The mission of the Alliance for Retired Americans is to strive for social and economic justice, and civil rights for all citizens to enjoy lives with dignity, personal and family fulfillment, and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Making it easier for new-to-Medicare people - petition

Signing up for Medicare can be complicated, and if you make mistakes, costly.  Please sign this petition to demand that our government make it easier for us to navigate this process. 
Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65 and become Medicare-eligible. But enrolling in Medicare is very complicated, especially for people who are still working. All too often, people new-to-Medicare make costly mistakes.
Despite the diversity of circumstances among newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries, the transition traps they fall into are very much the same and can be addressed through notification and education prior to turning age 65.
If Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) don’t do more to support people new-to-Medicare, newly enrolled Medicare beneficiaries may face lifetime late enrollment penalties, higher health care costs, gaps in coverage and disruptions in their care.
Thanks for taking the time to make your voice heard!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Retirees are watching

Seniors Watching to Ensure the 114th Congress Does Not Cut Their Earned Social Security and Medicare Benefits

Key Committee Chairs Scored 0% on Legislation Important to Seniors

The following statement was issued today by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, as the first session of the 114th Congress convened.

“Retirees will be watching the 114th Congress this year to see if it protects seniors or instead follows a radical right-wing agenda and enacts legislation that cuts seniors’ earned Social Security and Medicare benefits. Retirees will have some very specific questions in mind. For instance:

Will Congress “voucherize” Medicare and turn it over to private insurance companies?
Will Congress pass Medicare legislation that shifts additional health care costs to seniors?
Will Congress try to use fast-track authority to cut Social Security benefits?
Will “Reform to Save” mean cuts to important safety-net programs such as Meals on Wheels?
Will Americans continue to pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world?

“Seniors certainly hope that the answers to these questions is ‘No,’ but there is reason to worry. According to the Alliance for Retired Americans’ most recent Congressional Voting Record (http://tinyurl.com/kxfrped), the House Majority Whip and key U.S. House committee chairs all scored 0% on legislation that was important to seniors in 2013.

“They include Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA); Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (TX); Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (GA); Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (TX); Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (VA); Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (UT); Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (FL); and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (WI), whose policies have been studied in-depth by the Alliance when he was Chairman of the Budget Committee (http://tinyurl.com/ow267fc).

“In the Senate, both Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (TX) scored 0% on seniors’ issues in the Alliance’s 2013 Voting Record – as did Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (AL); and Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (WY).

“The Alliance for Retired Americans remains deeply supportive of the efforts of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV), each of whom scored 100% on the Alliance’s voting record in 2013. We remain confident in their ability and willingness to stand up for seniors and provide a firewall against attacks on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Reposting this important article on the Social Security Trust Fund

We posted this article last year and given that the Republicans in Congress are making a lot of noise about cutting Social Security, we thought it would be a good article to look at again.

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

Report on the Accuracy of Predictions of Social Security Insolvency
presented by Sara Dustin, New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans Board Member


During his meeting with board members of the New Hampshire Chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans in November, 2013, Senator Ayotte's State Director, Bud Fitch, asked me if I would go through the most recent Annual Report of the Social Security Trustees (2013) with him to assess the accuracy of its predictions of program insolvency. I agreed to do this once I had completed my analysis of the relevant data in this 254 page document.

I have identified four problems with the data the Report uses to predict the date at which the program is expected to become insolvent. These problematic data series are used to estimate the date when the program's combined annual income from payroll taxes, interest on the U.S. Treasury Bonds held by the Trust Fund, and Treasury's redemption of Trust Fund Bonds, will fail to match the total sum of the benefits owed in that year.

1.The Trustee's estimates of the future growth of the U.S. labor force and the U.S. economy are unrealistically pessimistic, speeding up the date when they predict the program will become insolvent.
While the Trustees allow a brief up-tick in annual GDP growth of 2.9 to 4 .0 % per year for the five years between 2013 and 2018, they then project that the economy will settle back down to a historically low average-growth-rate of 2.0 to 2.1% per year for the rest of the century!  Over the same time period, labor force growth is projected to drop to one third of its 1960-2000 average. These expectations lead them to predict that payroll tax receipts will not increase fast enough to keep up with the demand for benefit payments after the last Trust Fund Bonds have been cashed out, in 2033, even though the Baby Boom Bulge will have subsided by the time they predict that that event will occur. They underlie their warning that the system will be permanently insolvent after that date, and fuel the urgency with which they request that benefit growth be slowed or program revenue increased now. [The 2013 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance and Federal Disability Trust Funds, p. 105, Table V.B2.: Average annual unemployment rate, Labor force and Real GDP; “Historical Data” 1966-2007 and “Intermediate” (projections) 2014-2090.]

