Friday, August 30, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-30-13

Executive Director Ed Coyle Announces His Intention to Retire
Retirees Celebrate Labor Day
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Congress Must Raise Debt Ceiling by Mid-October
U.S. Justice Department Sues Texas over Voter ID Law
Appeals Court Rules in Favor of UMWA Retirees
Nevada Alliance Holds its Convention

Executive Director Ed Coyle Announces His Intention to Retire
Edward F. Coyle, who has been the Executive Director of the Alliance since its launch in 2001, announced this week that he plans to retire soon. During his dozen-year stewardship of the Alliance, Mr. Coyle steadfastly supported seniors on Capitol Hill through numerous battles over Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; led the way for retirees to victories in key federal and state elections; and chartered 34 state Alliance affiliates with hundreds of local chapters. He said that he will stay until a successor is named.

In reaction to the announcement, Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, said, “With Ed at my side, I have always known that the Alliance’s positions would further the organization’s goals of economic justice and increased retirement security for all Americans. He has been a pleasure to work with. We are sorry to lose him as our Executive Director, but we hold on to his creative spirit and forceful energy that he brought to the job every day. I think that all of our activists and staff join me in wishing Ed the best and saying a gigantic, collective ‘thank-you.’”

“Ed has been a true leader, and he has done an outstanding job,” added Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “He has been there for all of us. He will be sorely missed, but he promises to keep in touch.”

Retirees Celebrate Labor Day
This Monday, September 2nd, retirees around the country will come together to celebrate the contributions that working people and labor unions have made to America. Today, far too few young people grow up learning about unions - and how joining together with a collective voice means improving the quality of life and achieving more for the middle class. Labor Day is an opportunity for retirees to share their personal stories with younger generations and talk about how they made improvements for their lives and families. “Workers joined together in unions are able to secure and maintain significantly higher wages, better health insurance and better benefits – including retirement benefits,” said Ms. Easterling. “Monday is a day to share that message.”

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Congress Must Raise Debt Ceiling by Mid-October
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has informed Congress that it must act to raise the debt ceiling by mid-October to avoid a catastrophic government shutdown. Far-right Republicans have declared their refusal to raise the debt ceiling unless the Affordable Care Act is repealed. While House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has not stated his support for this plan, recent reports indicate that he instead plans to demand cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling and end the sequester. To learn more, read articles on the topic from The Washington Post at and Politico at

U.S. Justice Department Sues Texas over Voter ID Law
The United States Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, has filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas in an attempt to overturn recent changes in the state’s voting law. The Justice department’s lawsuit against a new Texas law requiring voters to have a photo ID argues that the law is illegal under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans discriminatory voting rules. The Justice Department is also planning to become a co-plaintiff in a separate lawsuit, filed by civil rights groups, against a Texas redistricting plan.

Both the voter ID law and the redistricting plan were struck down by federal courts last year, but the state of Texas alleges that they are now legal due to the recent Supreme Court decision striking down section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which required Texas and 8 other states with a history of discriminatory voting laws to have any changes to their voting laws approved by the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court. The New York Times has more at

“There is zero evidence that ‘voter fraud’ is a problem in this country,” said Mr. Coyle. “Seniors don’t always have photo identification. They should not be required to use their limited funds and spend hours standing in line to obtain a photo ID just to exercise the fundamental right to vote.”

Appeals Court Rules in Favor of UMWA Retirees
A U.S. Appeals Court has overturned a lower court’s ruling, in a victory for United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) retirees. Last May, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Missouri issued a ruling for the case of Patriot Coal, a company that was created by Peabody Energy in 2007 with 43% of Peabody’s liabilities but just 11 percent of its assets. Patriot declared bankruptcy in 2012. The bankruptcy court ruled that Peabody coal was not responsible for paying the retiree health cost that Patriot had taken on, despite the fact that the vast majority of these retirees actually worked for Peabody and were never employed by Patriot. The new ruling from the Appeals Court overturns the previous ruling and states that Peabody is required to provide health care benefits for 3,100 retirees and their families. UMWA retirees are pleased by the victory but are continuing to fight to preserve their benefits in the wake of Patriot’s bankruptcy.  More at

“While this fight is far from over, the appeals court absolutely made the right decision,” said Ms. Easterling. “Patriot Coal was designed to fail from the start, so that Peabody could avoid its obligations to retirees by transferring them to a soon-to -be bankrupt company.”

