Friday, November 29, 2013

Scrap The Cap And Any Thought Of A Chained CPI

Starting in 2014, the maximum tax on income for Social Security will be $117,000 per year. That means nothing more is paid into Social Security exceeding this amount. What that means is that the average working person pays the full 6.2% and that the wealthy Wall Street banker type and CEO’s making a million dollars per year are paying less than 1% of their income into Social Security. The higher their income, the less percentage they pay.

To put it another way, a person making a million dollars per year only has to work 15 hours to pay their Social Security tax and the average worker is working all year to pay their Social Security tax. A billionaire pays the same tax in less than a minute. 

Notwithstanding the fact that Social Security is financially sound for the next 20 years or more and does not contribute one cent to the Federal deficit, some are proposing to cut benefits by imposing a new cost of living formula called the “Chained CPI.”

Any long term concerns about Social Security funding can be substantially addressed by scrapping the cap and leaving the CPI (consumer price index) formula alone which would mean no cuts to Social Security benefits.

Today, when traditional pension plans are under attack and the “three legged stool” of retirement income consisting of one’s pension, Social Security, and savings is becoming unstable, is no time to cut Social Security benefits.

Bill Gibbons, PACE Representative for SOAR

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jack Munro Was A Great Man

Jack Munro was one of my favorite characters. Although I didn't know him really well, he really impressed me with his ability to convince others that his way was the right way. I remember once at an Executive Board Meeting of SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees) that he had just recuperated from a serious operation, A triple bypass heart operation I believe. The biggest cost to him was the parking lot of the hospital. You'll see what I mean when I say that you just couldn't help liking Jack Munro.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Union Veterans Alert

The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a fraud alert about a marketing scam that is targeting veterans who misdial the VA National Call Center (800-827-1000) or the GI Bill Call Center (888-442-4551) phone numbers.  A marketing company created two phone numbers that differ from the real VA numbers by one digit.  If a veteran misdials and calls the bogus number, the answering party will offer a gift card and try to obtain sensitive personal data, to include credit card information.  Please note that the VA will “never” ask for credit card or banking information over the phone.

The two bogus numbers are 800-872-1000 and 888-442-4511.  Please forward this information to all your members, Posts and friends, and share it on your websites.  The bottom line is make sure you know who you are talking to before providing personal information over the phone.  The VA has notified law enforcement authorities.

For a list of toll-free VA phone numbers, go to the VA’s Inquiry Routing & Information System webpage at https://iris.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1703.

Friday, November 22, 2013

ARA Friday Alert November 22, 2013

Richard Fiesta is Named Alliance’s Next Executive Director


Richard Fiesta has been named the Alliance for Retired Americans’ new executive director, succeeding Edward F. Coyle, who has managed and grown the 4 million-member grassroots advocacy organization since its 2001 founding. The Alliance’s Executive Board voted unanimously to appoint Fiesta, effective December 1. The director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance since 2001, Fiesta pledged that the Alliance will aggressively educate retirees, the public and lawmakers on ways to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, make prescription drugs affordable for future generations and ensure that all retirees can expect a dignified retirement after a lifetime of work.
“It is gratifying to see Ed enjoy his own retirement after improving the retirement circumstances of so many others,” said Barbara J. Easterling, president of the Alliance.  “I know that Rich will continue the Alliance for Retired Americans’ tradition of standing up for seniors.”
“I would not retire if I didn't believe that the Alliance is in good hands,” said Coyle. “Rich Fiesta has made a career of fighting for social and economic justice for retirees and the middle class.”
“I am honored to become the Alliance Executive Director, given our proven track record of advocacy and action,” said Fiesta. “Older Americans face many challenges. I look forward to building on our work to guarantee that the needs of retirees remain at the forefront of the nation’s agenda.” To read the full Alliance press release, including comments by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks, as well as a summary of Fiesta’s background, go to http://tinyurl.com/kv99lfr.