The Trustees base this prediction on two major assumptions of questionable accuracy. First, they expect total immigration to drop so substantially it can no longer compensate for the slowdown in the number of new workers the native population, with its dropping birth rates and aging population, will be able to contribute to the 21st century workforce. Since economic growth rates are heavily dependent on the availability of workers to hold jobs, this slowdown in workforce growth can be expected to slow GDP growth. However, if total Immigration returns to its pre-Great Recession levels, job growth and payroll tax receipts can be expected to exceed the Trustees' expectations, and the date of insolvency to recede into the future. [See section 3. below, for detail]

The Trustees also appear to expect that once the economy has recovered from the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve will return to its long standing policy of prioritizing inflation control over job growth. It is their stated assumption that they can count on the consistency of Fed policy, and their unemployment projections are consistent with the expectation that sometime around 2015, the Fed will begin to clamp down on economic growth again in order to maintain the 5.5% rate theoretically believed necessary to keep inflation at 2%, and persist in this policy for the remainder of the century. That outcome can reasonably be expected to slow GDP growth, job growth and the growth of payroll tax revenue.
The re-instatement of this Federal Reserve policy of maintaining elevated unemployment rates would also contributing to further increases in income inequality as the buying power of slower growing wages* fall or stagnate against inflation and the entire $ value of increased worker productivity accrues to ownership. The appointment of a new Fed Chairman with a stated priority for job growth, and mounting concerns about the effects of steadily growing inequality on our democracy suggest that the Trustees may be mistaken. If Fed policy should change to allow the economy more latitude to grow, GDP growth, job growth and payroll tax receipts will increase. [*A number of well vetted studies show that higher unemployment rates are associated with slower real wage growth.]

Finally, Trustees appear to be predicting GDP growth for the remainder of the 21st Century by projecting the slow growth record of the recession and jobless recovery years of between 2000 and 2012. However, the previous 50 years, including the 1990s during the second four years of the Clinton Administration, are characterized by annual GDP growth rate averaging 3.0% or better. This growth level not only produced sufficient payroll tax revenues to pay all current obligations during that period, but also generated the consistent annual surpluses that, at last report, have purchased $2.8 Trillion Dollars of Treasury Bonds for the Trust Fund.

In the past, Trustees' forecasts which gave too much weight to slow GDP growth rates in bad years have led to premature predictions of insolvency. For example, projections generated shortly after the deep recession years of 1979 and 1980-1981 predicted the Social Security system would be insolvent by the mid 1990s.

2. Because the average rate of GDP growth is expected to be so slow, future federal interest payments on the Trust Fund Bonds are underestimated, accelerating the projected date of insolvency.
Depressed GDP growth rates are typically accompanied by elevated unemployment rates, and have historically led the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates on Treasury Bonds low in an effort to avoid depressing the economy further. Lower interest rates mean smaller interest payments on the Trust Fund bonds and thus to a prediction that the future income available to the program from this source will be less than it would be if the economy were to grow more strongly than predicted. And because surplus interest payments are immediately reinvested in Treasury Bonds and deposited in the Trust Fund, they also expect the reserve of bonds in the Trust Fund to grow more slowly and run out sooner than it would if the economy returns to its pre-recession vigor and interest rates rise. [p.105, Table V.B2: Average annual interest rate/Nominal/”Historical data” 1966-2007 and “Intermediate” (projection) 2012-2090. Also Introduction p.4, Paragraph 2, last sentence.]

3. Future immigration appears to be substantially underestimated, reducing projected job growth and payroll tax revenues and supporting predictions of short and long term insolvency.
The trustee's project a substantial and permanent decrease in total annual immigration. They predict that annual legal immigration, which has increased almost without interruption for the last 70 years, to cease growing after 2015. And they expect illegal immigration to fall to two thirds of the levels prevailing in the pre-recession 2000s by the end of the century. The prediction that illegal immigration will decline sharply is based on the stated assumption that improved border control measures will work. History suggests that desperate people will always find new routes to come to America.

The Trustees also seem to be over weighting the steep decline in the flow of illegal immigration that occurred between 2008 and 2012, as the Great Recession reduced the number of jobs available to the undocumented. The projection appears to reflect the expectation that the economy and the job market will remain weak enough for the rest of the 21st century to prevent immigration from ever rebounding to pre recession levels. [p.86, Table V.A1: Principal Demographic Assumptions, Calendar Years 1940-2090/ Net Immigration/ Legal and Other/ Historical data 1940-2012 and Intermediate (projection) 2015-2090.]

