Iannuzzi Pushes Governor's Panel

February 26, 2014

President Dick Iannuzzi urged Gov. Cuomo's Common Core panel to get down to serious business. "Now that the governor's panel is under way, it is imperative for it to conclude its work swiftly," he said. "The clock continues to tick away the time until another battery of inappropriate Common Core tests will be imposed on anxious and stressed students, parents and teachers." And in a letter published in today's New York Times, Iannuzzi rebutted a Times editorial that suggested there's little need for concern about the state's use of standardized tests. "You dismiss these concerns because only 1 percent of teachers were rated ineffective," Iannuzzi writes in reiterating NYSUT's call for a moratorium. "But if the tests are flawed, the results are flawed, regardless of how few teachers or students are harmed."

The Chained CPI

February 26, 2014

Today, it was reported President Obama heeded OUR call and struck the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget.

The 4 million member Alliance for Retired Americans made eliminating the chained CPI our top priority of the past year. You have been key in making that successful. Thank you.

•    Our “Human Chain Against the Chained CPI” events across the country paid off!
•    Our grassroots educational forums actually turned the language and understanding of the “chained CPI” into the “chained CPI benefit cut” for seniors, veterans and others

•    We will continue to do our part to educate, advocate and mobilize for retirement security for Americans who work hard and should be able to count on a secure retirement. 
•    Now that the pesky chained CPI is out of the way, we can focus on the real task at hand, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which is to expand Social Security so that it fits the retirement security needs of today.

Thanks so much for your confidence, support and especially activism! Together, we do make a difference!

Sincerely,
Richard Fiesta
Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans

The Chained CPI

February 26, 2014

Today, it was reported President Obama heeded OUR call and struck the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget.

The 4 million member Alliance for Retired Americans made eliminating the chained CPI our top priority of the past year. You have been key in making that successful. Thank you.

•    Our “Human Chain Against the Chained CPI” events across the country paid off!
•    Our grassroots educational forums actually turned the language and understanding of the “chained CPI” into the “chained CPI benefit cut” for seniors, veterans and others

•    We will continue to do our part to educate, advocate and mobilize for retirement security for Americans who work hard and should be able to count on a secure retirement. 
•    Now that the pesky chained CPI is out of the way, we can focus on the real task at hand, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which is to expand Social Security so that it fits the retirement security needs of today.

Thanks so much for your confidence, support and especially activism! Together, we do make a difference!

Sincerely,
Richard Fiesta
Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans

Have You Sent Your New Year's Message?

December 28, 2013

Have you sent your New Year's message to the Regents?

NYSUT has and will continue to use every opportunity to push the Regents and other policymakers in Albany in the right direction. We can't do it alone. If you haven't done it, there's still time for you and your members to sign and send NYSUT's open letter to the Regents. We just passed 10,000 signatures! Right after the start of the new year, NYSUT will deliver the message to the chancellor, the board and the commissioner.

Good News and Bad News from SED

December 28, 2013

NYSUT's non-stop push to hold the Regents Board members accountable for their actions/inactions is starting to bear some fruit. This week the board approved its State Aid proposal, calling for a $1.3 billion increase, including increased investments in universal pre-K, $125 million more for professional development, additional funding for Common Core instructional materials, enhanced support for Career and Technical Education, and more equitable funding for high needs districts.

While this is a positive step forward, NYSUT is seeking a $1.9 billion increase in funding. We continue to press SED to make the necessary course corrections in the implementation of the Common Core and to support a three-year moratorium on the use of state standardized test scores in making high stakes decisions about students or teachers. NYSUT will continue to press the case with all policymakers in Albany so that students and teachers will not be unfairly and unnecessarily harmed by the inability or unwillingness of bureaucrats in Albany to provide the tools, support and time necessary to get it right.

NYSUT Calls for 3-year Moratorium

September 25, 2013

Updated November 2013
The events of the past several months continue to strengthen our argument for a moratorium:  a moratorium on the high stakes consequences of state standardized tests. This position allows us to remain committed to accountability, appropriate testing and the potential Common Core has to offer — if done right. A three-year moratorium allows for a reasonable period of time to repair the damage done last year, an opportunity to collect and analyze data appropriately, examine curriculum associated with the CCSS and make adjustments as needed.