Seniors Remember JFK on 50th Anniversary of his Assassination
Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Many seniors remember him for his charisma as well as his leadership through some of the nation’s most dramatic moments, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the battle for civil rights. Almost everyone remembers where they were when tragedy struck on November 22, 1963.What many may not remember is that the idea for Medicare originated with the 1960 Kennedy campaign for President!

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Makes the Case for Expanding Social Security
On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) threw her support behind expanding Social Security benefits, joining Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in a growing push to calculate benefits through an index called CPI-E, which will increase payments to meet the needs of recipients. She was referring to S.567, the Strengthening Social Security Act. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the House version, HR 3118.

During Sen. Warren’s remarks on Monday, she noted that The Washington Post had run an editorial that day mocking the idea of a looming retirement crisis. “To make sure no one missed the point, they even put the words ‘retirement crisis’ in quotation marks,” she said. On Wednesday, Sen. Warren told MSNBC listeners that increased benefits would help a middle class that has been “hammered for a generation.”

Update on Budget Negotiations: Talks Center on Sequestration
The federal budget deal that was reached in October created a budget conference to iron out the differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. Because Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would most likely come into play in a “grand bargain” scenario - which, to many, seems elusive at the moment - a main focus in the negotiations right now is on replacing sequestration cuts. According to the Center for American Progress, there are four factors making next year’s sequestration cuts even more damaging than this year’s. First, the sequester makes larger cuts in 2014 than it did in 2013. Second, many of the cuts that were legally made this year have not actually been implemented yet. More at http://tinyurl.com/ly6m2c4.
“Last month, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Democrats were united.  They did not give up anything,” said Mr. Burks. “We need to keep the pressure on lawmakers not to cut seniors’ earned benefits, so that dynamic does not change,” he continued. Pledge now to make a call on December 12th to tell your elected leaders to end the sequester, close tax loopholes, and raise the revenues needed for vital services. Click on the Alliance’s pledge, created with several coalition partners including AFSCME and Social Security Works, at http://tinyurl.com/n2rbz7c.

Social Security Administration Releases Facts and Figures for 2014
The Social Security Administration recently released its Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) rates and limits for 2014, available at http://tinyurl.com/lqqrpx7. One statistic the site shows is that Americans will pay Social Security taxes on only the first $117,000 they earn next year. “Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program” is the official name for Social Security. Supplemental Security Income is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income, and it provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

130 House Members Send Letter to Obama Regarding Trans-Pacific Partnership
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a trade agreement that the United States and 11 other Pacific-rim countries are negotiating — could raise the cost of prescription drugs and increase health care spending by governments and private payers. TPP negotiations are largely secret.  Although the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) consults with representatives of the drug and medical device industries, it does not do so with health care experts or the public.  Recently, a group of more than 130 House members urged USTR to adopt a more open negotiating process. Despite the secrecy, some negotiating texts have become public — and the newly leaked intellectual property chapter prompted sharp disagreements over access to generic medicines. To read the House members’ letter to President Obama, go to http://tinyurl.com/mv9p4tc.

AFL-CIO Showcases New Video Link, “Stronger Together”
Check out the AFL-CIO's newest video hit on collective action. The video is part of a new “Stronger Together” web page at http://tinyurl.com/kmtrxyy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where I was on November 22, 1963

The questioned has been asked, “where were you when President Kennedy was killed”. I suppose that most of us that were alive at that time remember where we were on Nov 22, 1963.

I was in the Navy at the time serving on a Destroyer, U.S.S. Walker (DD517). We were on our way back from Vietnam with several other ships. Being a Signalman, I was on the bridge when I received a message by flashing light that the President had been shot. I remember it so well. Not only because of the content of the message but also because it was a “flash” message which was of the highest priority and the only one I ever received.

