PEF Retirees conference focuses on federal, state benefits
Our 2018 PEF Retirees Leadership Conference was held in April at the Woodcliff Hotel, Conference Center and Spa in Fairport, near Rochester. This year’s conference was very well received by the more than 80 participants who attended.
On the opening day, April 25, attendees were treated to a wonderful dinner with welcoming remarks from PEF President Wayne Spence. He praised retirees for our level of activism and the value of our contributions to PEF and the labor movement. We also had a PowerPoint presentation titled “Death by a Thousand Cuts” on proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It was a very informative presentation by Barry Kaufman, president of the NYS Alliance for Retired Americans.
2018 Social Security updates
• 2 percent COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) to benefits offset partially by an increase in Medicare Part B costs;
• Annual earnings subject to FICA (federal tax withheld from earnings that supports Social Security) increase by $1,500 to $128,700;
• Minimum retirement age for full Social Security benefit is 67 for those born in 1960 or later;
• Chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) is used to calculate new tax brackets and standard deduction in 2018 federal tax law. Is this a precursor to changing the Social Security COLA?
Social Security Adm. budget
• Cuts staffing by 1,000 workers, which means longer waits in offices and on the phone;
• Decreased staffing had already led to a 627-day average wait for disability hearings;
• $492 million cut in the agency’s administrative budget. That does not come out of the general fund, but out of the Social Security trust fund;
• Cuts $72 billion over 10 years from Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income; and
• 75 percent of Social Security Disability Income recipients are age 50 or older.
Other slides in the presentation covered “The Usual Tactics,” “Things the Majority in the House are attempting to cut Impacting Seniors,” Facts about the Social Security Administrative Budget,” “The Fight Ahead,” “NYS Budget Highlights for Seniors,” NYS Changes in The Taylor Law to Protect Unions,” and “To Blunt the Anticipated Janus v. AFSCME Changes.” Attendees gained a lot of useful information from this presentation. The last slide was “What we need to do:” in two words “POLITICAL ACTION.”
On the second day, our first workshop was on Elder Law and Estate Planning, which was facilitated by Steven Kramer of Feldman Kramer and Monaco. The second workshop was on current issues and legislation presented by PEF Legislative Director Greg Amorosi. After that we heard from NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on the state of our pension fund. We also listened to state Sen. Joe Robach talk about the state budget process. This was all before lunch, which was sponsored by Sun Life and was delicious.
After lunch we participated in a panel discussion on three issues:
1. The value of a defined-benefit pension and ensuring its future security;
2. Affordable comprehensive health insurance for NYS retirees; and.
. The preservation of Social Security.
The panelists included: Bryant Kolner, president of the Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations of New York; Jan Beutner-Shirtz, co-chair of the Genesee Valley Chapter of RPEA (Retired Public Employees Association); and Gail Meyers, deputy director of the NY Statewide Senior Action Council. The panel was both informative and interactive with the participants asking many questions.
Day 3 was short, 8-11 a.m. Following a breakfast sponsored by PEF MBP, we enjoyed an entertaining presentation from Robin Cammans, manager of PEF Travel Services. She told us about the latest deals and how to use their services. She shared her own river cruise experience on the Danube River.
We finished the conference with a low impact senior exercise session. It was fun and invigorating to get our bodies in motion before traveling home! Thank you to Jay Verna, Webster Town Recreation program.
Retiring or Retired? Join PEF Retirees now!
Membership equals benefits. Contact PEF Retirees at 800-342-4306, x289. DON’T DROP NYSHIP AT 65!