Friday, April 26, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-26-13

Grand Bargain: A Possible Scenario;
Tell Your U.S. Senators to Co-Sponsor the Resolution Opposing the Chained CPI;
House Democratic Caucus’ Seniors Task Force Re-Launches;
Senate Votes to End Air Traffic Controller Furloughs, Other Sequester Cuts Remain;
Scams are tied to Confusion over Health Care Reform

Grand Bargain: A Possible Scenario
On Tuesday, Forbes magazine’s online site offered a write-up on the likelihood of a “grand bargain” between Democrats and Republicans that would shrink the national deficit but cut earned benefits for seniors. Available at, it was written by Bob Rosenblatt, a writer and editor specializing in aging issues. He is also a senior fellow at the National Academy of Social Insurance, a think tank dealing with Social Security and Medicare. The article addresses issues including a possible cut in your annual Social Security cost-of-living increases, as well as an increase in the age of eligibility for Medicare, from today’s 65 to 67, and explains the latest tweaks in the plan of Fiscal Commission co-chairs Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator, and Erskine Bowles, a formerClinton White House chief of staff.

President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal calls for cutting the size of Social Security’s annual cost-of-living benefit increases by switching to the chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) starting in 2015. The chained CPI grows, on average, about 0.3% a year more slowly than the standard CPI, meaning the president’s proposal would cut Social Security benefits by roughly $230 billion over 10 years. Obama recently ruled out raising Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67, but Republicans favor it.

Asked if he believes Republicans would raise taxes in order to cut seniors' benefits, Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University said, “If they want the deal, they’ll give on revenues. If not, they will try to use the chained CPI as a wedge to drive the Democratic Party away from the president.” A new fact sheet and graph from the group Social Security Works explains what the chained CPI would mean. Go to to view it.

Tell Your U.S. Senators to Co-Sponsor the Resolution Opposing the Chained CPI
Last week, Alliance members helped drive an increase in the number of co-sponsors for the Cicilline Resolution. This House Resolution expresses clear opposition to using the Chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security benefits. This week, the Alliance is doing the same in the Senate. We are encouraging our members to write their Senators and urge co-sponsorship of the Senate version of the Cicilline Resolution, S. Con. Res. 15, which has been introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).  For a list of Senators who are already co-sponsors, go to  If you have not done so yet, and would like to send a letter to your Senators urging them to become co-sponsors, go to To see the Alliance letter from headquarters, sent Monday and urging all U.S. Senators to co-sponsor the resolution, go to

House Democratic Caucus’ Seniors Task Force Re-Launches
On Wednesday, the House Democratic Caucus re-launched its Seniors Task Force, an initiative to raise awareness on issues that matter most to America’s seniors and work to protect and strengthen vital services that the aging population has earned through a lifetime of hard work. The Task Force, co-chaired by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL) and Doris Matsui (CA), announced that it will host its first meeting of the 113th Congress this week. The Task Force already has 38 members and expects to welcome more. For additional information, watch the video at

“The Task Force is a key weapon against attempts to cut seniors’ earned benefits and reduce their retirement security,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Senate Votes to End Air Traffic Controller Furloughs; Other Sequester Cuts Remain 
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to end the furloughs of air traffic controllers. The bill would allow the U.S. transportation secretary to move $253 million from other programs in order to pay the air traffic controllers to work full time. This flexibility was not previously possible due to the across the board nature of the sequester cuts. The House of Representatives is expected to approve the measure. For more on the vote, read NPR’s write up at
“While we are pleased that the Senate has taken action to end the furloughs, piecemeal fixes and moving money around will not fundamentally change the impact of the sequester,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Until legislation is passed to repeal all of the sequester cuts, many programs vital to seniors, including meals on wheels, cancer clinics, and medical research, will remain crippled due to lack of funding.”

Scams are tied to Confusion over Health Care Reform
Law enforcement agencies are reporting an increase in health insurance scams across the country. Many of the fraudsters seem to be preying on the public’s confusion over the massive changes taking place in the nation’s health care system. According to Kaiser Health News, seniors are often targets -- they’re more likely to be home to answer the phone, and they tend to have retirement savings that scammers hope to tap.  But they aren’t the only victims: The federal government received nearly 83,000 complaints of “imposter scams” last year—up 12 percent from the year before (

“Don’t take calls from people you did not initiate contact with, who are offering to help you with your health care needs,” advised Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “And definitely don’t give them any personal information.”