I suppose, to be on the safe side, our group of ships turned around for a time and headed back to the Western Pacific until more information came in.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fiesta Named ARA Executive Director

For Immediate Release
November 20, 2013
Contact: David Blank – 202/637-5275 or dblank@retiredamericans.org 


Richard Fiesta Named Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans


Washington, DC – Richard J. Fiesta has been named the Alliance for Retired Americans’ new Executive Director, succeeding Edward F. Coyle, who has managed and grown the four million member grassroots advocacy organization since its 2001 founding.  The Alliance’s Executive Board voted unanimously to appoint Mr. Fiesta, effective December 1, 2013.

Mr. Fiesta, the Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance since 2001, pledged that the organization will aggressively educate retirees, the public, and lawmakers on ways to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, make prescription drugs affordable for future generations and ensure that all retirees can expect a dignified retirement after a lifetime of work.

“Ed Coyle launched the Alliance for Retired Americans and built it into a national voice for seniors,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “It is gratifying to see Ed enjoy his own retirement after improving the retirement circumstances of so many others. I know that Rich will continue the Alliance for Retired Americans’ tradition of standing up for seniors.”

“I would not retire if I didn't believe that the Alliance is in good hands,” said Mr. Coyle. “Rich Fiesta has made a career of fighting for social and economic justice for retirees and the middle class. He believes deeply in the power of grassroots organizing and collective action.  He will be a great Executive Director.”

“I am honored to become the Alliance Executive Director, given our proven track record of advocacy and action,” said Fiesta. “Older Americans face many challenges. I look forward to building on our work to guarantee that the needs of retirees remain at the forefront of the nation’s agenda.”

“Rich Fiesta knows what action and legislation is crucial for retirees, and he knows the intricacies of the Social Security and Medicare programs,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “There is no one I would rather have leading retirees, community activists, and staff.”

Prior to 2001, Mr. Fiesta, a native of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, served in the Clinton Administration in congressional and public affairs positions at the Departments of Labor and the Interior. He worked in Congress as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor Standards and in senior positions in the offices of Senators Harris Wofford (D-PA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). He practiced law concentrating on labor and retirement issues.  He will also chair the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations for 2013-2014. He received his bachelors, masters, and law degrees from Georgetown University and studied in the legal history program at the University of Virginia. 

“I look forward to working with Rich as we head into the critical election season of 2014,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Retirees feel safe knowing that Rich will be channeling the energy of the Alliance’s four million members as they act to preserve and protect seniors’ earned benefits.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sometimes We Should Look On The Bright Side

For those things that we have some control over that need adjusting or fixing, we should make the adjustments or fix them.
For those things that we have no control over (none of our business) that need adjusting or fixing, we should try our best to look on the bright side.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"We Had Some Great Scraps"

Alliance For Retired Americans Friday Alert, November 15, 2013

Veterans Day Message: “Don’t Cut Veterans’ Benefits”

The Alliance continued holding events with coalition partners around Veterans Day this week, drawing attention to the fact that veterans’ benefits would be cut in multiple ways if the chained CPI cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) formula were to be adopted. The chained CPI affects Social Security beneficiaries as well as those who receive veterans’ disability benefits and military pensions. Because of the number of programs that would be subject to the chained CPI, veterans would receive double, triple or more hits. With that in mind, Alliance members held events this week in cities including Waco, Texas; Ankeny, Iowa; St. Louis, MO; and Reading, PA. The events are taking place before a December 13 deadline, when a House-Senate budget conference committee is charged with reaching a 2014 budget compromise. Such a deal could contain a “grand bargain” that would cut seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The Waco event focused attention on Texas Rep. Bill Flores, one of 51 House Republicans who signed a letter authored by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) advocating cuts to earned benefits. The letter argued for raising the retirement age; adjusting the COLA formula; means-testing Social Security benefits; and other cuts (http://tinyurl.com/psply6q).  See the Waco Tribune’s coverage of the Alliance’s Texas event at http://tinyurl.com/pqx6o6d.