Nevada Alliance Holds its Convention
The Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans (NARA) held its convention in Las Vegas on Monday through Wednesday of this week. The entire NARA Administration Team, including all officers and the Board of Directors, was elected by acclamation. Scotty Watts remains NARA's President, and Jo Etta Brown the Treasurer. Gail Dietrich is the new Recording Secretary. The 90 attendees heard from U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV); Mo Denis, state Senate Majority Leader; Kim Wallin, State Controller; Ross Miller, Nevada Secretary of State; Kate Marshall, State Treasurer; Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada Attorney General; Danny Thompson, NARA Vice President and Nevada State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer; Mr. Coyle; Rich Fiesta, Director of Government and Political Affairs for the national Alliance; Steven Francy, AFSCME Retiree Coordinator; Erin Bilbray, congressional candidate; and several other notable speakers.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Peach year is over for me

Peach crop is in. What a great year it was, too. We had our best crop ever. Plenty to freeze and plenty to give away.
Next year we will have fewer peaches but much larger because we're learning how to thin them out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-23-13

Retirees Observe 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington
This Week Designated as Time to Focus on Health Care Reform Benefits for Seniors
New Report Exposes Fatal Flaws in Proposals to Cut Benefits for Older Americans
Seniors’ Hospital Discharge Instructions Are Often Inadequate
Washington State Alliance Holds its Convention
Coyle Speaks at DNC’s Senior Coordinating Council Meeting

Retirees Observe 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington
August 28th, 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic march on Washington. In commemoration of the anniversary, Washington, DC will host a week of events dedicated to Rev. King’s vision of equality, freedom, and justice. Alliance members from around the country will be participating in the march, and many of them will be traveling great distances to do so. Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance, will travel 1,000 miles and 36 hours round-trip to attend. Speakers at the Saturday rally will include House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA); Rep. John Lewis (D-GA); Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); and Rev. Al Sharpton. For more, go to

This Week Designated as Time to Focus on Health Care Reform Benefits for Seniors
Organizations working to educate the public about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have designated this week to focus on seniors and ACA benefits. The organizations include Know Your Care, Protect Your Care, and Enroll America. Thanks to the ACA, Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for a free yearly medical checkup and preventative screenings. The law also gradually closes the Medicare “doughnut hole” that has forced many seniors to pay exorbitant drug costs. Additionally, the new health law has extended the life of Medicare by 9 years.

“It is great to see more and more seniors understanding the implications of the health care law, particularly since those ideologically opposed to the Affordable Care Act continue to confuse many Americans by spreading harmful misinformation about the law,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We encourage our members to reach out to their friends and family to educate them on why the ACA is good for seniors and all Americans.” Go to to view an Alliance fact sheet about the myths and facts of the Affordable Care Act. For a Spanish language version, go to For the latest information from the White House on how Obamacare helps you, go to

New Report Exposes Fatal Flaws in Proposals to Cut Benefits for Older Americans
Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, has released a new report entitled “Slash Retirement Benefits or Raise Taxes? The Choice Congress Won’t Face Up To.” The report lays out just how devastating the benefit cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget and similar proposals would be to seniors. Ryan’s budget would replace Medicare with privately run insurance and give seniors a fixed amount of money with which to buy insurance. Lilly’s findings show that due to the increase in health care costs and the higher costs associated with private insurance compared to Medicare, the Ryan plan would cause health care expenses to consume an ever growing share of Social Security checks. By 2033, an average beneficiary’s entire Social Security check would go towards medical costs. Read the report at

“This report makes it crystal clear that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would force seniors to choose between buying groceries, keeping a roof over their heads, and acquiring needed medical care,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Rather than cutting already modest benefits, it’s really time to make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.”

