air since 1993, supplying listeners with useful, relevant input into their daily lives through fact-finding features, in-depth interviews, and practical consumer reports. To hear it locally, tune in on WERE 1490 AM in Cleveland weekday afternoons from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Click on to listen to an internet stream of the show from anywhere during that hour. Or, click on to hear a podcast Of America’s Work Force shows through iTunes.

At the heart of the show is its provocative guest list – through the support and participation of the labor community, dozens of labor leaders and advocates have been guests, along with politicians, civic leaders, industry professionals, experts and more. You can generally hear Mr. Coyle on the show the second Wednesday of every month. The show is now in its 20th year and Ed “Flash” Ferenc has been hosting it since 1998. “Todays seniors are the folks that built America and made it great. They fought for us in wars, they worked hard so their kids could have a better life than they did. As a country, we cannot do enough for them,” said Mr. Ferenc.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Steve Skvara, An Inspiration to Us All

Steve Skvara began his work experience as a Mechanical Helper with Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. which later became LTV Steel. He then became a Maintenance clerk/spare parts and then transferred into the Electrical Department and retired as an Electrical Repairman with a total of 34 Years service. His hobby then became community service. He was able to enjoy 12 years of retirement and was a member of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) for that long. Steve was a SOAR Coordinator for two years and then was elected president of his SOAR Chapter. He then became the District 7 SOAR Executive Board Member and held that position for the last six years.

An auto accident in 1997 forced him to take an early retirement ending his hobbies of fly fishing and camping.

Steve was always involved in union work, his church and community. He served as a Union Rep/Shop Steward for over 10 years at USW Local 1011. He was involved in the Knights of Columbus, served on the Homeowners Association in his county, and served as an elected Township School Board Member. When LTV Steel went into bankruptcy and the retirees were left without healthcare, he became a certified SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) Representative, helping seniors with Medicare problems and to find Medigap insurance. He has assisted our retirees at all the steel mills in Indiana and Illinois. He volunteered one day a week at his Union Hall to help retirees with insurance questions. 

Steve was 65 years old and he and his wife, Sandy, had been married 41 years and have four grown children and one Grand Daughter.

Steve helped the Steelworkers Union through the years by organizing retirees at various rallys, demonstrations, organizing drives and even spent two months helping with two different election campaigns in Dubuque, Iowa. He also testified at a congressional hearing on corporate bankruptcy and its impact on workers and retirees.

I got to know Steve pretty well as we traveled together to and from various union activities and I have always been impressed with his devotion to the Labor Movement and the United Steelworkers Union in particular. He will be most remembered for the question he posed at the AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Forum in Chicago’s Soldiers Field a few years ago before 18,000 people. He asked the following question:

“After 34 years with LTV Steel, I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. I lost a third of my pension, and my family lost their health care. Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family, and I can't afford to pay for her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?”

I believe the question Steve asked and the passion with which he asked it had much to do with the subsequent passage of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama.

Steve said good bye a couple days ago to do some organizing in heaven as well as to catch up on his love of fly fishing and camping.

One additional note: During the many days and nights that Steve and I spend together helping our union over the years, I never once heard him ever complain about his many disabilities or the pain he endured.

Everyone loved Steve. He was an inspiration to us all.

Charlie Averill

Monday, February 18, 2013

Important for Retirees on Social Security

Don't forget, retirees; If you are on Social Security and receive your benefit by check, you have until March 1 to switch to electronic payments. You will be able to have your check direct deposited into your bank account, or by MasterCard debit cards.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-15-13

State of the Union Speech Mentions Key Alliance Issues
President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, and he featured seniors in his remarks several times. “We are pleased that the President supported reducing taxpayer subsidies for prescription drug companies during his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night. That is an example of a Medicare change that makes sense,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Another would be allowing Medicare to negotiate volume discounts with the big drug companies.”

“However,” Coyle continued, “we must remain vigilant to ensure that Congress does not try to enact other budget reforms that balance the budget on the backs of seniors. We should instead go after the big corporations that pay little or no taxes and get sweetheart deals from Washington. As the President said at his inauguration, ‘We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.’”