The Iowa event focused on Sen. Charles Grassley (R), who is on the budget conference committee. For a TV clip about the event from Des Moines local news, go to http://tinyurl.com/n4zqans. For print coverage, see http://tinyurl.com/me4xpkf. The St. Louis event, held fittingly at the Soldiers’ Memorial, was covered by local radio as well as affiliates from NBC, FOX, and CBS. Finally, for coverage out of Pennsylvania, go to http://tinyurl.com/lkp33bh. “All of the events were great successes in letting people know what seniors and veterans could soon be facing,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Some people needed a reminder that we should honor our veterans by ensuring that they receive all of their hard-earned benefits.”

Along those lines, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, and J. David Cox, chair of the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council and president of AFGE, co-authored a blog post that ran in Huffington Post on Veterans Day. They drew attention to the members of our armed services who gave their lives in service of our country, as well as to 3.2 million disabled veterans and their families -including the 350,000 spouses and children who live with a disabled veteran, or who lost a loved one in battle. To read the full post about benefits for them, go to http://tinyurl.com/lyb5zue.

700,000 Signatures Against Cuts Delivered to Budget Conference Committee Chairs
On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office received a petition signed by more than 700,000 people that said there should be “no grand bargain” in the budget negotiations being led by Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) “in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spearheaded the effort in the Senate. For video of the petition delivery to Rep. Ryan’s office, go to http://tinyurl.com/lzy7sn2. For video of the Alliance's drop-off at Sen. Murray's (D-WA) office, go to http://youtu.be/pKsLZCdY9_Q. If you have not yet taken action on this issue, you can now send a message to your Representative at http://bit.ly/1cwvMJd.

Senate Aging Committee Launches New Anti-Fraud Hotline, Enhanced Website
If you or someone you know suspects you’ve been the victim of a scam or fraud aimed at seniors, you can now call a new toll-free hotline that the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has set up. Unveiled on Wednesday, it will be staffed by a team of investigators who have experience with investment scams; identity theft; Medicare and Social Security fraud; and other senior exploitation issues. Anyone with information about suspected fraud can call the fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470, or contact the committee through its website, at http://www.aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline. “The committee’s hotline offers a direct defense against cruel scams aimed at seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are the chairman and ranking member of the committee. This year, the panel has held hearings examining Jamaican lottery scams, tax-related identity theft, Social Security fraud and the impact of payday loans on seniors. The hotline’s unveiling coincides with the committee’s launch of an enhanced website, featuring large print, simple navigation and an uncluttered layout that enables seniors to find information more easily.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Releases Guides for Managing Others’ $Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published four guides to help financial caregivers, particularly those who handle the finances of older Americans, carry out their duties and responsibilities in managing someone else's money. Millions of Americans are acting as fiduciaries, meaning they manage money or property for someone else. About 22 million people age 60 or older have named someone in a power of attorney to make financial decisions for them, and millions of others have court-appointed guardians or other fiduciaries. The fiduciaries that help them are a critical source of support, but often have no training.

The CFPB released guides that explain the four main responsibilities of a fiduciary. The first duty is to act in the person’s best interest, which means, for example, not to loan or give the person’s money to themselves or others. Also on the list: maintaining good records; managing money and property carefully, such as by paying bills on time; and keeping the money and property separate from the fiduciary’s own. A copy of the guides can be found at http://tinyurl.com/llgeqhh.


Chained CPI or another Topic on Your Mind? Write a Letter to the Editor, Win a Pen!With Veterans Day in the news, Alliance members have an excellent opportunity to write a letter to the editor in their local paper. If you want others to know about the chained CPI or another topic, take a moment and start writing. If your submission is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. Most recently, Linda Andrews, Bruce Bostick, Jo Etta Brown, Robert Dougherty, John Dyce, Lucy Edwards, Jim Hagerty, Gary Hall, Kathy Helmbock, Judy Jobes, Steve Kloppenburg, Gene Lantz, Terry Lochhead, Bette Marafino, Al Mumm, Harold Schuler, Carl Schwartz, Bob Shimabukuro, and William Stevens contributed to the national dialogue. Please e-mail aracommunications@retiredamericans.org if you have had a letter published. “Letters to the editor are a cost-effective way to get our message out,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Download a printable version