Alliance Leadership Travel
Mr. Coyle was in New York on Wednesday for the New York City Alliance membership meeting. “I thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiastic question and answer session,” said Mr. Coyle. “It was wonderful to have such a great turnout.”

Did You Know…
“Opponents of any change in the Social Security CPI have collected 2.4 million signatures and are keeping the pressure on the White House.” (Forbes, referring to petitions opposing the chained CPI).

For a printable version of this document, go to

Why OSHA Was Created

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Momentum is Building, Please Act Now.

Momentum is building! Thanks to Alliance activists like you, Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced a resolution in the House opposing the use of the Chained CPI with the support of over 80 cosponsors! 

Now the Senate is  acting on a similar resolution and we really need your help!  Yesterday Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT)  and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a resolution opposing the use of the Chained CPI (S.CON.RES.15).  It is important the this resolution receive as much support as possible, so please contact your Senator right now and ask them to co-sponsor the resolution .
As you know, the Chained CPI would cut Cost of Living Adjustments for all current and future retirees. This means not only will people currently depending on their modest benefits be affected, but so will their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

It’s time to draw the line.  The Chained CPI is a benefit cut, plain and simple.  We must know where our senators stand on this issue.  Please ask them to cosponsor this Resolution to show that they stand on the side of seniors and working people who count on their Social Security benefits.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Del Lowery, The Podcaster for Retirees

Last week, Elaine and I went to the National Canadian SOAR Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

It was our first time visiting Canada and Vancouver was a very nice city to visit.

While there, we were able to meet the famous podcaster, Del Lowery and his wife, Brenda.

Del does a weekly podcast titled, Retirement Talk. You can find it at

I highly recommend Del's podcasts. They give some really good perspectives on how to plan for retirement and how a person might enjoy retirement in ways that don't require much money.

The photo at left was taken at The Fish House restaurant. Seated from left to right are Elaine, Phyllis Pearson, yours truly, Del Lowery and Brenda.

You can read about Del and Brenda at the web page below.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-19-13

Tell Your U.S. Rep. to Co-Sponsor Cicilline Resolution Opposing the Chained CPI
This week, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives expressing clear opposition to using the chained CPI method to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security benefits. In light of recent budget proposals that include chained CPI, it is crucial that Rep. Cicilline’s resolution receives a high level of support. More than 2,600 members of the Alliance have already contacted their Members of Congress asking them to co-sponsor the resolution. The Cicilline resolution is H. Con. Res. 34 and has 81 co-sponsors. To see who they include so far, go to To see why the Alliance opposes using the chained CPI and to add your voice to the cause, if you have not already done so, click on

As a reminder, more than 4,800 Alliance activists have signed a letter to the White House opposing the Chained CPI. Help us reach 5,000 at

Alliance Supports Sen. Rockefeller’s Bill as Way to Achieve Medicare Savings
The Alliance released a statement this week regarding legislation that lowers prescription drug prices. In a response to the federal government paying unconscionably high drug prices for dual-eligibles on Medicare, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced a bill on Tuesday to require drug companies to provide discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, as they currently do under Medicaid.  The Alliance strongly supports Sen. Rockefeller’s legislation, S. 740, which would save taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries billions of dollars.

After passage of the Medicare prescription drug law in 2003, drug companies received windfalls worth billions of dollars, as a result of no longer applying rebates for dual-eligibles (beneficiaries who qualify for Medicare and Medicaid).  Senator Rockefeller’s 2013 Medicare Drug Savings Act reverts back to previous law and recaptures the savings lost under the 2003 law.  “By simply returning these beneficiaries to Medicaid-negotiated rebates, taxpayers would save $141.2 billion over the next ten years,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. The Rockefeller bill has 18 cosponsors. To see who they are, go to Read the full Rockefeller press release and see a coalition letter of support at

AFL-CIO Releases New Database to Track CEO Pay
This week, the AFL-CIO released Executive PayWatch 2013, a comprehensive searchable database tracking the excessive pay of corporate CEOs. The CEOs of the top 500 companies now make an average of 354 times the average wage of a U.S. worker; this income inequality has significantly worsened in the last 30 years. In 1982, top CEOs made only an average of 42 times the average wage of a US worker. To view the database and compare your own pay to that of a CEO, go to  “In order to enjoy a secure retirement, Americans must receive a fair wage during their working lives,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “When CEOs keep increasing their own pay to astronomical amounts at others’ expense, workers cannot afford to save for retirement.”