Seniors’ Hospital Discharge Instructions Are Often Inadequate
A new study from the Yale School of Medicine found that many seniors who are admitted to hospitals receive confusing discharge information that leaves them unable to fully understand their own medical condition and how to seek follow-up care. According to the study, which followed 395 patients over the age of 65, only 60 percent of patients who had just been discharged were able to correctly describe their diagnosis. Only two-thirds of patients said that they had been asked about what type of support they had at home before being discharged. In some cases, their instructions used medical terms such as “myocardial infarction” in place of much better known terms such as “heart attack.” Reuters has more on the study at “Hospitals must work to accurately communicate with seniors about their medical needs,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Discharge instructions should be written in clear language and thoroughly discussed with patients.”

Washington State Alliance Holds its Convention
The Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans (WSARA) held its 2013 Annual Convention on Wednesday at the Joint Council of Teamsters Hall in Tukwila. The nearly 100 delegates greeted Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who discussed the looming budget situation and how it could affect Social Security and Medicare. The WSARA delegates also heard from Eva Dominguez, Legislative Representative of the Alliance for Retired Americans, on the national budget showdown and what’s at stake for retirees – now and in the future. Steve Kelly, Political Director for Teamster’s Local 252, was elected the new WSARA President.  Mr. Kelly was formerly the organization’s Secretary. The new Secretary is Jerri Wood, and Jackie Boschok is the new Treasurer.

“On behalf of the national Alliance, I want to join WSARA members in thanking Mike Warren for all his years serving as their President,” said Ms. Easterling. “Mike’s commitment to WSARA and the issues of seniors can never be surpassed. His leadership and passion for WSARA and its members will be forever appreciated. Additionally, I want to deliver a big thank-you to Kathy Wallentine, who stepped in as ‘interim’ treasurer last November. Kathy kept the WSARA treasury safe and strong.” For photos from the convention, go to

Coyle Speaks at DNC’s Senior Coordinating Council Meeting
Mr. Coyle speaks today at the Democratic National Committee’s Seniors Coordinating Council Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Council was organized in the early 1990's so that the national Democratic Party could hear directly from senior leaders and activists on issues important to retirees and older Americans. Other speakers are expected to include: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), who is also DNC Chair; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Baltimore, MD), DNC Secretary; and several other noteworthy guests.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Great Year for Peaches

This isn't even half of the peach crop this year. Two trees are two years old, two trees are four years old.
No spray used. Very few imperfections.
What a great year for peaches in Northern Indiana.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, 8-16-13

Social Security’s 78th Birthday Receives Generous Attention
North Carolina Governor Signs Law that Threatens the Voting Rights of Seniors
AFL-CIO to Target Six Republican Governors in 2014
Contact Your Members of Congress During Summer Recess

Social Security’s 78th Birthday Receives Generous Attention
Social Security’s birthday on Wednesday received considerable attention on the state and national level. The Alliance for Retired Americans marked the anniversary with over 40 events in 22 states and by releasing special state-by-state reports with ally Social Security Works.

The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans made news in Panama City on Wednesday when they brought a cake, signs and numerous speakers to demonstrate their strong opposition to any cuts to Social Security, especially in the form of the chained CPI, in front of Rep. Steve Southerland’s (R-FL) office. AFSCME Retirees, the National Organization for Women (NOW), NAACP, Social Security Works, and numerous other partners joined FLARA at this event. “Social Security helps me get by – I’m very grateful for it. It is both sad and disgusting to me that politicians in Washington are talking about cutting one of the best programs we ever created. We should expand benefits by scrapping the payroll tax cap,” said Barbara DeVane, Secretary, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. Harriett Myers of the Bay County National Organization for Women (NOW) pointed out to the crowd, “Cuts to Social Security are especially harmful to women.  On average women live longer than men, rely more on income from Social Security, and are more likely to be poor.  Cuts to Social Security through the chained CPI or other measure would be a real disaster for women.”