Friday, November 08, 2013

ARA Friday Alert, 11-8-13

Headlines:
Alliance Salutes Veterans All Across the Country;
Ways and Means Committee Misleads on Chained CPI;
Sherrod Brown Co-Sponsors the Strengthening Social Security Act;
Election Day Brings Key Victories in Cincinnati and Virginia;
AFSCME Video Personalizes the Potential Detroit Bankruptcy

Alliance Salutes Veterans All Across the Country
The Alliance and its coalition partners are holding several events around Veterans Day to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces. The events also draw attention to the fact that veterans are affected in multiple ways by the chained CPI cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), a cut to earned benefits. On Thursday, seniors joined veterans at events in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Facebook photos at http://tinyurl.com/ng6dk5h); Appleton, Wisconsin; Champaign, Illinois (video at http://tinyurl.com/pjqebgl); and Dayton, Ohio (story at http://tinyurl.com/qxp6awy). The events are taking place before a December 13 deadline, when a House-Senate conference committee is charged with reaching a budget compromise. There is danger that the compromise will contain a “grand bargain” that would cut seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits as well as veterans’ benefits. “The chained CPI is a benefit cut that affects Social Security beneficiaries as well as those who receive veterans’ disability benefits and military pensions. Because of the number of programs that would be subject to the chained CPI, veterans would receive double, triple or more hits from the chained CPI,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

At the Appleton event, approximately 45 activists rallied in front of Rep. Reid Ribble's (R-WI) office to oppose the Social Security benefit cuts that he and 50 other Republican Representatives proposed in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (http://tinyurl.com/psply6q). The protesters also delivered petitions from constituents opposing cuts in the name of deficit reduction and called attention to a new report exposing how the chained CPI will harm veterans and Social Security beneficiaries in Wisconsin (http://tinyurl.com/qggwv38). Rep. Ribble is an outspoken advocate for raising the retirement age, adjusting the COLA formula, means-testing Social Security benefits and other benefit cuts. For photos from the Appleton event, go to http://tinyurl.com/oyc7rtw (photo credits: Wisconsin AFL-CIO). Additional events around the country will take place next week.

“The greatest part of Veterans Day is that it is about honoring and thanking veterans among us. So if you know a veteran family member, a coworker or a neighbor, just take a moment to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ said Jimmy Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council. “On behalf of the AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council officers and staff, I would like to say no matter when and where you served our country, ‘Welcome home and thank you,’” he added.

Ways and Means Committee Misleads on Chained CPI
Social Security beneficiaries will get a 1.5% increase in their monthly payments in 2014, the Social Security Administration announced last week. However, the program’s COLA will be below 2% for the fourth time in the last 5 years. Following that news, House Ways and Means Committee Republicans were misleading when they released a statement on Monday, saying, “If the more accurate chained CPI was used to determine the 2014 cost of living increase, seniors would see a 1.7 percent increase as opposed to this year’s increase of 1.5 percent.” (http://tinyurl.com/l2k2s5m).

“Any economist will tell you, to use an earlier estimate for a figure – as they did – when an adjusted, more accurate number is available, is not sound analysis,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The Ways and Means Committee is intentionally trying to mislead us. The chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) would be a cut in benefits – that is why conservatives support it. It is a cumulative cut over time,” Mr. Coyle added.

In fact, an average earner retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose more than $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted. (http://tinyurl.com/kxywnow). Experts won't know for sure what a hypothetical chained CPI COLA would have been for 2014 until January 2016, because the chained CPI is based on surveys of consumer substitution that are not completed until up to two years after the fact. This is one of the implementation problems a chained CPI COLA would face. Over the medium and long term, Social Security’s actuaries predict substantial differences across three possible COLAs: CPI for the elderly (CPI-E), CPI for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W), and the chained CPI. It is long-term trends that matter when it comes to the impact of COLAs on benefits, since the effect of COLAs compounds greatly over time. To read the Alliance’s full statement on the Ways and Means Committee Republicans’ use of a less accurate number to make their case that the chained CPI would increase benefits, go to http://tinyurl.com/obmlejl.