Recommended: New PBS Documentary “Age of Champions”
The Alliance invites you to watch the new PBS documentary “Age of Champions” for free from April 18th - 28th, at Age of Champions tells the story of five competitors who sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics. You’ll meet a 100-year-old tennis champion, 86-year-old pole vaulter, and rough-and-tumble basketball grandmothers as they triumph over the limitations of age. The film premiered to a standing ovation at the prestigious Silverdocs Film Festival. The Washington Post hailed it as “infectiously inspiring,” and it’s already shown at more than 1,000 venues around the world.

Invite your family, friends, and colleagues to watch the film by sharing the link on Facebook. Also invite them to a live filmmaker Q+A on April 25th at 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30pm PST! Watch the trailer and learn more at

Alliance Members in Missouri, Ohio, Penn., and New Mexico Focus on Health Care
Alliance chapters in several states held events centered on health care this week. The list included - but was not limited to - Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico. Missouri Alliance members joined friends in holding a Medicaid expansion and lobby event at the Capitol in Jefferson City on Tuesday. Missourians lobbied for a bill that would provide FULL Medicaid Expansion, to 138% of the federal poverty level. The same day, Ohio Alliance seniors came together with other activists at the statehouse in Columbus in an effort to fund health coverage for an additional 275,000 Ohioans with their state budget.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania Alliance members joined the 120+ organizations of the “Cover the Commonwealth” Campaign in 8 cities across the state. They held events to tell Harrisburg, “Don't Leave the Money on the Table,” and to expand Medicaid. The events highlighted that the health care law offers Pennsylvania $43 billion over the next ten years to expand health care coverage to 700,000 working people, yet opponents of health care reform don't want to take the money.

Earlier – last Saturday - New Mexico seniors joined CWA members at rallies in 6 cities across the state to stop CenturyLink’s bullying bargaining tactics, and to tell the company to honor retiree benefits and health care. “Thank you to everyone, in any state, who came out for health care this week,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

More Retirees Claim Early Social Security Benefits During Recession
According to data from the Social Security Administration, increasing numbers of retirees have been claiming early Social Security benefits since the economic recession began in 2008. In 2007, 33.5 percent of men and 36.3 percent of women claimed early benefits at age 62. Only two short years later, in 2009, 35.8 percent of men and 38.9 percent of women claimed early benefits. The SSA believes that this trend is likely the result of increasing unemployment. To read the SSA report, go to “This data is a clear illustration that raising the eligibility age for Social Security would be devastating for seniors,” said Ms. Easterling.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Friday, April 12, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-12-13

In this April 12th Edition:
Masses Protest Obama Budget Release Including Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

Social Security Uniquely Important to Women, Cuts Would Have Major Impact

As Americans Prepare for Tax Day, Big Pharma Pockets Billions in Profits from Taxpayers and Seniors

Eye Drops Could Cure Macular Degeneration, a Leading Cause of Blindness

Masses Protest Obama Budget Release Including Cuts to Social Security, MedicareThe Alliance joined the broad Strengthen Social Security coalition Tuesday at the White House to deliver 2.3 million petitions against the proposal to change the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the chained CPI formula, which would cut benefits for current and future beneficiaries. President Obama’s budget released Wednesday outlines over $4 trillion in deficit reduction, but headlines centered around his first-ever proposal to cut Social Security. Tuesday’s action was widely covered in the media. Tens of millions of workers, seniors and disabled veterans were represented. Their message: “We must not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, disabled vets, the sick, the women or the children.” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), headlining Tuesday’s event, said,  “When one out of four major profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes, we know how we can deal with deficit reduction in a way that is fair.” Videos from the press conference and rally can be viewed here