“We need the President to stick to that line of thinking. I would like ‘asking more from the wealthiest seniors,’ as the President also suggested during the State of the Union address, to be part of an overall strategy of asking the wealthiest 2% to pay more in taxes, rather than singling out seniors to pay for a budget deficit they did not cause.”

Alliance Joins Friends in Telling Congress to “Have a Heart” on Valentine’s Day

Thursday was Valentine’s Day, and the Alliance took the opportunity to tell Congress to “Have a Heart: Oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And close loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans.” That was the theme of a Thursday Alliance press event on Capitol Hill with the co-chairs of the House Seniors Caucus, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Doris Matsui (D-CA). Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM); Mr. Coyle; andNancy Altman, Co-Director of Social Security Works, also spoke. For photos from the event, go to (set) or (show).
The “Have a Heart” theme was amplified as Alliance members called in to Capitol Hill on Thursday and told their elected officials to have a heart and not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Callers said that we should instead ask the wealthiest 2% to pay their fair share.

Next Week is President’s Day Lobby Week
The Alliance is following up on all the Valentine’s Day activities right away with President’s Day Lobby Week activities! To see the Alliance web page devoted to the week - during which Congress will be on recess - go to On it you will find a tool kit with everything you need to know before meeting with your Representative: the latest Alliance fact sheets on “Smart Ways to Improve the Economy,” the budget showdown, and Social Security; Key Questions Regarding Social Security and Medicare; and more. The page also includes a list of appointments that have been arranged across the country so far.

Alliance Endorses Deutch Plan to Make Social Security Solvent in the Long-Term
On Wednesday, the Alliance sent a letter to Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), endorsing the “Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act” that he introduced along with Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). The legislation ensures long-term solvency for Social Security by gradually lifting the cap on wages for high income earners. At the same time, the plan enhances benefits by applying a more accurate cost-of-living adjustment, guaranteeing that seniors’ benefits keep up with their daily needs. To see the letter, go to
Medicare Prescription Drugs Costs are down due to the Affordable Care Act
Health care reform is paying off for seniors. According to a recent report issued by the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act has saved 6.1 million people, largely seniors and people with disabilities, more than $5.7 billion in prescription drug costs. The law achieved this feat by starting to close the “doughnut hole” in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which had forced many Medicare beneficiaries to pay all the costs of their prescriptions. Health care reform has helped with prescription expenses since 2010, and will close the “doughnut hole” entirely by 2020. To read the Huffington Post article on the report, go to “This is a clear illustration of the benefits that health care reform has provided to seniors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Given the rate at which prescription drug costs are rising, many seniors would not be able to pay for them without the Affordable Care Act.”

David Cote Faces Protesters after Helping to Create the Simpson-Bowles Plan

Several New Hampshire Alliance members were among the 50 protesters who confronted CEO and “Fix the Debt” Leader David Cote over corporate tax breaks in Manchester, NH on Monday. Cote, president of Honeywell International, sat on the president’s Simpson-Bowles National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and has advocated lowering the cost-of-living adjustments of Social Security recipients or raising the age of eligibility. “Instead of reducing the deficit on the backs of working Americans, corporations should pay taxes like the rest of us,” said Charlie Balban, president of the New Hampshire Alliance. More at
Barbara Easterling Addresses UFCW, AFSCME
Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, traveled to Phoenix for the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Executive Board Meeting on Tuesday through Thursday of this week. Last Saturday, Ms. Easterling spoke at the AFSCME Retiree Council Meeting in Washington, D.C. “Too many people in Washington and in the media continue to target Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for cold, terribly unfair cuts,” Ms. Easterling told the Retiree Council. “They want those with the least to sacrifice the most.”
Chained CPI: A Disaster for Seniors, Veterans, and Middle Class Taxpayers
In an op-ed for The Hill, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) forcefully argues the case against the Chained CPI, a method of calculating cost of living adjustments that would be highly detrimental to the interests of seniors and others. Social Security beneficiaries would see their benefits reduced by as much as $1,000 a year.  To read Sanders’s op-ed, go to
For a printable version of this document, go to

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Please make that Call

Today is a day of action to tell Congress to OPPOSE BENEFIT CUTS to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; and to CLOSE LOOPHOLES for Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans, while also cancelling the looming across-the-board cuts. Get in on the action by dialing the capitol switchboard at 866-297-3817 and sharing the message with your Members of Congress!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-8-13