On Thursday, the Alliance sent a letter (http://tinyurl.com/ndpvnzv) to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) insisting that the misinformation be removed from the Committee’s web site. Go to http://tinyurl.com/ncaau69 to read a Huffington Post piece on the issue.

Sherrod Brown Co-Sponsors the Strengthening Social Security Act
In Youngstown, Ohio on Monday, Ohio Alliance President Norm Wernet shared the stage with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) as the Senator announced his co-sponsorship of S.567, the Strengthening Social Security Act (photo at http://tinyurl.com/okv4uda). “In times like these, people need more economic security, not less.  By phasing out the earnings cap on contributions, this legislation extends the life of the trust fund and increases average benefits by about $800 per year,” said Wernet. If you have not contacted your senators about S.567, click http://tinyurl.com/qgcbowb.

Election Day Brings Key Victories in Cincinnati and Virginia
On Tuesday, Alliance-endorsed candidate Terry McAuliffe was elected Governor of Virginia. For a photo of Alliance campaigners, including Ms. Easterling and Tom Webb, AFGE Retiree President, go to http://tinyurl.com/patwrqf. Also on Tuesday, voters in Cincinnati resoundingly rejected Issue 4, the attack on pensions and retirement security that was on the ballot, by a whopping 78.3% to 21.7% (http://tinyurl.com/pdhlaxe). “Thank you to everyone who volunteered, wrote postcards, and told their friends about Issue 4,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. The Alliance sent two pieces of mail about the issue to members in Cincinnati.

AFSCME Video Personalizes the Potential Detroit Bankruptcy
The potential bankruptcy in Detroit is not only a Detroit crisis; it is also an American crisis. Bankruptcy will increase economic hardship for broad portions of the middle class in Michigan, including retirees on fixed incomes whose pensions could be cut. To view “Detroit Matters,” an AFSCME video of real stories on the subject, and sign a petition, go to www.standwithdetroit.org.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/mzl47q2

Union Veterans Speak Out

Please read the following message from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFGE President and Union Veterans Council Chair J. David Cox.

On November 11 we celebrate Veteran’s Day, and it’s important to take this opportunity to honor the men and women who have served our nation to protect and defend the liberties and freedoms we all enjoy.

And yet it isn’t enough to speak words like “honor.”

America’s veterans need action, not words.

America’s veterans need a funded and functioning federal government. And veterans need us to protect Social Security, disability benefits and military pensions.

Think of the Vietnam veteran who travels for hours to the nearest VA clinic to get a hearing aid to help compensate for the endless ringing in his ears from a long-ago grenade explosion. To the 22 million veterans in America, the VA is more than “the government.” It’s a vital earned benefit. And when Congress fails to fund the government and closes the VA, it’s people like that Vietnam veteran who pay the price.

Because of the budget cuts last year known as “sequestration,” more veterans are homeless and fewer veterans get help looking for work, and tens of thousands of veterans have been furloughed.

The budget shutdown earlier this fall kept veterans from visiting war memorials.

And think of the members of our armed services who gave their lives in service of our country and of our 3.2 million disabled veterans. And think of their families, the 350,000 spouses and children who live with a disabled veteran or who lost a loved one in battle. For those heroic individuals, earned Social Security benefits are a lifeline.

Any cut to Social Security would make life harder for those families.

Lately, we have heard talk of “chained CPI” as a middle path for reforming Social Security. Don’t believe it. Chained CPI is just another way to say “cut” Social Security. For the average worker retiring at age 65, the Chained CPI would cut Social Security benefits by $650 a year by age 75, and by roughly $1,130 a year at age 85.The picture is actually worse for military retirees, who would get hit multiple times by chained CPI. Military pensions, Social Security and VA disability benefits would all be cut by chained CPI.