On Thursday, House Democratic leaders dismissed President Obama’s inclusion of Social Security cuts in his 2014 budget. Top-ranking Democrats including Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), James Clyburn (D-SC) andXavier Becerra (D-CA) questioned the validity of changing Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package. Becerra pointed out, “Social Security has never added a penny to the deficit or the national debt … Why you would take $230 billion through the chained CPI by cutting benefits for seniors, veterans and the disabled?” Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans said, “Federal budgets are about more than just numbers, they clearly reflect of our national priorities. It’s time to ask corporations to pay their fair share and stop proposing balancing the budget on the backs of seniors, retired veterans and people with disabilities.” Click here to see a new ‘federal budget update’ fact sheet comparing the President’s proposal with the House and Senate’s  

The Alliance supports the use of the consumer price index for the elderly (CPI-E) which calculates the Social Security COLA in order to assure that the purchasing power of the benefit is maintained as beneficiaries’ age and more accurately reflects retirees’ expenses.

Social Security Uniquely Important to Women, Cuts Would Have Major Impact
Tuesday marked Equal Pay Day. The date symbolizes the day in the New Year that women have to work to match the income their male counterparts made in the previous year. Women are about 2/3 of minimum wage workers in this country, and more than half of women are the sole or an essential supporter of their families. “Women are disproportionately dependent on Social Security – we work longer hours at less pay; we have less savings at the end of their working lives; we are more likely to work in jobs that don’t offer pensions or healthcare or even 401ks… so we rely on Social Security,” said Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women President said.

Alliance members like Barbara Stone in Nevada can tell you what it means to earn less, sometimes half the wage that her male colleagues earned, and to live solely on income from Social Security. Ms. Stone raised 5 children on her own and contributed to Social Security throughout a long life of work which began at 13 years old. In light of recent proposals to cut Social Security or switch to the chained CPI COLA formula, Barbara Stone said, “We cannot let it happen.” Click here to see how the chained CPI translates to weeks of food lost to single elderly women:

Leah Witherspoon, Chair of the Dallas chapter of the Texas Alliance, was profiled in a national article this week about the chained CPI. Read it here:

As Americans Prepare for Tax Day, Big Pharma Pockets Billions in Profits from Taxpayers and Seniors
The 11 largest drug companies took $711.4 billion in profits over the past 10 years, according to an analysis of corporate filings by Health Care for America Now (HCAN). The global pharmaceutical industry derived much of that profit from the significant charges to the Medicare Part D prescription drug program for seniors and people with disabilities. Thanks in part to inflated costs paid by the Part D program, the 11 drug companies booked $76.3 billion in profits in 2006 – an extraordinary 34 percent increase from the previous year, when Part D was not yet in place. Medicare — the largest purchaser in the world’s largest drug market – is prohibited by law from negotiating better drug prices.

Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world. “The drug industry’s profits are excessive as a result of overcharging American consumers and taxpayers,” said Ethan Rome, HCAN’s Executive Director. “During this period, as millions of Americans struggled to afford their medicines, Republicans in Congress have threatened to cut seniors’ benefits while refusing to consider commonsense measures to get a better deal from drug companies.” More here:  The Congressional Budget Office indicates that allowing Medicare to negotiate the same bulk purchasing discounts on prescription drugs as Medicaid or the VA would save the federal government $137 billion (

According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Pfizer paid no U.S. income taxes from 2010 to 2012 while earning $43 billion worldwide. It did this partly by performing accounting acrobatics to shift its U.S. profits offshore. Instead, it received $2.2 billion in federal tax refunds. The offshore profits amounted to $73 at the end of 2012, on which Pfizer paid no U.S. income taxes. “If only Pfizer were the exception and not the rule,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Eye Drops Could Cure Macular Degeneration, a Leading Cause of Blindness
According to a new study from the Washington University School of Medicine, eye drops intended to lower cholesterol could have an additional effect – curing macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over the age of 60. The study found that the eye drops successfully cure macular degeneration in mice. This research still needs to be tested in humans, but it could potentially have an impact on how macular degeneration is treated. To read CBS News’ write up of the study, go to   Although research is still in the early stages, it is encouraging. Finding a successful cure for macular degeneration would improve the quality of life for millions of seniors. 