In Group Letter, Alliance State Presidents Urge President Obama to Protect Seniors
Congressional Republicans are taking the economy hostage again — threatening to blow it up unless vital services for seniors are cut.  On Thursday, President Obama warned that Republicans would seek to replace the sequester (automatic cuts currently scheduled to take effect) with cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare, while refusing to raise new tax revenue. The Alliance is sending a letter from all of the State Presidents to President Obama today, urging him to remain strong and protect seniors. In the letter, available at, the state Alliance leaders say, “We are concerned, Mr. President, that many in Washington will try to take advantage of the nation’s current fiscal situation and cause permanent damage to the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. We strongly urge you to resist such efforts.”

The Alliance also weighed in on two other issues important to seniors during the last week, sending a letter supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) bill, S. 117, to require Medicare Part D drug negotiation. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which created the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, explicitly forbids the government from negotiation lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. Sen. Klobuchar’s legislation amends that law to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices, saving American taxpayers billions of dollars. To see the letter that was sent, go to              

On Wednesday, the Alliance sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House, urging them to vote against an amendment to the “Require a PLAN Act,” H.R. 444. “The amendment supports using the recommendations of the Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson plan as a basis for achieving budget requirements,” said Ruben Burks, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer. Go to to see the letter. The amendment failed, 348-75; for a vote tally, go to

On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, Tell Congress to Have a Heart!
Next Thursday, Valentine’s Day, is a call-in day on apitol Hill. “Alliance members are urged to call Congress at 888-659-9401 and tell Members to, ‘Have a heart: oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and close loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans!’” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  For a flyer with what you should say on February 14, go to On Facebook:

If a Hospital Classifies Your Visit as an “Observation Stay,” You May Get a Big Bill
Medicare recipients who need more time to recuperate after leaving the hospital could be hit with unexpected expenses, if they don't qualify for the standard 20-day stay in a nursing home. This is often because their hospitalization was billed as an outpatient “observation,” instead of an inpatient admission. Medicare has recently changed its policies to classify many hospital stays previously constituted as inpatient stays as outpatient stays. These include some hospital stays that involve major bone fractures and the patient remaining in the hospital for several days. Under normal circumstances, Medicare recipients who require additional care after a hospital visit are entitled to a 20-day stay in a nursing home, as long as their hospitalization lasted at least 3 days. However, if their hospital stay was classified as outpatient rather than inpatient, Medicare does not pay for the nursing home stay, which can cost hundreds of dollars a day. To see the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s write up of the story, go to If you have been affected by a high “observation status” bill, please let the Alliance know at

Saturday Postal Delivery to End in August - to the Detriment of Seniors and Others
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced on Wednesday that it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays starting the week of Aug. 5, but will continue delivering packages. One of the biggest fears related to the change is that it would jeopardize low-cost delivery of medicines and medical supplies to seniors. But it isn’t a switch to online mail that’s causing the postal demise — it’s Congress. According to the blog, under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, Congress has for years forced the USPS to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of pensions for its employees. The USPS doesn’t actually receive money from the government, but needs Congressional approval to make any changes to its structure. Last year, the Postal Service defaulted on a pension fund payment for the first two times in its history, and political infighting stopped Congress from bringing any remedy to the floor. The result was the cut in Saturday service.

“The Union Edge” Radio Show Reaches beyond the Labor Community
If you live in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington State, or the Washington, DC metro area, you may have heard “The Union Edge – Labor’s Talk Radio” show in your car or at home. Charles Showalter is the host of the program, which features a variety of guests. Some of the guests are from the Alliance for Retired Americans, and Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, is frequently on at 2:00 PM Eastern Time on Fridays. Mr. Showalter is fighting to give labor a stronger voice on the radio. “I call it labor communicating with not-yet-labor,” Showalter said. “It’s vital that we get our message out beyond the union movement.”