Congress should never balance the budget on the backs of the men and women who already sacrificed for our country. And we should honor our sacred obligations to the spouses and children of our wounded and dead veterans by protecting their benefits, not cutting them.

Let’s resolve this Veterans Day to do more than talk. The AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council stands alongside the VFW, the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America in opposition to chained CPI.

Let’s make a stand together to end the sequestration cuts and to keep our government open, and let’s reject any cuts to Social Security, under any name and by any politician or any political party.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

More Time Off For Retirees Needed

Change oil in car....check.
Get Shingles shot.....check.
Got a new battery for my wrist watch.......check.
Picked up leaves......check.
Picked gourds.....check.
Roasted coffee....check.
Wrote a letter..........check.
Took a nap................check.
Painted basement floor.....check.

I think maybe we need to negotiate more time off for retirees.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Does NIPSCO Need New Managers and/or Supervisors?

It could be that NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Company) needs some new managers and/or supervisors, some that aren’t afraid to direct their work force.

I came to wonder this today after someone approached me asking where my gas meter was located. He said he wanted to check for gas leaks. Was he a qualified NIPSCO worker? No, he was a contracted employee with the URG company based in the state of Michigan of all places.

Does NIPSCO have good, qualified workers to do this type of work? Of course they do. So, why would an Indiana company like NIPSCO make the decision to contract out work that their own workers could do? Well, I can only guess and my guess is that the NIPSCO managers and/or supervisors in the gas department at NIPSCO are too darned lazy to see that this work is done properly by their own workers and so they’re  taking the easy way out by just contracting the work out.

I don’t like it. If there might be natural gas leaking onto my property, I would much rather have a qualified NIPSCO worker checking for the gas leak than someone with a so called leak detector machine trying to detect the presence of gas when the wind is  blowing so hard there’s no way some machine could detect natural gas. 

We don’t need any more natural gas explosions in Northern Indiana.

Friday, November 01, 2013

ARA Friday Alert, Nov. 1, 2013




Headlines:
Social Security Benefits to go up just 1.5% in 2014
Tuesday, November 5 is Decision Day in Key Elections, Ballot Initiatives
Conference Committee Holds Meeting in Advance of December 13 Budget Deadline
Groups Act to Close Loopholes that Allow Many Companies to Pay No Taxes
Maryland-DC and Vermont Alliance Chapters Hold Annual Conferences

Social Security Benefits to go up just 1.5% in 2014
Social Security benefits will rise by 1.5% next year, one of the smallest increases ever in the program's annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The increase is down from the 1.7% increase for 2013. There was no COLA increase at all in 2010 and 2011, because prices fell during the recession. A 3.6% adjustment in 2012 has been the only significant rise in benefits in recent years.

Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, explained the context of the COLA change as it relates to the chained CPI, a formula proposed by some politicians in order to reduce future Social Security COLAs. “Next year’s increase will be 1.5%. Imagine if it were even less,” said Mr. Coyle. “Then imagine if that smaller increase were to be compounded over time. That is the chained CPI,” Mr. Coyle said. To see the Alliance’s complete press statement reacting to the COLA news, go to http://tinyurl.com/oexe682.

Coinciding with the release of the COLA figure, Social Security Works hosted a conference of experts and advocates on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss the retirement income crisis, the need to expand Social Security benefits, and how to make it a reality. Rich Fiesta, Director of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance, and Alliance Legislative Representative Eva Dominguez spoke at the event. Several members of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as representatives from Alliance coalition partners, also headlined the event.

Tuesday, November 5 is Decision Day in Key Elections, Ballot Initiatives
Voters in Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are among those going to the polls on Tuesday to decide key races. Of particular interest to many Alliance members are the Virginia and New Jersey Governors’ races, and Issue 4 in Cincinnati, a Tea Party-backed ballot initiative to eliminate public workers’ pensions.