For a printable version of this document, go to

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tribute to Steve Skvara

I find it sad but necessary to write about a loss to SOAR, the USW and the cause of workers and retirees and a friend and that is the death of our brother, Steve Skvara, District 7 SOAR Board Member. Steve was a retired Steelworker from Youngstown Sheet & Tube in East Chicago, Indiana, the President of SOAR Chapter 31-5 and the District 7 SOAR Executive Board member.

I had the opportunity to work with Steve. His dedication to SOAR was second to none. Before his health began to fail, you could always count on him to be active in protests and demonstrations; whenever the cause of workers and retirees were at stake.

One of the most memorable events was in 2007 at the Presidential Candidate forum in Chicago, when Steve related to the candidates including Barack Obama, his health care dilemma and concern for his wife’s health care.  As a result, he appeared on a number of national TV broadcasts. 

Even in the 2012 election, Steve helped Elizabeth Warren win the Senate election in Massachusetts when she was attacked for protecting steelworkers’ benefits during the LTV Steel Corporation bankruptcy.

Steve’s legacy should be an inspiration for all of us to be engaged and involved to carry on the fight for workers’ and retirees’ rights and benefits. 

Bill Gibbons, PACE Representative

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

SOAR Director Speaks Out

April 10, 2013 Jim Centner (412) 562-2575

President Obama’s Proposed Budget is Disappointing
Nation’s Debt Should Not Be Balanced on Backs of Seniors 

The following statement was issued today by Jim Centner, Director of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR):

(Pittsburgh) -- President Obama’s budget proposal released today is disappointing. While we acknowledge that it does not change the Medicare eligibility age, it still targets those most vulnerable in our society.

Cuts to Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) and to Medicare programs places the burden of our nation’s debt unfairly on the back of seniors.

The proposed chained CPI formula to determine Social Security COLA benefits will mean an immediate, and long-lasting, benefit cut for millions of Social Security beneficiaries, including seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and others. 

Social Security has not contributed a single penny to the federal deficit.  The program is funded by workers’ and employers’ contributions and should be excluded from any budget discussion.

SOAR members are troubled by the inclusion of the chained CPI in the President’s budget.  Using the chained CPI to cut Social Security COLA benefits in the name of deficit reduction wrongly burdens those that can least afford it. 

#  #  #

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

We Need Your Help!

SOAR has never been more important to our retirees and to our union. Working families and retirees 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
back of the working class, while cutting the taxes of corporations and wealthy

The only way to defend ourselves is by organizing our retirees and partnering
with our union’s active members to confront the issues that jeopardize our economic security and way of life. This is where we need your help. In order to maximize our impact, SOAR needs to grow. We need you to reach out to your fellow retirees and other likeminded retirees to recruit them into our organization.

Our union has fought hard for our retirees. In many cases, when the employer abandoned them through shutdowns and bankruptcies, our union was there. The USW established a number of VEBAs (Voluntary Employee Benefit Trusts) that help restore many of the benefits that were lost. I am amazed at how few of the beneficiaries of our VEBAs belong to SOAR. This is an area that we need to concentrate our organizing efforts. If your Chapter or retirees in your area are enrolled in a VEBA, I am asking you to reach out to them and remind
them that the union provided this benefit and we need their help.

But VEBA participants cannot be our sole focus. All retirees are under constant attack. The only way to stop these attacks is to organize, agitate and educate. SOAR provides the vehicle to get it done!

Let’s get to work!

Connie Entrekin, SOAR President

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Ryan Budget - Deja-vu All Over Again

By now, I am sure all of you are aware that the budget battle is heating up in Washington. Paul Ryan, the failed Vice Presidential candidate and Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, is leading the charge from the far right to balance the budget on the backs of working families and retirees.