The 50-year-old Pittsburgh union man has been at the mike for five years. He belongs to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. Showalter’s program is on a half dozen stations: WPWC 1480 AM, Washington, D.C.; WPRR 1680 AM and 95.3 FM, Grand Rapids, Mich.; WKFB 770 AM, Pittsburgh; KGHI 91.5 FM, Westport, Wash.; KGHE 89.1 FM, Elma, Wash.; and WXPI 88.5 FM, Williamsport, Pa. “We are live three hours a day, Monday through Friday,” Showalter said. “You can also go to and click “Listen Live” or “Podcasts” any time.” In addition, programs may be accessed at

Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Affordable insurance supplemental to Medicare is available through the Retiree Health Plan endorsed by the Alliance for union retirees. The Open Enrollment period is currently in effect through February 28, 2013! During this period, these Medicare-eligible retirees and their spouses are guaranteed acceptance with no waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions. If you have questions or would like to enroll in the program, please call 1-866-298-9117. You can also visit to get more information.

For a printable version of this document, go to

The Election is Over, Let's Move Forward

     I don't know about you but I thought the election for President of the United States was over and decided in November 2012. However, many people out there in America do not want it to end. I am sick and tired of reading the newspapers and seeing articles that are submitted by right-wing conservative Republicans. 

     The name calling (especially in the south) with regards to the President of the United States is shameful! I never knew there were so many bigots and hateful people in America. I was amazed to read several articles in my local hometown paper in New York about President Obama, but since I have arrived in Florida, I have read a couple of articles every day in the local papers that chastise and insult President Obama for every decision he makes as President. I truly wish these people would put their bias aside and accept the mandate of the people of the United States. President Obama won both the popular and the electoral vote in our country. The people have decided, so let us move forward and be thankful that we live in the democracy of America. 

     On a personal note, it is with a heavy heart, that I inform you of the passing of one of our District 4 SOAR President's, Tom Boyle on Nov.10, 2012. Tom dedicated many years to SOAR and Chapter 4-UR1 in Buffalo, New York.  He will be sadly missed. On behalf of District 4 Director John Shinn, the staff and SOAR members,  our condolences go out to his wife Ann and family. James Bickhart, District 4 Executive Board Member

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Budget Battles in D.C.; Seems Like They Never End!

by Barbara J. Easterling

  These past few years, it seems like every time you turn on the news there is another budget battle, another budget crisis in Washington. There is one thing that all these budget fights have in common: politicians and TV commentators telling us we have no choice but to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I don’t think this is true, and to me, it would make much more sense to get rid of sweetheart tax deals for big business and for millionaires.

  So brace yourself for yet another year of hearing about how we need to lower Social Security COLAs, or raise the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages, or how there just is not enough money for Medicaid to help seniors with the cost of long-term or nursing home care.

  Instead of cutting these programs, there are ways to actually make them stronger. We could strengthen the Social Security Trust Fund by having the highest income earners pay their fair share in taxes. Right now a millionaire pays almost the same amount of Social Security payroll taxes as a middle class worker. We can save Medicare millions by ending a Bush-era loophole that prohibits Medicare from negotiating volume discounts from the big drug companies. Savvy seniors know you can save money when you buy in bulk.  

  While it gets tempting to just tune these seemingly never-ending budget battles out, please don’t. The stakes are too high for both today’s seniors and our children and grandchildren. Instead, become a politician’s worst nightmare: a politically savvy senior who knows the truth about these issues, who educates their friends and neighbors, and who makes their voice heard; not just on Election Day, but every day!
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 or call 1-800-333-7212.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Playing Defense Again

     Unfortunately, due to the polarizing nature of our political establishment in Washington today, it seems like our work is never done. We need to make sure that the 113th Congress does no harm to the programs that working class Americans so desperately need and depend on.
     Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be protected. You will be hearing a great deal about the “Chained CPI” in the days and weeks to come. This proposed approach to control the cost-of living adjustment for Social Security recipients, will take money out of retiree’s pockets in an attempt to address our nation’s deficit.  This is the wrong approach to deficit reduction.
     Medicare does have a long term projected budget imbalance, but that can be addressed by making the delivery of health care more efficient. Medicare and Medicaid can both be improved, but it makes no sense to squeeze costs out of both of these programs, only to see them piled onto the back of the current beneficiaries, or shifted to private sector health insurance.
     We need to support policies that promote full employment and family sustaining incomes that will continue to grow us out of this recession. Good paying jobs, elimination of tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs overseas, regulating Wall Street and ending two unfunded wars would be a good place to start,  if our elected officials are really concerned with the debt issue. We need to fight!  We must protect these vital programs that retirees depend on. However, it cannot happen without all of us staying involved and working as hard as we can to protect the policies and programs that built the middle class.

