"Raising the retirement age would inflict further hardship among a group of workers who are likely to face health and economic problems in their 60s." –Doug Hart, President, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans
"Of all the lies and confusion that still surround the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the greatest is that it is bad for seniors." - Dave Meinell, President, Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans
"My father died when I was three. Because of Social Security (survivors) benefits, my Mom, my younger sister and I survived." – Diane Fleming, DC Alliance Member
"We fear that Congress will balance the budget on the backs of the 98 percent, which is working Montanans and retired Montanans. We simply cannot afford these devastating cuts to vital services such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," –John Forkan, President, Montana Alliance for Retired Americans
"Along with national parks and Social Security, Medicare is one of the best ideas we Americans have ever devised." -Tim Cunningham, New Mexico Alliance Member
"Seniors have earned and deserve their Social Security checks, and they shouldn't have to go to Congress every 10 years and beg for the program to be renewed." –James Parent, Alliance for Retired Americans Regional Board Member
"Today's retirees paid Medicare and Social Security taxes in every paycheck we ever earned. Now that we are retired, these programs help us to be able to stay healthy and pay our bills. They are the promise we make to people who worked hard all their lives, and we need to keep that promise for today’s workers." –Tony Fransetta, President, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans
"Today's seniors want to lower the budget deficit. We do not want a large debt to be the legacy we leave to future generations, but we should not punish people who have paid Social Security taxes all their lives." –Jim Moore, President, North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans
"Social Security should remain what it has been for 77 years – a solid, reliable way that generations of workers have been able to retire with dignity, economic security, and peace of mind." –Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The fight for Social Security and Medicare is part of a larger fight for justice and fairness"—Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The health insurance reform helps not just seniors, but also middle-class families and young Americans, who are just starting to see the benefits. Don’t let Republicans take all that away." –Don Rowen, President Emeritus, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
"Honoring the promise of Social Security and Medicare should not be a partisan issue. Honoring the contributions that we make throughout our working years so that we may feed and clothe ourselves, keep a roof over our heads and those of our family, there is no reason for that to be a hotly contested partisan issue." –Edward Coyle, former Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans
"We need to make sure that people who need Social Security to make ends meet will have it, and not fall victim to ill-informed and unnecessary cuts to these vital programs."
–Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Down Despite the Extreme Cold
Huffington Post reports that sequestration's budget cuts last year have left thousands of families in the cold this winter. Congress cut funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program by about $155 million, and total funding has decreased from $5.1 billion to $3.32 billion since 2010 (http://tinyurl.com/lxkp369). Large sections of the United States have recently been frozen by the grip of winter, with a weather system known as a polar vortex bringing subzero temperatures and blizzard conditions. Temperatures reached as low as 50 or 60 degrees below zero in some parts of the nation – meaning that staying warm has become harder than ever for many Americans.
“Sequestration cuts are not just words,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “They affect real people in real ways. That is why the sequestration cuts to services need to be repealed altogether, rather than reduced and repackaged, as Congress has done so far.”
Tell AT&T Corporation to Respect Retirees
AT&T retirees were surprised when the company recently sent information related to open enrollment for the retiree medical benefits. Retirees under the age of 65, who are not eligible for Medicare, saw premium increases of hundreds of dollars a month for coverage under the standard PPO plan. Retirees on Medicare saw a jump in premiums of about 500% for supplemental insurance. CWA and the Alliance believe that the company should have done more for retirees, as AT&T enjoys healthy profits and significant dividends for shareholders. “Corporate executives should do more to assure that former employees who built the company have quality, affordable health care, and don’t flounder in unilateral, drastic and unprecedented increases,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Some in the company told retirees that the reason for the extraordinary increases is the Affordable Care Act. Nothing could be further than the truth. In fact, there are two provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would impact AT&T’s retiree health plan. First, it improves Medicare by including full coverage of preventive care and recapturing overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans. Second, the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program set aside funds for employers who offer retiree health benefits, rebating $213.8 million to AT&T between 2011 and 2012 to offset the cost of claims from early retirees. Both these provisions eased the company’s cost burden, but AT&T has chosen not to share that cost relief with retirees.
In 2012, AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson earned $22.23 million, 642 times the average worker's pay ($34,645). Please take action and tell him that passing down increases to the tune of 500% in monthly premiums for supplemental health care is uncalled for. Send him an email by using this link: [http://bit.ly/1cKhZ3m] or send him a letter: Randall L. Stephenson / Chairman, Chief Executive Officer / AT&T Corporation / 208 South Akard Street / Dallas, Texas 75202-4206.
Extension of Federal Benefits for the Long-term Unemployed Clears One Hurdle
The Democratic effort to extend federal benefits for the long-term unemployed got a surprise boost on Tuesday, as the Senate voted to allow the proposal to advance. The bill would reinstate for three months unemployment benefits that expired Dec. 28 and affect 1.3 million Americans. Six Republican Senators voted with 54 members of the Democratic caucus to approve a motion allowing the measure to move ahead, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will need to clear a second 60-vote hurdle to bring it to a final vote. Of the six Republicans— Susan Collins (ME), Rob Portman (OH), Dean Heller (NV), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Dan Coats (IN) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — five said that that their support is not guaranteed on the final bill. For a tally of the Tuesday vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/msocyzb.
The measure faces not only big hurdles in the Senate, but also longer odds of passing the House. Senate Democrats made another offer on Thursday, to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed through mid-November. Republicans, however, did not leap to embrace it. More unemployed Americans will lose their benefits as the year progresses and they surpass their states’ normal timelines.
Tuesday’s procedural vote in the Senate came as the two parties jockeyed over the political issue of rising income inequality, with Democrats pushing more aid for the jobless and an increased minimum wage. The crux of the negotiations is the GOP demand for offsetting savings from other portions of the budget. According to The Washington Post, GOP leaders are increasingly concerned about public perceptions that they are insensitive to those who are still struggling in the slow economic recovery. More at http://tinyurl.com/lya6wc2.
“Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Perhaps the anniversary is the reminder some elected officials need that the war has not yet been won.”
Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
Join us in Las Vegas as we sharpen our organizing and communication skills for the 2014 elections and beyond! We will elect national officers and also Community Board members. Questions? Contact Joni Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-637-5377. Ready to register? Download a registration form at http://tinyurl.com/nqnz97a or register on-line at http://tinyurl.com/prl8box.
National Academy of Social Insurance Conference Begins January 29 in DC
The National Academy of Social Insurance is hosting a conference, “Strengthening the Web of Financial and Retirement Security for Today's Working Americans,” January 29-30 in Washington, DC. For more information or to register, go to http://tinyurl.com/n37nbkt.
Obituary: Donna McGrath
Donna McGrath, who was President of the Nebraska Alliance for Retired Americans, died in Omaha on Saturday at the age of 83. Ms. McGrath was the first president of the Nebraska chapter of the Alliance. “The Nebraska AFL-CIO inducted her into their Hall of Fame,” said Mr. Fiesta. “We are thankful for her major contributions to the Nebraska Alliance in getting it off the ground and running, and we will all miss her greatly.”
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