Articles include: “ProtectSeniors Instrumental in developing new Federal Retiree Benefits Protection Bill”, The PBGC marks it’s 40th anniversary” Download…
Archives for September 2014
For 10 years, ProtectSeniors.Org has been fighting to protect retiree earned healthcare benefits and pensions. Back in 2006, we recognized that corporations were focused on protecting their profits by cutting retiree benefits. This is the polar opposite of the commitments and promises our employers made during our careers. That ‘forever’ security blanket is long gone.
In fact, the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has identified over one million “risk transfer events” (the selling off of pension assets) between 2009-2013.
Retirees cannot afford such sudden economic changes foisted onto our shoulders. We must continue to advocate and fight back. We earned our pensions and benefits, and we all want to protect what has already been earned and what we still have left. We cannot sit idly by and wonder whose retirement assets will be attacked next. It’s why we continue the good fight.
We have succeeded in convincing multiple state guaranty associations to increase their lifetime maximum coverage to $250,000 from $100,000 in seven states (Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri and Nevada), where the protection was prohibitively miniscule. For those who have been or will have their pension de-risked, this is critical.
We are now pursuing federal legislation to amend ERISA and prevent employers from cutting or reducing your earned healthcare benefits forever. We are also effectively working in five different state capitals to enact PBGC equivalent protections for pension-annuities.
Our board members are unpaid volunteers. We have a small staff of outside professionals that brings your words and concerns directly to Congress and to representatives in your state capitals. We provide you with resources to petition your representatives, to communicate via your local newspapers, and to put pressure on the decision makers to do what is right for retirees.
We need to fight back and I think you recognize this fight cannot be accomplished individually. We need your support and to keep the fight going. Our small budget comes solely from your donations. Help us do more. It is critical that each of us recognize the threat to our future.
Ask your friends and family members to join and support us. Please take action now. If you have not, please contribute today either using the enclosed form below or by donating online at www.ProtectSeniors.Org. Our only goal is to help you. Once your benefits are lost they are gone for good. Don’t let that happen.
For extra print copies of this newsletter, call us at 1-800-398-3044.
Your friends at ProtectSeniors.Org
Government Accountability Office to Analyze Impact of Retirement Losses
By Paul Miller
While the Clinton and Trump campaigns battle it out, ProtectSeniors.Org has been breaking new ground with our federal legislation H.R. 1856, the “Employee Benefit Protection Act.” Coming off a seven-week recess in Congress, we have been making the most out of the stillness on Capitol Hill. We have focused our energy on increasing support for our bill and helping bring together two key Members of Congress for our cause.
H.R. 1856 would require that retirees be informed of any type of modification or termination of their benefits and it also importantly creates a federal legal presumption that earned healthcare benefits cannot be reduced or terminated during retirement.
For a while now we have been working on the initiation of a formal request to the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study about H.R. 1856. The goal of this study would be to: (1) determine and report on the troubling strategies that corporations use to avoid their obligations to pay promised employee and retiree benefits,
(2) study the use of spin-offs, mergers, subsidiaries, bankruptcies, asset sales, and other methods to avoid obligations to pay earned employee and retiree benefits,
(3) analyze the true impact of such avoidance on the financial, physical, and mental well-being of employees and retirees,
(4) determine the number of U.S. retirees currently impacted,
(5) determine the impact on federal and state budgets when employers terminate or reduce the benefits of employees and retirees and,
(6) make recommendations to prevent corporations from evading contractual obligations to pay employee and retiree benefits.
That important GAO study was originally to be conducted after the bill is signed into law, but ProtectSeniors.Org is not content waiting for that. We know better than to wait around the halls of Congress for something to happen, so we are pushing to have this study conducted in the beginning of 2017. This GAO study can supply us, Congress and the federal government information we need to spotlight the impacts and to successfully push for a Congressional vote sooner rather than later.
Obtaining this information has always been a critical part of our strategy for H.R. 1856.
Today we are very happy to report that the formal request to the GAO has been finalized with the backing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D) of New York and House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D) of Virginia.
Having Congressman Scott agree to use his influence as the Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member to help prioritize our GAO request is a momentous step for us in our efforts to bring fairness and justice to retirees all over the nation who have had their earned health care benefits stolen from them.
ProtectSeniors.Org is working with Rep. Slaughter to get more Republicans to sign onto the GAO request. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has already signed on.
We are very excited to be moving into the next steps of our strategy to restore retirees earned health care benefits. It is your continued energy and support that will drive this progress forward.
AARP Membership in Anti-Retiree American Legislative Exchange Council Uncovered
It was recently disclosed that AARP was secretly sponsoring the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful corporate lobbying group drafting and promoting bills that would undermine Social Security, Medicare and working to derail retiree friendly legislation.