Connie Entrekin, SOAR President

Monday, February 04, 2013

Don't Be Fooled By Congress

The right-wing conservatives in Congress have Social Security and Medicare in their sights. They are once again threatening to hold our economy hostage.  Since they failed to extract draconian benefits cuts in the recently negotiated “fiscal cliff” deal, they are threatening to refuse to lift the debt ceiling and demanding Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cuts.

Our economic problems are not caused by overly generous Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Social Security has not added one dime to the deficit. We do have a projected budget imbalance over the long term that is driven by heath care cost growth, but the solution is to make the health care system more efficient, not shift costs to the beneficiaries. If Congress was serious about reducing the debt, they would not be demanding wasteful tax cuts for corporations and the richest 2 percent of Americans that explode the deficit.

Conservatives in Congress want to make the next two months a fight over how much to cut vital programs to reduce the deficit and they plan on holding raising the debt ceiling hostage to get what they want.  This tactic will prevent the government from paying the bills we already owe and will destroy our fragile economy. Our side needs to make the opposite case, that we need a lot more revenue to grow the economy, create jobs and achieve balanced deficit reduction. Clearly, there is a lot of work to do. 

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Stay Vigilant

With the election behind us, many of us felt some relief from the on going attack on the middle and working class. But beware. Recent, and on-going events, show an ill wind blowing from right wing, big money interests in their ongoing attack on workers’ rights and social programs including; Social Security and Medicare. 

For example, there is still talk among some Republicans to eliminate Medicare as we know it and going to a voucher system, plus, talk of increasing the Social Security eligibility age and cutting benefits.  

We are also seeing efforts by Republicans, at the state level, pursuing so called Right- to-Work laws to undermine and destroy our Unions. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “these laws do not create any rights or work. They do just the opposite.”  

The facts are clear. Workers in the so called right to freeload and work for less states, are paid less, have less workers rights, and have fewer benefits and less pension and insurance coverage than states that do not have such laws.  

A recent study, by the Department of Labor, shows that Union workers’ median weekly pay is over $200 more than non-union workers or over $10,400 more per year thanks to the unions; not to mention better pension and insurance benefits.  

Furthermore, the arguments for such Right to free load laws are lies and wrong. Selecting Union representation involves a very democratic process protected by law.

Bill Gibbons, PACE Representative on SOAR Executive Board

Saturday, February 02, 2013

President Obama Leads By Example

       The historic inauguration of President Barack Obama brought a lot of media attention to some very trivial issues:  Why did Michelle Obama cut her hair?  Did BeyoncĂ© lip-sync the Star-Spangled Banner?  Never mind that, our first African American President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was sworn into office for his second term on the day we celebrate Nobel Peace Prize recipient Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. Inquiring minds want to know, did Kelly Clarkson lip-sync too?

President Obama reinforced his commitment to addressing unfair trade in his inaugural speech, explaining that ‘a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.’ With his pledge to create one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016, you need only look to his inaugural threads to add to the jobs meter.   For his 2013 inauguration, the President chose a suit from Brooks Brothers, a company started in New York City 195 years ago. In his 2009 inauguration, the President sought out a home town favorite, Chicago-based Hart Schaffner Marx, a company in the suit business for 125 years.

For the 500,000 workers remaining in the US textile Industry, the inauguration brought a glimmer of hope.   For an industry that’s lost three million textile mill and apparel manufacturing jobs, when our leaders believe in our products enough to wear them on inauguration day; First Lady Michelle Obama’s bangs are the farthest from our minds. OUR inquiring minds want to know; is our President leading by example to Keep it Made in America?  Indeed he is.

