October 08, 2010

Early Voting is Under Way in Fourteen States

According to USA Today, early voting, in which a voter may cast a ballot at an elections office, is underway in 14 states. Early voting gets underway in another 17 states and in the District of Columbia over the next two weeks. In all, 33 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of in-person early voting, while other states allow voters to file absentee ballots early, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). Vermont kicked the voting off on Sept. 20, followed by South Dakota on Sept. 21, Iowa and Wyoming on Sept. 23, Nebraska on Sept. 27, Ohio on September 28, Wisconsin on October 3, California and Indiana on Oct. 4, and Arizona on October 7. Rather than setting a date far in advance, some states began offering ballots when they became available. For the first time this year, Illinois voters are casting absentee ballots without having to explain why they are doing so; this is known as “no excuse” absentee voting. “I encourage Alliance members to take advantage of early voting, so that your ballot will count even if you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Early ballots accounted for 41.3% of primary ballots this year, up 2 percentage points from 2006. In all, up to 70 percent of voters now have some access to early voting under state laws that permit voters to cast ballots before Election Day for any reason – not just because they expect to be out of town on November 2. For information on your state, go to http://bit.ly/bDKJF0. If you need additional information about casting your ballot, call your state or local board of elections.

Social Security More Crucial than Ever as Pension Reductions are Proposed

A Washington Post story on Wednesday described public employees nationwide being targeted for massive pension and benefit cuts [ http://wapo.st/aFhAok ].  In California, for example, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a two-tiered system for pensions in which new state workers receive reduced benefits; Illinois just raised the retirement age for new employees; and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says that public employee pension reform is one of the most essential factors for the state’s fiscal health. “Social Security is more important now than ever. We cannot allow fanatics to slash Social Security when pensions are in danger of being cut and the retirement income gap is growing exponentially in all sectors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Alliance Acts to Protect Seniors Placed in “Observation” Status

The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) – a coalition of national not-for-profit organizations, including the Alliance, which represents 60 million older Americans – is supporting H.R. 5950, the “Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2010.”  In a letter to Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), sponsor of the legislation, LCAO signatories wrote that the bill will address the current problems caused by Medicare beneficiaries being placed in “observation” status rather than being admitted to the hospital.

“Observation” is the term used to describe the outpatient status of a patient who is in a hospital, but not as an inpatient. Although Medicare rules limit observation to 24-48 hours, many older people and people with disabilities nationwide are experiencing extended stays in acute care hospitals under observation. One major consequence for beneficiaries of not being classified as an inpatient is that their subsequent stays in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) are not covered by Medicare.  Additionally, the prescriptions they take while in the hospital in observation status are not paid for, as they would be if the beneficiaries were inpatients. H.R. 5950 amends the Medicare statute’s definition of “post-hospital extended care services,” to clarify that people in extended hospital stays are deemed inpatients in the hospital.

Arizona Alliance Members Join with Rep. Grijalva to Protect Social Security

Approximately 100 seniors turned out on Tuesday to hear Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s (D-AZ) pledge to protect Social Security. He read his letter to the President which states that Congress will oppose any and all proposals to change Social Security from the program as it is now, including any attempts to cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or privatize it. The congressman explained to the crowd that he had originally planned to mail the letter to the President once 40 others signed on, but now he has 129 signatures, and more are being added.  Rep. Grijalva took questions at the end, and after meeting with the seniors, he and Arizona Alliance leaders returned to his office, where they participated in a conference call on Social Security that included reporters and Ms. Easterling.

Alliance Leadership Travel: New Mexico

Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle traveled to New Mexico on Wednesday.  While there, he had a working dinner with the New Mexico Alliance board and joined AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee in speaking at a rally.

New Hampshire Alliance Protests “Fiscal Solutions Tour”

New Hampshire Alliance members joined with other progressive groups in the state for inter-generational protests outside multiple “Fiscal Solutions Tour” events on Thursday. “The protesters made known their opposition to the extreme ideas of arch-conservative Pete Peterson, who was financing this tour promoting Social Security cuts along with the Concord Coalition,” said Mr. Coyle.  “Their tour proposes gutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, solving the nation’s fiscal problems on the backs of seniors.” Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) is a member of the Fiscal Commission that is considering the cuts, giving New Hampshire added prominence in the debate.

Something on Your Mind?  Write Letter, Win Pen.

Letters to the Editor are widely-read and are a great chance to make your voice heard.  Under the Alliance’s Retirees with the Write Stuff campaign, if you write a letter on any retiree issue and it is published, send us a copy and will we mail you a U.S. union-made Retirees with the Write Stuff pen.  Recent winners include: Tory Anderson, Leon Burzynski, Michael Doyle, Charles Fair, Julie Harbin, Ellen Kadransky, Terry Lochhead, Gerald Lotierzo, Margaret Mace, Ruby Mueller, John Newman, Becci Robbins, Bea Stratton, Arlou Waller, Walt Yesberg, andPeggy Zimmerman.  Send your letter to ARACommunications@retiredamericans.org.

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