The Los Angeles Times reported that ALEC has opposed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, targeted public pensions to cap retirement benefits and shift more pension risk to individual retirees.
When uncloaked, AARP confirmed its membership, stating that it partnered with ALEC to “engage with state legislators and advance our members priorities.” It’s members include corporate titans Exxon Mobil, AT&T, UPS, and PhRMA.
Once this news became public, several prominent groups such as, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Alliance for Retired Americans, Center for Media and Democracy, Stand up to ALEC, and Social Security Works, petitioned AARP to withdraw from ALEC.
In a joint letter, the groups said, “by partnering with ALEC,” AARP has allowed ALEC to “lend credibility to legislation harmful to seniors that is introduced in statehouses across the country,” and they accuse AARP of “bringing corporate lobbyists and elected officials from around the country together to write anti-senior, anti-family legislation.”
Shortly after the public pressure AARP announced it would drop its membership. In a statement AARP said, “After hearing from many of you, we’ve decided not to renew our membership to ALEC. We would never work against the interests of older Americans.”
ProtectSeniors.Org advocates in the halls of Congress, the Executive branch and in state legislatures, on behalf of our fellow retirees. We have long been opposed by ALEC and other corporate funded lobbying groups like it, because our advocacy is solely for the interest of retirees and for the increased protections for benefits and pensions.
We pledge to continue those efforts and to never make secret deals with corporate front groups aiming to steal from retirees. Please recruit friends and former colleagues to ProtectSeniors.Org, which always steadfastly puts all of our retirees’ interests first.
Congress Will Redefine Future Of Retirement Benefits
By Jim Casey
News in the retiree arena is not often favorable but it sure never stops. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is on a path towards insolvency and benefit plans, particularly multi-employer benefit plans, are teetering. Corporations are shedding their pensions and retirees are holding the bag.
Now, Congressman John Kline (R-Minn.), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has presented a proposal to reform retirement plans in our nation going forward, as well as putting forward new measures to try to further shore up the PBGC and address the problem of failing pension plans. The proposal would allow employers more flexibility when it comes to contributing to their employees’ retirement plans and remove some of the protections offered for retirees by the PBGC.
These proposals taking shape in our nation’s capital will have major implications for the security of retirees and their families for now and for years to come. They will also determine the future of workers currently paying into defined benefit plans.
In February 2013, a group made up of union members and employers, organized by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP), proposed giving failing multi-employer pension plans the ability to alter some retiree pensions and benefit levels in an effort to rescue them from going completely bust. The group also recommended creating a new type of retirement income called a “composite plan” that would provide a hybrid alternative somewhere between a defined benefit and a defined contribution plan.
Congress then passed and President Obama signed into law the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act, which implemented these recommendations. The new changes proposed by Rep. Kline would extend and expand upon that law, including new proposals for the PBGC.
The public comment period for these proposed measures is going on now. In other words, the future of retirement in America has and is now being debated and decided in Washington, D.C. and it is absolutely crucial that we maintain a seat at the table. ProtectSeniors.Org has been meeting with key members of Congress on these very types of issues, including the office of Rep. Kline and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the Congressional committee’s ranking member.
Earlier this year, ProtectSeniors.Org Special Counsel Edward Stone made an in-person presentation to PBGC Director W. Thomas Reeder, impressing upon him and his senior staff the threat that pension de-risking poses to retirees throughout this country. It is rare that an organization such as our own is able to meet with one-on-one some of the federal government’s top regulators. This type of ongoing advocacy is irreplaceable, as our retirement income hangs in the balance with each potential rule or regulatory change.
Equally important, a request that originated with ProtectSeniors.Org has been submitted by members of Congress for the U.S. Government Accountability Office to review our legislation, the Employee Benefits Protection Act (H.R. 1856), which would protect your earned healthcare benefits from being eliminated or cut.
Folks, the train is now leaving the station. The future blueprint of retirement protection is being defined and written. Our leaders in Washington are making decisions – right now – about what benefits you and your loved ones will receive or continue to maintain and how strong the protection of those benefits will be. We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.
Get involved now. We are on the front lines fighting for you and we need your help. The ordinary citizen isn’t always heard in the halls of power but if we band together we can make our voices loud enough that they must hear us.
Join ProtectSeniors.Org today and together, we can help shape the future of our own retirement. For those who are already members of ProtectSeniors.Org, please seriously consider increasing your financial support. When retiree benefits are reduced, they never bounce back, and when benefits are lost they are gone forever. We cannot allow that to happen. Help us to help you.