The Alliance has worked to get Cincinnatians to vote “No” on Issue 4. The issue greatly affects many workers and retirees who depend on their pensions because they don't receive Social Security. The biggest change would be to workers employed by the city beginning in 2014: instead of getting a defined benefit at retirement, with a known payment each month, employees would have a 401(k) plan. Cost-of-living adjustments on current retirees’ pensions would also be cut, breaking the promise made to them. In addition, taxes and fees on Cincinnati residents would increase.

In Virginia, gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) faces Ken Cuccinelli (R). The Alliance endorsed Mr. McAuliffe after he addressed Alliance members during a summer conference call. “Terry McAuliffe is a great friend of retirees,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Terry wants to expand and strengthen Medicaid while his opponent wants to reject help that would give 400,000 Virginians health coverage they currently don’t have.” In New Jersey, State Senator Barbara Buono (D) is challenging Governor Chris Christie (R). Voters will also choose new mayors for New York City and Boston.

Conference Committee Holds Meeting in Advance of December 13 Budget Deadline
The agreement in October by the U.S. House and Senate to fund the government until January 15, and to raise the debt ceiling through February 7, has put in place a House-Senate conference committee charged with reaching a compromise on the FY 2014 budget by December 13. The conference committee had their first meeting on Wednesday. “There is danger of a ‘grand bargain’ that would cut seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “If you have not already stood with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and our coalition partners in demanding, ‘No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits,’ go to http://tinyurl.com/q326j93.”

Liberals have insisted that Democrats vigorously resist efforts to reduce long-term deficits with savings in Social Security or Medicare. Sen. Sanders has been particularly outspoken, saying he fears a budget deal will contain the chained CPI. President Obama had proposed that remedy only if Republicans agree to raise tax revenue, and GOP lawmakers involved in the current budget discussions have said they would reject such a deal.

Groups Act to Close Loopholes that Allow Many Companies to Pay No Taxes
Among companies listed on the S&P 500, over 10 percent paid an effective tax rate of zero percent — or even lower — over the past year, according to an analysis by USA Today and a write-up by thinkprogress.org at http://tinyurl.com/nnwd8u3. The national Alliance and several state chapters have signed on to a letter urging Congress to include Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI) bill, S. 1533, in the budget discussions by closing tax loopholes (http://tinyurl.com/jw2q35d).  A wide range of labor, consumer, and civil rights groups support closing outrageous loopholes in the tax code.

Maryland-DC and Vermont Alliance Chapters Hold Annual Conferences
Jim Baldridge, President of the Baltimore Area Council for Retirees and Seniors, was elected President of the Maryland-DC Alliance at the group's convention on Saturday in Pikesville, MD. Also elected to leadership positions were: Daisy Fields, Treasurer; Marjorie Taylor, Secretary; Dick Bissell, 1st Vice President; and Louis McLaughlin, 2nd Vice President. Twenty-five delegates and 14 guests attended. Speakers included Sen. Ben Cardin (D); Rep. John Sarbanes (D); Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO; state Sen. Brian Frosh, the MD/DC AFL-CIO’s endorsed candidate for Attorney General; Maryland Delegate Veronica Turner; and Ms. Dominguez. The state chapter also presented a special Distinguished Service Award to Mr. Coyle. “I would like to say a heartfelt thank-you to outgoing President Frank Stella for leading the Maryland-DC Alliance,” said Ms. Easterling. “For years, we have valued his perspective on a long list of issues that affect retirees.”

The Vermont Alliance hosted its own annual conference, in Barre, on Saturday. Attendees heard from David Reynolds, the state’s deputy director of health reform policy; health care exchange navigators Brenda Lindemann and Peter Sterling; and Mr. Fiesta. The following were elected to leadership positions: Jane Osgatharp, President; Terry Macaig, Vice President; Ms. Lindemann, Secretary; and Ed Hutchinson, Treasurer.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/km6kq5y.