The Montana Alliance for Retired Americans teamed up with the Montana Organizing Project for birthday celebrations in 7 different cities on Wednesday. Check out photos from events around the country on Facebook here or on the web here

The 2013 Social Security Works state reports include information that public officials, members of the press and advocates will find very useful for explaining the program’s history and vitality. They include real-life stories and statistics on the number of beneficiaries and types of benefits in each state, county and congressional district. Find your report here or look over the national here

Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute said it well this week in his article “Social Security is the Only Reason Most Americans Can Afford to Retire” - as businesses do away with defined benefit pension plans, more and more Americans turn to to savings in 401(k)-type accounts and Social Security remains the great equalizer - the most reliable and equitable system of retirement savings. While 401(k)-type retirement accounts exacerbate economic inequality, Social Security does just the opposite. “The dialogue is finally shifting away from benefit cuts to increasing benefits as Tom Harkin and Mark Begich propose. This can and should be done by scrapping the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. You can support the measure here

North Carolina Governor Signs Law that Threatens the Voting Rights of Seniors
This week, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed legislation modifying the state’s requirements for voting. The new law requires all voters to have a government-issued photo ID. It also shortens the early voting period from 17 days to 10 and ends same-day registration. The law will take effect in 2016. As discussed in last week’s Friday Alert, the US Supreme Court recently issued a decision striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, clearing the way for the North Carolina legislation and similar bills around the country. To learn more about the new North Carolina law, read a Washington Post article on the issue at

“All around the country, the fundamental right to vote is under attack, and older Americans are seriously concerned. Shortening the early voting period makes voting difficult for seniors who are not able to easily get to a polling station,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “This type of voter suppression is just wrong. It is time for Congress to pass new legislation strengthening the Voting Rights Act, reversing the Supreme Court’s misguided decision.”

AFL-CIO to Target Six Republican Governors in 2014
The AFL-CIO announced that it will focus special attention on defeating six Republican governors in the 2014 elections. The governors are: Rick Scott (FL), Rick Snyder (MI), Scott Walker (WI), Paul LePage (ME), John Kasich (OH), and Tom Corbett (PA.) All six of them have worked to implement a far right agenda, despite representing moderate states that were carried by Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. For more of the story, see Politico’s coverage at

“These six men have aggressively pursued policies that are not just anti-union, they are also anti-senior. They have slashed state budgets and cut essential programs, while simultaneously cutting taxes for their wealthy friends and benefactors. Seniors are a key demographic in midterm elections, and in 2014 we will push back against these harmful policies by removing the governors from office,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Billy Feitlinger, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans said, “Governor Scott Walker has made it crystal clear that he is far more interested in taking care of large corporations and wealthy Wisconsin citizens than making sure seniors have property tax relief or making prescription drugs more affordable for them. Our members are experiencing the ill effects of Walker’s reign and will be very engaged in the 2014 elections.”

Contact Your Members of Congress During Summer Recess
Congress is in recess until Sept. 6th, and many legislators are holding town halls and other events in their districts. Call your members of Congress to find out if they are going to be at any events in your area in the upcoming weeks. These events are great opportunities to remind your representatives how important Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are to their constituents. To find contact information for your members of Congress, go to

For a printable version of this document, go to

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Social Security in Good Shape

Since its inception, Social Security has been the foundation on which America's retirement security rests. It has demonstrated its strength by paying benefits without interruption in good times and bad, during periods of recession and disaster, and during recovery and healing. The program's strength is demonstrated yet again in this year's Trustees Report, which reflects the resilience of the Trust Funds. Their report is good news for working Americans and for seniors.

Social Security remains strong, and will be able to pay full benefits for decades to come -- until 2033, as was true last year. Thereafter, there will still be enough revenue coming into the program to pay 77 percent of all benefits owed.

Social Security remains well-funded. With the economy showing signs of recovery, the Trustees estimate that, in 2013, Social Security's total income will exceed its expenses by over $28 billion. In fact, the Trustees estimate that total annual income is expected to exceed program obligations through 2020.

The Trustees report there is now nearly $2.73 trillion in the social Security Trust Fund, which is $54 billion more than last year and that it will continue to grow by payroll contributions and interest on the Trust Fund's assets.