Once again, he has proposed a budget that the Senate roundly rejected in the last Congress; the same budget that the voters rejected when they dashed his ambitions to be Vice President. To those in D.C., he must seem like the crazy cat woman who lives down the street. This is the third time the House Republicans have released the Ryan Budget. Someone once told me that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

Fortunately for us, the Senate has declared the draconian cuts proposed by the Ryan Budget as “dead on arrival.” The time has come for Congressional Republicans to deal with the real challenges facing the nation; slow economic growth, high unemployment, and unprecedented income inequality. The GOP/Ryan budget targets working class seniors and their families with massive cuts to pay for tax breaks benefiting huge corporations and the wealthiest among us.  

We must protect the social safety nets that are designed to keep retirees out of poverty and the poor from starvation. Medicare and Social Security are now more important than ever before. With employers abandoning defined benefit pension plans at an alarming rate and going to court to dump their retiree health care responsibilities, these programs must be preserved, not dismantled!

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Affordable Care Act extended free preventive care

News Release

March 18, 2013
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Affordable Care Act extended free preventive care to 71 million Americans with private health insurance

Health Care Law’s third anniversary sees health costs slowing down, more value for consumers
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that about 71 million Americans in private health insurance plans received coverage for at least one free preventive health care service, such as a mammogram or flu shot, in 2011 and 2012 because of the Affordable Care Act. The new data was released in a report from HHS today.

Additionally, an estimated 34 million Americans in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans have received at least one preventive service, such as an annual wellness visit at no out of pocket cost because of the health care law.

Taken together, this means about 105 million Americans with private health plans and Medicare beneficiaries have been helped by the Affordable Care Act’s prevention coverage improvements.
Preventive services, consumer protections, and other reforms under the Affordable Care Act are giving millions of Americans of all ages more value for their health care dollars and contributing to the slowest growth in health care costs in 50 years.

“Preventing illnesses before they become serious and more costly to treat helps Americans of all ages stay healthier,” Secretary Sebelius said.  “No longer do Americans have to choose between paying for preventive care and groceries.”

Secretary Sebelius released the preventive services report as HHS celebrates the Affordable Care Act’s third anniversary this week.  The law is keeping down costs and providing more value for consumers and taxpayers through new consumer protections, holding insurance companies accountable, building a smarter health care system, and providing seniors with vital savings on their prescription drugs.

The Affordable Care Act is giving Americans better value for their health insurance plans by:
  • Eliminating lifetime dollar caps on essential health benefits, and phasing out annual caps. About 105 million Americans no longer have to fear their benefits will disappear when they need them most because their insurer put a lifetime cap on the amount it would pay.
  • Prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on a pre-existing condition, such as asthma or cancer.
  • And in 2014, it will be illegal for health insurance companies to deny coverage to any American or to charge more because of a pre-existing condition.  No longer will 129 million Americans with health conditions have to fear seeing their premiums increased or getting locked out of the insurance market.
  • The law will also make it illegal for a health insurer to charge women more simply because they are women. “That means,” Secretary Sebelius said, “being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.”
The full report on expanded preventive care for Americans with private health insurance is available at
Learn more about the key features of the Affordable Care Act at


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at
Follow HHS on Twitter @HHSgov exit disclaimer icon and sign up for HHS Email Updates.
Follow HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter @Sebelius exit disclaimer icon.
Last revised: March 18, 2013

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Musical Saw

Seniors React to President's Proposed Social Security Cuts

 For Immediate Release
April 5, 2013
Contact: Laura Markwardt – 202/637-5178 or
Seniors React to President’s Proposed Social Security Cuts

The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

“Today’s press reports that President Obama will include cuts to Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) and Medicare in his budget proposal next Wednesday are very disturbing.

“The use of the chained CPI to calculate cost of living adjustments is simply not fair. It is not an insignificant tweak; it constitutes a significant benefit cut. Worse, it cuts benefits more with every passing year. It will do real damage to seniors and people with disabilities – in the present and future.

“Not only does the current cost of living adjustment formula not keep up with inflation for seniors, it does not accurately account for the large health care cost increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities. The chained CPI would further underestimate the cost of living adjustments for seniors. We need a higher COLA, one that accurately reflects beneficiaries’ costs, not a lower one.

“Our members are very upset that the President is willing to compromise on this issue of Social Security, one that certainly does not belong in budget discussions since Social Security by law cannot contribute to the federal deficit.