As a strategy, a three-year moratorium keeps us aligned with our allies among parents, administrators and community groups. This places us in a strong position to achieve a favorable outcome that improves conditions for our members and the students they teach — our ultimate goal. As our legislative department finalizes language, I doubt we will have any trouble finding multiple sponsors!

In solidarity,

Richard C. Iannuzzi
President

**************

October 2013

This week the State Senate Education Committee held a hearing entitled "The Regents Reform Agenda: 'Assessing' Our Progress" in Brentwood. It is the first of four scheduled hearings over the next six weeks.

Nadia Resnikoff, president of the Middle County Teachers' Association and a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors, testified on behalf of NYSUT. Here's more from NYSUT.org.

She outlined the problems related to SED's rocky implementation of Common Core testing, the need for sufficient resources and transparency in the use of standardized tests, and ways in which the state can get it right. She launched NYSUT's call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences for students and teachers and postponement of the implementation of the Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement.

Testimony at the Senate hearings echoed the concerns that parents and teachers have repeatedly expressed about the pace of the Common Core's implementation, and the tremendous increase in the instruction time lost to standardized testing. Parents told lawmakers about the stress created by high-stakes testing, while one principal noted that fifth-grade students in her school will take 19 state and local tests this year.

Three more Senate hearings are slated for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Syracuse; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in Buffalo; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, in New York City.

Monitoring the New Evaluation Procedures

September 17, 2013

Public school classroom teachers should have received their 2012-13 composite scores and ratings by the end of the day on Sept. 3. Teacher Improvement Plans (TIPs), where required, must be provided within 10 school days after classes begin.

NYSUT is aggressively monitoring the delivery of scores, development of TIPs and number of appeals, and "will provide full protection and advocacy in support of our members' rights," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said.

NYSUT continues to challenge the timing, quality and nature of the testing and scoring as well as the rocky implementation of Common Core State Standards. It's important for local leaders to consult with their labor relations specialists and regional offices about ongoing developments. Resources are available on the Web site to help members understand what's next in the teacher evaluation process and how growth scores are determined

Charter Schools

September 17, 2013

The State Education Department has received 50 "Letters of Intent" for proposed charter schools. Of the 50, SED has accepted 28 and invited those entities to submit full applications by Sept. 18. They are in New York City (22), Buffalo, Oswego, Potsdam and Rochester. You can download the list as xls or pdf.

In addition, five other applications are working their way through SED's approval process. The five are in New York City (3), East Ramapo and Warwick Valley.

At the same time, the SUNY Board of Trustees, another charter-authorizer, has received 13 preliminary proposals to create new charter schools in New York City (11), Syracuse and Rochester. Click here for SUNY list.

NYSUT's Research and Educational Services Department today alerted all local presidents in school districts where charter schools might be in the pipeline. NYSUT will continue monitoring developments as the applications move forward.

Affordable Care Act

September 17, 2013

Affordable Care Act Will be a Boon for Early Retirees

The Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, set to open this October, are expected to make health insurance less costly and easier to obtain for early retirees.  Currently, many Americans who retire before 65 and are no longer insured through their employers find it extremely difficult to obtain health insurance. Many insurers charge higher premiums, or even refuse coverage, based on age or pre-existing conditions that are common among older Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act, it will be illegal for insurers to charge higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, and there will be a cap on how much premiums can rise based on age.  Additionally, low-income individuals will receive subsidies to help purchase insurance.  To learn more, read a New York Times article at http://tinyurl.com/owoee93.

Social Security & Medicare

June 6, 2013

Trustees Reports: Social Security Steady, Medicare Financial Outlook Improved
The Social Security and Medicare Trustees issued their annual reports on the state of the two programs’ finances today. Social Security, according to its Trustees, has a $2.7 trillion surplus, enough to fully meet the demands of a growing retiree cohort through 2033 – the same as last year. With no action from Congress, it would cover most benefits through 2087. The Trustees report for Medicare noted that its Trust Fund, which covers hospital care, can fully pay benefits through 2026 – two years later than forecast last year. The Medicare trustees report shows reduced cost growth; this is further proof in many experts’ eyes that health care reform is working for seniors.