Source: copied from SOAR in Action Volume 8/3

Friday, August 09, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans, Friday Alert 8-9-13

Happy 78th Birthday, Social Security!
Voting Rights under Attack in Florida
More Polling Shows Republican Party Increasingly Unpopular With Seniors
Study Finds Dementia Dropping Sharply, as Forecast
Alliance President Barbara Easterling Speaks At Virginia AFL-CIO Convention

Happy 78th Birthday, Social Security!
On Wednesday, August 14th, Social Security will celebrate 78 years of providing retirement security to older Americans. In this time of financial uncertainty, when other sources of retirement income such as pensions and savings are increasingly out of reach for many Americans, Social Security is more important than ever.  If you have not already signed the Alliance petition, which says to “Keep Social Security Strong – Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire,” you can add your support at The Alliance has also marked the birthday milestone by partnering with the group Social Security Works to release special state-by-state reports on what Social Security means for the people and economy in each state. To view the reports and see the data for your state, go to

State Alliances around the country have already begun holding birthday celebrations for Social Security, and the news media is taking notice. The Iowa Alliance co-hosted a town hall with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). View moving footage from the town hall at For coverage of a California press conference in Fremont with Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), go to To read about birthday celebrations in Connecticut, which were attended by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), go to Dozens more events will be taking place across the country this month. Find an event near you at

Voting Rights under Attack in Florida
Florida officials, led by Gov. Rick Scott (R), have resumed a purge of Florida’s voting rolls. The process had been stalled due to lawsuits, but Mr. Scott claims that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act has made it clear that the voter removal program is legal. The purpose of the program is ostensibly to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, but many opponents believe that the real motivations are political. Groups of voters likely to be disproportionately impacted by the purge include seniors, minorities, students, and low income Americans.

“These developments in Florida make it increasingly clear that the Supreme Court’s recent decision puts the voting rights of millions of Americans, including seniors, at risk,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Instead of trying to reduce voting, states should be encouraging political participation by expanding early voting programs and making it easier to vote from home.”

More Polling Shows Republican Party Increasingly Unpopular With Seniors
Echoing the sentiment of a National Journal story in the Friday Alert last week (, Democratic strategist James Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg brought more startling numbers to the table on Thursday. According to recent polling reported on the National Memo web site, only 28 percent of seniors rate the Republican Party favorably, and 71 percent disapprove of the job performance of House Republicans. Only 33 percent of seniors identify as Republicans, down from 39 percent in 2010. On the other hand, 39 percent of seniors now identify as Democrats, up from 29 percent in 2010. This change in party affiliation coincides with a recent survey about the policy priorities of seniors, which show that 89 percent of seniors want to protect Medicare benefits and 74 percent want to cut subsidies to big corporations. The survey also showed that a majority of seniors believe that Republicans are too extreme. In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21 point margin (38 percent to 59 percent). Among seniors likely to vote in 2014, the Republican candidate leads by just 5 points (41 percent to 46 percent).Read the analysis of the data at

“This news comes as no surprise,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Republicans have attempted to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid while giving tax breaks and special deals to corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Seniors are a savvy voting bloc and do not support these misguided policies. The Republican Party needs to reconsider its extremist positions.”

Study Finds Dementia Dropping Sharply, as Forecast
A recent study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent. Researchers say the trend “is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies.” Another recent study, conducted in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who had reached their 90s a decade earlier. Both the British study and the Danish one were published in The Lancet. Experts on aging said the studies confirm something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. To read the full New York Times story, go to

Alliance President Barbara Easterling Speaks At Virginia AFL-CIO Convention
Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling spoke at the Virginia AFL-CIO’s convention today (August 9th). Her remarks focused on senior issues and the upcoming November 5 Virginia governor’s election, as well as the ongoing budget battles in Washington. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has a very slim lead over his opponent Ken Cuccinelli (R) in recent polls. In Washington, conservatives continue to threaten to shut down the government unless their demands for draconian spending cuts, potentially including proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, are met. Ms. Easterling stressed the importance of holding firm against these threats and organizing to elect pro-senior lawmakers to both state and federal office.

“Older Virginians vote more than any other age group – this is a must-win voting bloc for both sides,” said Ms. Easterling. “We need you to help educate seniors on the huge differences between these two candidates. Please help us elect a pro-senior Governor and state legislature.”