“Our 4 million members are watching closely and remaining hopeful that Washington finds a way to do the right thing – that certainly doesn’t mean wrongly balancing the budget on the backs of our seniors.”


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.

Alliance for Retired Americans | 815 16th Street, NW | Washington, DC 20006 |

Friday, April 05, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-5-13

President Obama May Include Cuts to Social Security COLA in Budget Proposal
Press reports indicate that President Obama will include cuts to Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) and Medicare in his budget proposal next Wednesday The President will reportedly propose the use of the chained CPI to calculate cost of living adjustments (COLAs) if it is linked to taxes on the wealthy and infrastructure investments. In Medicare, savings would reportedly come from payments to health care providers, such as hospitals and drug companies, but the President may also propose further means-testing benefits.

The Social Security COLA cuts via the chained CPI is troubling because it is an immediate benefit cut to Social Security beneficiaries. Please send the White House a message – tell the President to protect Social Security and to safeguard benefits using this easy link

The chained CPI is a back door way of attempting to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors. The chained CPI would hit today’s Social Security beneficiaries and is a continuous cut to the benefits Americans have earned each year into the future. “Not only does the current cost of living allowance not keep up with inflation for seniors, it does not accurately account for the large health care cost increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities. The chained CPI would further underestimate the cost of living adjustments for seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. More realistically, we need a more accurate and higher COLA, one that reflects the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries. Robert Reich put out a video this week that clearly explains the chained CPI – watch it here

The chained CPI calculation assumes that a lower COLA is accurate because consumers can substitute cheaper products when prices go up but that does not hold true for many of seniors’ expenses. Seniors cannot substitute a triple bypass surgery with a double because it is cheaper, for example, and there are no easy substitutions for a hip replacement. According to Social Security Works, an average earner retiring in 2011 at the age of 65 would experience a benefit cut of over $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted. “Social Security benefits are already quite modest for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year and for 70 percent of them, Social Security makes up the majority of their livelihoods. It’s very troubling that our President would propose cuts to this critical lifeline,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

It is doubtful that the chained CPI proposed in the President’s budget will become law through the federal budget process, because the House and Senate have already passed very different budget resolutions with little chance of a House-Senate conference to reconcile the differences. However, we must remain very vigilant that the chained CPI could end up in discussions in the so-called “Grand Bargain” on the deficit this spring and summer.

Patriot Coal Meets Masses in Charleston, WV
More than 6,000 people joined elected officials and labor leaders Monday in a march on Patriot Coal headquarters in Charleston, WV to protest the company's move to use bankruptcy to cut pension and health care benefits for more than 20,000 workers and retirees. Patriot Coal was spun off from St. Louis-based Peabody Energy in 2007, with approximately 43 percent of Peabody’s pension and health care liabilities, but just 11 percent of its assets.  Patriot also later assumed pension and health care obligations for retired union miners who had worked for Arch Coal, which had previously shed its liabilities in a similar way as Peabody.

Shirley Inman, a retired miner whose health care benefits are threatened by Patriot’s actions in U.S. bankruptcy court, said, “I never worked a day for Patriot Coal … I don’t care what the corporate name is, those executives made us a promise: We’d mine their coal, and in exchange we’d have good health care while we worked and after we retired. I kept my promise; they should keep theirs.” Ron Thompson, President of the Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans, at the march with several Virginia retirees, said “We were showing solidarity on their behalf. We were also standing up for them because the next group could be us.”

Sixteen people were arrested at the protest. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is challenging Patriot’s action in court, has launched a public education advertising campaign about Peabody, Patriot and Arch Coal, working with Sens. Jay RockefellerJoe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall to develop and introduce federal legislation to assist retired miners. Click here to support the workers and retirees by signing the petition, participating in events or liking their campaign on Facebook

“Turning Age and Experience Into Opportunity” – Jobs for Seniors Filled by Seniors
About 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, according to the Pew Research Center. The needs of our aging population are creating millions of jobs to serve and assist seniors, many of which are being filled by seniors. According to NBC News (, men and women in their fifties, sixties and seventies are filling positions or creating new opportunities to serve our aging population by working in roles such as patient advocates, specialized gym instructors for senior classes, home modification professionals and errand-runners.