Seniors and Credit Card Debt

April 1, 2013

Seniors Face Growing Credit Card Debt Crisis

According to two recent studies, seniors are facing an alarming, and growing, debt crisis. A report from AARP’s Public Policy institute and Demos, a research organization, compared the amount of credit card debt held by different age groups. The report found that Americans over the age of 50 carried an average balance of $8,278, while those under the age of 50 had a comparatively lower average balance of $6,258. A second study, from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, found that the percentage of income that Americans over 75 spend on debt payments substantially increased from 4.5 percent to 7.1 percent in just three years between 2007 and 2010. Experts pinpoint medical expenses as one of the primary causes of the increased debt. To read the New York Times write-up on that issue, go to http://tinyurl.com/chc7snk.

A Court Victory

February 28, 2013

Court of Appeals upholds privacy of pension information for teachers

The union hailed a unanimous appellate court ruling that affirms retired teachers have privacy rights that prevent their annual pensions from being published on websites and in newspapers.

"This is an important victory for our retired members," said President Dick Iannuzzi. "We are pleased that New York's appellate court has recognized that, after decades of dedicated service to their students and school districts, the privacy rights of retired teachers in the New York State Teachers' Retirement System should be protected."

Social Security - Direct Deposit

January 15, 2013
Social Security Checks: You are asked to Switch to Direct Deposit by March 1

Millions of Americans still receiving paper checks for Social Security and other federal benefits have less than two months to switch to electronic payments. In an effort to cut spending, federal officials began retiring paper checks in favor of direct deposits and prepaid “Direct Express” debit cards in May 2011. Since then, the Treasury Department has required all new recipients of payments from federal benefits programs -- including Social Security, Supplemental Security Income disability, Veterans Affairs and government pension plans -- to sign up for electronic payments. It set a March 1, 2013, deadline for all other recipients to do the same.

According to CNN, approximately 93% of payments are now being made electronically. However, about 5 million checks are still mailed each month -- representing an additional $4.6 million in monthly costs, since each mailed check costs 92 cents more than a direct deposit transfer, Treasury officials said on Tuesday. The agency said if it didn't push for the switch to electronic transfers, it would cost taxpayers another $1 billion over the next 10 years. Anyone who fails to make the change will still receive paper checks, but will be the target of more aggressive communication efforts, such as additional mailings, said Walt Henderson, a Treasury official. He warned that after March 1, Social Security beneficiaries receiving paper checks are not in compliance.

New W-2 Reporting Requirements

December 17, 2012

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to report the cost of health insurance coverage on W-2 forms issued in 2013 for calendar year 2012. Please note that this is informational reporting only with the intent to make employees more informed consumers.  This amount is not taxable. For further information, go here.

Right to Work for Less law - Michigan

December 17, 2012

Labor unions are preparing to challenge the devastating union-busting bill signed into law this week by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The law, which affects public and private sector workers, takes effect in early April and does not change existing contracts. In other words, if a contract does not expire until 2015, that's when the new law will take effect.

Union leaders are already working to muster public support for overturning this law, which was criticized by President Barack ObamaAFT President Randi Weingarten and many others such as AFT.

The "Fiscal Cliff" Debate

December 4, 2012

According to Politico, top officials who have been involved in the "fiscal cliff" talks for many months say the parameters of a deal including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will most likely contain are starting to take shape. Earlier this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney had said that Social Security is one program that should be addressed on a “separate track,” telling reporters that the country should address the drivers of the deficit, and that Social Security currently is not driving the deficit.

Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has also urged his colleagues on Capitol Hill to keep Social Security out of the deficit reduction debates consuming the Capitol in the lame duck session. “Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit,” said Mr. Durbin on ABC’s “This Week.” Sen. Durbin also argued that Social Security is not in crisis, and should not be dragged into the debate on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which concerns other issues entirely. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has long held those views as well.

In contrast, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has told Democrats that Social Security must be on the chopping block for him to vote on any deficit deal. Graham has called for a further increase in the retirement age, as well as means tests to further restrict access to Social Security’s funds. Politico reported on Thursday that House Speaker John Boehner did not answer directly when asked to choose between going over the fiscal cliff or extending tax rates only for those making below $250,000.