For a printable version of this document, go to

Currency Manipulation Just Isn't Fair

Hello SOAR members. We are still working on the issue of currency manipulation and I wanted to share with you an update. Congressman Levin from Michigan introduced The Currency
Reform for Fair Trade Act (HR 1276) in March and we’ve been building support for it ever since. Now 116 Members of Congress are cosponsors of this bill, and last month the Senate stepped into action with its version: The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act (S 1114), now with 12 cosponsors.

Why is this important to us? When another country manipulates its currency, it acts as a subsidy for goods entering our market and as a tax on our goods in markets overseas. China is the leading currency manipulation culprit, so the value of goods coming in from China seems cheap to our consumers. At the same time our goods going to China seem expensive to their consumers. If China’s currency were not undervalued, trade with China would not be so one-sided. Now China sells us billions of dollars more in goods ($315 billion more in 2012 alone) than we sell to them. This unbalanced trade arrangement costs us jobs and has to stop!

So if 116 Members of Congress and 12 Senators pledged their support, that means 319 Member of Congress and 88 Senators have not yet. This month, most of them will be in their Districts. Visit their offices and ask them to support these bills. For more information, give me a call at 260-633-1060. Thank you for helping to “Keep it Made in America.”

Rachel Bennett Steury, AAM Field Coordinator

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Obamacare Found to Lower Premiums - Nearly 20% Lower

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a news report that finds premiums in the health insurance marketplace will be nearly 20 percent lower in 2014 than previously expected.

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in every state to publicly justify any premium rate increases of 10 percent or more. Health insurance companies now generally have to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on health care or improvements to care, or provide a rebate to their policy holders. In addition, when the Health Insurance Marketplace opens for enrollment on October 1, 2013, consumers will be able to make apples to apples comparisons of quality health insurance plans.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Action needed

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) have introduced the Medicare Drug Savings Act, S.740 in the U.S. Senate and H.R.1588 in the U.S. House of Representatives, that would eliminate this special deal for brand-name drug manufacturers. This legislation would prevent the big drug companies from charging the federal government higher drug prices for low-income Medicare beneficiaries than they charge for Medicaid. The Medicare Drug Savings Act would save the federal government more than $141.2 billion over 10 years, money that helps all Medicare beneficiaries. Please call your Congress Person and Senators.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Bill Pienta Appointed SOAR President

In July 2013, Bill Pienta was appointed SOAR President by USW International President Leo W. Gerard to serve the remaining term of
President C.L. “Connie” Entrekin who retired.

Prior to his retirement from active employment in 2012, Bill served on the USW’s International Executive Board as Director of District 4.

Pienta began his career with the United Steelworker union in 1966, when he began working at the former Allegheny Ludlum steel mill in Dunkirk as an electrician. He became a union activist and was elected to the grievance committee in 1970. He went on to serve in a variety of local union positions, eventually being elected
president of Local 2693. Pienta was appointed to the USW International staff as an organizer in 1990. He was promoted to the position of Buffalo Sub-district Director and served as the organizing and first contract coordinator for the district. In 2002, Pienta was named Assistant Director of District 4 and served in that capacity until his appointment as Director in 2004.

As Director of USW District 4, Pienta represented about 80,000 members in both the public and private sectors of organized labor. He was responsible for all USW activities in nine states, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and the island of Puerto Rico.

Throughout his career, Pienta worked tirelessly to represent the members of our union. He served as a vice president of the Buffalo, NY Central Labor Council and as secretary to the Western New York Area Labor Federation. Additionally, he represented the USW as a vice president of the New York State AFL-CIO, Executive Board. He also presided over national negotiations of the Allegheny Ludlum Bargaining Council and the National Gas Conference. He was also a director of the New York State Workforce Development Institute, Inc.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

SOAR Director Expresses Gratitude

It is with mixed emotions that I write this column. I have spent a great deal of time these past six years; working shoulder to shoulder with President Entrekin through some very difficult times. I have the utmost respect for Connie and his ability to rally our members on the issues that most affect our members. His dedication to working families and retirees is second to none.