Rachel Bennett Steury, AAM Field Coordinator  

Friday, February 01, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-1-13

Americans Willing to Pay More in Taxes if it means Keeping Social Security Benefits
Americans support Social Security and are willing to pay more to preserve and even improve benefits, according to a new survey released on Thursday by the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). The study,Strengthening Social Security: What Do Americans Want?, finds a sharp contrast between what Americans say they want and changes being discussed in Washington, such as cutting benefits by using a “chained” Consumer Price Index to determine Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). In fact, large majorities of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, agree on ways to strengthen Social Security — without cutting benefits. Fully 74% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats agree that “it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.” To see the full results of the survey, go to For a Reuters article about the survey, go to

58% of those Surveyed Don’t Want Medicare Cuts, Either
Americans do not want Medicare cuts, either. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed oppose any spending cuts to Medicare and 46 percent oppose any cuts in Medicaid, according to a poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. To see Politico's write-up of the poll, go to
Despite that, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the new Health Subcommittee chairman for the Ways and Means Committee, says he’ll return to some Medicare ideas that Democrats have rejected outright — including the voucher model that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has advocated. Politico's story on Rep. Brady is at

“We do not need to cut Medicare benefits. Savings can be achieved by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. We could also require drug companies to provide discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, like they do under Medicaid,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

January 30 Day of Action Includes Rallies, 4400 Letters to Congress
Alliance members sent more than 4,400 letters to Congress as part of a Day of Action on Wednesday, relaying the message that, “We need jobs - not cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid!” The day also included several live Alliance events around the country featuring a similar message. For example, the Missouri Alliance held rallies outside the Kansas City office of Sen. Roy Blunt (R) and the Ballwin office of Rep. Ann Wagner (R). Video from an event with Pennsylvania Alliance members in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania is at
All Eyes on Virginia as State Attorney General Cuccinelli Mimics Mitt Romney
The Virginia Alliance held its 2nd annual convention this Tuesday in Richmond. Forty-five active Alliance leaders in Virginia attended, re-electing Ron Thompson as President. Roger Wood was re-elected as Treasurer and Myrtle Fitzgerald was newly –elected as Secretary. Leaders and members of the Virginia Alliance were joined by special guests Doris Crouse-Mays, Virginia AFL-CIO President; Terry McAuliffe, Democratic candidate for Virginia Governor; and Kathy May, Virginia Consumer Voices for Health Care Director. Ms. May’s well-received presentation on how the health reform law affects Virginians is at Go to for a presentation from the Alliance’s Department of Government and Political Affairs on the Budget Showdown. For photos, go to (set) or (slideshow). Said Mr. Thompson, “All eyes are going to be on Virginia this year, and we are going to be engaged. We’re going to be like Bell, we’re going to reach out and touch people in this state.”

Also in Virginia: State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for Governor in 2013, has a forthcoming book that was profiled by The Washington Post this week. In it, Cuccinelli makes comments very similar to those made last year by Mitt Romney. Romney had suggested that 47% of the electorate was so dependent on government hand-outs that they would never vote for him.

Criticizing politicians who expand government services, Cuccinelli writes, “One of their favorite ways to increase their power is by creating programs that dispense subsidized government benefits, such as Medicare, Social Security, and outright welfare (Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing, and the like). These programs make people dependent on government. And once people are dependent, they feel they can’t afford to have the programs taken away, no matter how inefficient, poorly run, or costly to the rest of society.” For more, go to

Social Security Commissioner to Leave this Month
Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said on Monday that he will step down in February, after completing his six-year term. Astrue's departure gives President Barack Obama the opportunity to name a new head to the federal government's largest program.

Changes in the Senate: Harkin & Chambliss Retiring, Kerry to State Department
The U.S. Senate will have a new member soon – and at least a few more after the 2014 elections. Sens. Tom Harkin(D-IA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) both announced this week that they will not seek re-election next year. Also, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday as U.S. Secretary of State; on Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick therefore appointed William Cowan, a Boston lawyer, longtime friend and former aide, to serve as an interim U.S. senator until voters choose a successor in a special election set for June 25.

“I would like to thank Sen. Kerry and Sen. Harkin for all they have done for seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle,Executive Director of the Alliance. “Senator Kerry’s 95% lifetime voting record with the Alliance, and Sen. Harkin’s 99% voting record, show that they have been friends to retirees. They have both had seniors’ best interests at heart over many decades of service.” In contrast, Sen. Chambliss has a lifetime voting record with the Alliance of 7%.
For a printable version of this document, go to