Whether directly serving the senior population or not, older workers are pursuing second and third careers. According to the Kauffman Foundation, 1 in 5 new entrepreneurs in 2011 were aged 55-64 and almost half of all new entrepreneurs were between the ages of 45 and 64.

Medicaid Matters
The Iowa Alliance went on the road last week to celebrate and tout the state Senate-approved expansion of Medicaid coverage for over 100,000 Iowans, over objections of Gov. Terry Branstad and some of his GOP allies in the divided Legislature. Iowa’s governor is one of many across the country to reject offering Medicaid services provided for by the federal Affordable Care Act for adults between the ages of 19 and 64 with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Approximately seventy percent of all seniors in nursing homes rely on Medicaid to support themselves. Medicaid expansion supporters will continue statewide rallies and the “Medicaid Madness” tour this weekend, especially on Sunday, to encourage a community show of support for a program that affects so many families.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Invitation to Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre commemoration

April, 2013

RE: Invitation to attend the May 18th annual commemoration AND Request for donations

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The United Steelworkers District 7 and our retiree organization, SOAR, are sponsoring the annual commemoration of the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937, on Saturday, May 18, 2013, at 2:00 pm at the George Washington High School, 3535 E. 114th St. in Chicago, just across the street from the scene of the 1937 events.

On Memorial Day 1937, 76 years ago, workers from the “Little Steel” mills of Chicago and Northwest Indiana were peacefully demonstrating at Republic Steel in South Chicago in an effort to gain recognition for their Union - the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, SWOC. Ten SWOC members and supporters were shot and killed, and numerous others, including women and children were wounded and injured for the right to form a Union. This tragic event has become known as the “Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre.”

The sacrifices of those who came before should not, and cannot, be forgotten; it is upon their suffering and sacrifice - and the suffering and sacrifice of so many others - that our rights and improved wages and benefits were built. Those of us in the USW have a special interest and cause for remembrance. There fighters not only contributed so much to the whole labor movement but to the formation of our Union, the USW.

We have formed a committee of USW Local Union Officers and SOAR officers that are committed to make sure that their sacrifices are not forgotten. We are working hard to continue the annual commemoration of the Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre.

We need your help! We have a great opportunity to educate young high school students  in labor history and about the Republic Steel Memorial Massacre. George Washington High School in South Chicago (across the street from where the massacre occurred and the location of our annual event honoring this historic milestone in our history) has agreed to hold an annual student essay contest. The winners will be awarded a USW/SOAR scholarship. We need your help and contributions to make these scholarships a reality.

Your Local Union and individuals can contribute by sending the contribution to: SOAR Chapter 31-9, 11731 So. Avenue “O”, Chicago, IL 60617. We thank you in advance for your contribution and hope to see you on My 18th - please mark your calendar!

In Solidarity,

Jim Robinson, Director USW District 7
Scott Marshall, District 7 SOAR Board Member

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Report from AAM (Alliance for American Manufacturing)

Recently, the women of AAM joined the Women of Steel at their international conference in Pittsburgh to share information about trade and the importance of having a solid manufacturing base. This industry is important for women since jobs in manufacturing are often high-tech and offer better pay and benefits than many other sectors. But looking at the numbers, women are not employed in manufacturing at the same rate as men. In fact, only 27% of all manufacturing workers in the US (3.3 million) and Canada (500,000) are women. Those of us in manufacturing should promote the industry to our sisters and daughters, dispelling the outdated notion that manufacturing jobs are difficult, dirty and best left for men. We can recruit a new generation of Rosie the Riveters!

Our elected officials must invest in manufacturing so that more of these jobs are available. We need women AND men making things, creating things and inventing things but our lack of a comprehensive plan to drive innovation, education and job growth is holding us back. Without strong support for manufacturing, we could be dependent on other countries that support their manufacturing base, and that’s not good for national security or prosperity. Consider this: one manufacturing job can create 4 to 5 other jobs in our economy. No other sector has a multiplier effect like manufacturing. Are your elected officials making it a priority to keep making it here? 

Let us know! For more information, please visit
Rachel Bennett Steury, AAM Field Coordinator 260-633-1060