Not only have I had the opportunity to know Connie on a professional level, my wife Carol and I have gotten to know both him and his wife Barbara on a personal level, and have thoroughly enjoyed their company. As we have travelled across this great union of ours, we have bonded in a way that makes it very difficult for me to see him move on.

I want to thank Connie for all he has done for our organization and the positive influence he has had on me. He has strengthened my resolve and commitment to the work that we do on behalf of our retirees and working America.

On behalf of all of us, I say thank you Connie for your service and we wish you and Barbara the best as you enter this next phase of your lives together.

I also would like to congratulate Bill Pienta on his appointment as SOAR president. I have known Bill practically all my working life. We were members of the same local union and served as fellow officers of that local for many years, prior to our appointment to the union’s staff. Bill’s experience as a local union leader, servicing staff and district director will serve him well, as he faces the challenges that will confront him in his new role in our union.

As Director, Pienta had a reputation of being a fighter and strong political activist. He has a straight forward approach to getting the job done. His ability to deliver a message and motivate activists will serve him well as our president.

I look forward to working with President Pienta as we face the challenges of protecting and enhancing the quality of life of our retired members and working families. Please join me in congratulating Bill on his appointment and welcoming him to his new position!

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Connie Entrekin Retires as SOAR President

After spending 55 years of my life in the trenches, I have decided to slow down and spend more time with my wife Barbara and family. I have always advocated that we need to look around for new leaders and know when it is time to step aside. For me, that time has come.

I informed USW International President Leo W. Gerard of my decision and have recommended to him that recently retired District 4 Director Bill Pienta follow me in office. Leo supports this recommendation and has asked both Bill and myself to attend the USW Executive Board meeting scheduled for the end of July. I served with Bill on the International Executive Board for a number of years and saw firsthand the outstanding work he did as Director of District 4. I believe he is the right person to lead SOAR, as we face the challenges that lie ahead. I urge you all to give him your full support.

But before I leave, I want to take a moment to honor USW/SOAR President Emeritus Lynn Williams. His strength of character and leadership qualities made the transition into this job seamless. I thank him for his guidance and support.

I also want to thank all of you for the support you have given me these past six years and urge you to continue your involvement with SOAR.  I have really enjoyed my years as President of this wonderful organization. As I have travelled around this great union, I have met many of you and applaud the good works you do on behalf of our nation’s retirees and working families.

SOAR must continue to grow. It has never been more important to our retirees and union. Retirees and working families are under unprecedented assault. Corporations are using the excuse of the global economy to gut our contracts and abandon their obligations to their retirees. Congress is attempting to balance our nation’s budget on the backs of the working class, while cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthiest Americans. We can’t stand back and let that happen. We need to continue to fight back! SOAR provides us with the vehicle to make our voices heard.

In closing, I want to wish Bill Pienta great success in his new role as SOAR president and congratulate him on his appointment. Again, thank you for the support you have given me and for your continued support of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees.

Connie Entrekin, SOAR Emeritus Member

Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday Alert, Alliance for Retired Americans, 8-2-13

On Medicare and Medicaid’s 48th Birthday, Mobilization for More Affordable Drugs;
National Journal: Senior Vote Will Play a Critical Role in the 2014 Midterm Elections;
Update on President Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Deal with Republicans;
PBS’ Frontline: A Cautionary Tale on Assisted Living;
Plan to Defund Obamacare Causing Strife among Republicans

On Medicare and Medicaid’s 48th Birthday, Mobilization for More Affordable Drugs
Celebrating Medicare and Medicaid’s 48th birthday, Alliance members across the country ate cake and blew out candles on Tuesday while talking about the importance of protecting and preserving the program for current and future seniors. Coverage from the Pennsylvania Medicare birthday party is at  and

“Thank you to everyone who celebrated Medicare’s birthday and reminded the public how important it is not to shift more costs onto seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We can have a strong, sustainable Medicare program without cutting benefits or increasing costs, if we take measures to limit drug companies from price-gouging American taxpayers,” Mr. Coyle continued. “Already, according to HHS, over 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole since the law was enacted, for an average of $1,061. In the first 6 months of 2013, 16.5 million beneficiaries on traditional Medicare took advantage of at least one free preventive service.”