“I find the Speaker’s non-answer stunning,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “That is a question that I think Speaker Boehner should be able to answer.”

“Raising the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 remains one of the most frightening prospects as the deficit talks continue,” added Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

The Alliancefor Retired Americans Closing in on Goal of 10,000 Letters to Congress!

Alliance members have already sent more than 7,800 messages to their U.S. Senators and Representatives, urging them to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and oppose any benefit cuts to these programs in deficit reduction legislation. Our goal is 10,000. If you have not sent a letter and would like to, please go to http://bit.ly/TwHHiQ

Congress is back in Washington

December 4, 2012

Congress is back in Washington this week and negotiations are under way right now to reduce the federal deficit.  Retirees need to act now and in a loud voice to tell Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of retirees who have earned their guaranteed benefits after a lifetime of hard work.

Please click here to send a letter to your U.S. Senators and Representative today.

Social Security has not added one penny to the deficit.  Medicare and Medicaid have also improved the lives of millions of Americans of all ages.  These vital programs have not caused the deficit the country faces.  Instead, reckless tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthiest and greedy Wall Street behavior have. It’s time for us to tell Congress hands off on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Make those who caused the deficit pay for it.

Click here to send a letter to your U.S. Senators and Representative today. 
 They need to hear from you and thousands of other retirees as soon as possible.  Together we can create one loud voice to preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for our own and future generations.

Empire Plan Dual Membership

October 12, 2012

I just received this from the President of CORTLI.
Joan

Attention All.

I have some more information on the Changes to the Empire Plan for Public Employees, 
especially for couples with Family Coverage for both.  If one of those do not OPT OUT the plan will drop the coverage on the spouse with the longest time in the plan. That could result in problems if the plan owner dies first leaving the survivor with NO coverage. The survivor would then have to apply to be reinstated as a single by their former employer, or continue for 18 months on Cobra paying 102% of the premium. 

Any one who has this dual coverage would probably be best served by converting to 
single coverage from each employer. I believe most employers would welcome that 
change as it would lower the premium portion they are paying.

If that is good for you, you should make the change as soon after October 15th as possible, but no later than December 7th. This the period where coverage changes are allowed and all changes will go into effect on January 1st, 2013.

Families with dual coverage who may have children at home under the age of 26, (probably rare), will have to make another type of change but I am not sure about what would be best at this time. I will continue to seek information for you.

Remember this information is for retired Teachers and public employees in the NEW YORK STATE EMPLOYEES (NYSHIP) EMPIRE PLAN, NOT ANY OTHER PLANS INCLUDING THE BLUE CROSS / BLUE SHIELD PLAN ALSO CALLED EMPIRE PLAN.

Please note: Medicare Rights has NO information at the moment regarding these changes. Also NYSUT has no part in negotiating the NYSHIP EMPIRE PLAN, that is done by the NEW YORK STATE CSEA.  

Jay
 

Medicare Rx and NYSUT

September 29, 2012

NYSHIP Empire Plan Medicare Rx change Jan. 1
NYSHIP Empire Plan retirees who have Medicare as their primary insurance will automatically be enrolled in a Part D Medicare prescription plan on Jan. 1, 2013, unless they cancel coverage. The co-pays and list of covered prescriptions will be the same or better than that offered to the in-service members. There is no coverage gap ("donut hole"). The reason for this change is the Empire Plan's ability to benefit from a 50 percent discount for brand-name drugs as part of the Affordable Care Act.

September is Healthy Aging Month

September 17, 2012

With September “Healthy Aging Month,” the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institute of Health, recommends patients over 50 talk to their eye doctors about yearly comprehensive dilated eye exams. Unlike a basic exam for glasses or contacts, a comprehensive dilated eye exam actually examines the back of your eyes and can catch vision-decreasing eye diseases before symptoms start to show. Eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, and glaucoma can all lead to partial or full sight loss. “By the time symptoms of vision loss are noticeable, the damage is often permanent,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. However, when these diseases are caught early, they can often be treated or repaired before substantial damage occurs to the eye. For more information, tips for finding an eye care professional, or a list of organizations that can help provide financial assistance for eye care, visit the National Eye Institute (NEI) Healthy Eyes website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/agingeye

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