Coyle concluded, “The Medicare Drug Savings Act (S. 740 in the Senate and H.R. 1588 in the House), introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), would save Medicare more than $140 billion by eliminating the loophole that blocks Medicare from negotiating with Big Pharma for cheaper drugs.” Mr. Coyle’s full statement can be read at

National Journal: Senior Vote Will Play a Critical Role in the 2014 Midterm Elections
The senior vote will likely be a crucial factor in the outcome of the 2014 midterm elections, as older Americans are well known for disproportionately high turnout in midterm years. Charlie Cook wrote in National Journal recently that Democrats are closely watching the voting pattern of older Americans, “a group that voted heavily Republican in the 2010 midterm and, to a lesser extent, in 2012.” Recent polling has shown that seniors are increasingly divided between the two parties. In March and July surveys, older voters’ responses are showing only about half the GOP margin their voting showed last November, and about a quarter of the Republican margin in the 2010 midterm elections. Read the article at

Update on President Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Deal with Republicans
President Obama on Tuesday proposed a new “grand bargain” that would couple an overhaul of the corporate tax code with job creation and investments in road and other construction projects around the country. In a speech in Chattanooga, Tenn. Mr. Obama suggested the plan as a way through the current congressional gridlock and as a way to boost the economic recovery. “Grand bargain” talks between Obama and the Republicans, which were aimed at reducing the government's long-term deficit by combining lower spending on Medicare and Social Security with some tax increases, have dragged on for months but have so far failed to produce a plan both sides could support. “Through our hard work, we have temporarily dodged another bullet,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “But the battle to protect and preserve Social Security and Medicare continues. We must remain vigilant.”

PBS’ Frontline: A Cautionary Tale on Assisted Living
Dr. Keren Brown Wilson opened the nation’s first licensed assisted living facility in Canby, Ore., in 1981. Wilson was inspired by tragedy: A massive stroke had paralyzed her mother at the age of 55, forcing her into a nursing home, where she was miserable, spending the bulk of her days confined to a hospital bed. Wilson aimed to create an alternative to nursing homes. She envisioned comfortable, apartment building-style facilities that would allow sick and fragile seniors to maintain as much personal autonomy as possible, and assisted living was born.

The PBS television show Frontline focused on assisted living facilities this week – often with a critical eye. As more older Americans choose to spend their later years in assisted living facilities, FRONTLINE and ProPublica examined “whether this loosely regulated, multi-billion dollar industry is putting seniors at risk.” The film, “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” began airing on PBS Tuesday night. You can download the full written series as an e-book or watch the film at The programming noted, for instance, that the “dearth of hard and fast rules gives executives and managers at assisted living companies wide latitude in deciding how many workers should be clocking in on a given shift,” sometimes leading to staffing shortages.

“There are many wonderful assisted living facilities out there,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “It is important to investigate the background and reputation of the facility you are choosing, and to stay in close touch with loved ones once they enter assisted living.”

Plan to Defund Obamacare Causing Strife among Republicans
House Republicans are scheduled to vote Friday - for the 40th time - on a bill that would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any part of “Obamacare.” After that, an upcoming, must-pass spending bill will be the next battleground for Republicans in their long-running attempts to kill the president's health care law. If Congress fails to approve new spending authority by the end of September, government agencies would shut down as the new fiscal year starts on October 1. The core component of Obamacare - a requirement that uninsured Americans obtain health care coverage or pay a tax penalty - goes into effect in January 2014, but a first step is the opening of state-run online insurance exchanges in October.

According to Reuters, U.S. Senators usually keep conversations private when they include words such as “silly”, “dumb,” “dishonest” and “feckless” in referring to ideas being floated by members of their own political party. But “such constraints have been cast aside in recent days after a group of young, ambitious Senate conservatives including Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) urged a government shutdown unless ‘Obamacare’ health care exchanges are denied funding by Congress.” A bloc of about 71 House Republicans are saying they, too, will refuse to vote for a measure that funds the government if it continues to fund Obamacare. Read the full Reuters article at

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