4. Because of these minimal GDP growth projections, the growth rate of the population of workers retiring early on Social Security Disability may be overestimated, leading the Trustees to overestimate future costs to the program and underestimate the growth of jobs held and payroll tax revenues.
At first glance, the Trustees' projection of the growth of the portion of the labor force on disability over the course of the 21st Century appears, if anything, conservative. However, the  Trustees do project that the population of workers who are drawing disability benefits will remain at the record levels set during the Great Recession for the near future, and grow upon that base thereafter. If the economy should improve rather than flat lining, older workers will be more likely to be able to remain in their career jobs until retirement and less likely to be forced onto the Disability Program prematurely by layoffs and the exhaustion of their unemployment benefits. For this reason, the population on Disability can reasonably be expected to grow more slowly and payroll tax collections from older workers to remain higher if the post-recession economy grows more strongly than projected. This would, at the very least, push out the date of insolvency and possibly put off that problem indefinitely. [p. 133, Table V.C5, “DI Beneficiaries With Benefits in Current Payment Status at the End of Calendar Years 1960-2090/ Disability prevalence rates/Gross/ Historical data 1970-2012 and Intermediate (projection) 2013-2090.]

Further observations and a policy suggestions that emerged from the Board's discussion of Section 4:
Board member and long term State Representative Larry Converse pointed out that recession increases disability payments because it forces older workers laid off from their career jobs to re-enter the job market in entry level positions designed for young bodies. Because these jobs are much more physically demanding than the more skilled positions they acquired during a lifetime of work, they accumulate injuries that force them onto Disability.  If the economy grows more strongly than the Trustees predict, older workers can be expected to remain healthier and work longer, increasing payroll tax receipts and reducing the percent of workers on disability.

Sara pointed out that because Social Security disability payments are so low, many older, laid-off workers, forced onto SSI by recession layoffs, must supplement their checks with  part-time work in order to pay their basic living expenses. Unrealistically restrictive SSI limitations on earnings force them to seek these jobs in the underground economy, where the income can be hidden from the program---and is not subject to payroll taxes.  Therefor, revenue that would be available to the program if the economy was healthy is lost to the Social Security system.

The enactment of more realistic SSI supplemental earning limits, sufficient to legalize the attempts of disabled workers with some remaining capacity to work to assemble a living income from a combination of benefits and part-time work, would permit these workers to work above the table and contribute what they still can to the national payroll tax wage pool.  Even if the economy were to remain slow, this reform would increased payroll tax revenues and extend the solvency of the Social Security system.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

EngAGING NH - A Citizen Voice for the Aging Experience

You may want to sign up for newsletters from this organization.  They have a lot of useful information and ideas.  Here's what they are all about:
EngAGING NH promotes citizen leadership and the active involvement of New Hampshire’s older adults in the development of  communities and public policies that support all individuals as they age.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Seniors need to contact their representatives on this NOW!

The 114th Congress started out with an attack on Social Security by the US House of Representatives.
Republican opponents of Social Security have not wasted even a single day in their plan to dismantle Social Security brick by brick.  What should be a dry, mundane exercise — the adoption of new rules by the newly convening House of Representatives — has turned into a stealth attack on America’s working families.
You can read more about this here.
Republicans are starting the new Congress by attacking Social Security funding through a subtle, obscure policy measure buried in the gigantic bill that establishes parliamentary rules for the new session.
The rules measure, passed late Tuesday after other day-one business like formal swearing-in ceremonies for members were completed, escalates the threat of a significant cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) within the next two years. The measure bans a common accounting technique that the people who manage Social Security funding have used many times in the past to prevent benefit cuts. The two funds that comprise the Social Security system have essentially borrowed from one another as necessary over the years to ensure that benefits can be paid in full each year. SSDI, which is the primary program for providing federal benefits to people unable to work due to disability, is projected to hit a shortfall in late 2016. Reallocating revenue from the much larger Social Security retirement benefits fund to SSDI would cover the shortfall, and trust fund managers have performed such reallocations 11 times since the late 1950s.
Please contact Congresswoman Kuster by e-mail or phone if you live in the Second District, and contact Congressman Guinta by e-mail or phone if you live in the First District, and tell them that you will not stand for any attacks on our Social Security benefits.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Another blow to retirement security

The recent bill to fund the government into 2015, the so-called "CROMNIBUS," contains a provision affecting certain multi-employer pension plans.  It has passed Congress and been signed by the President.  If you have a pension, you need to check into the provisions of this legislation.
The provision allows trustees in multiemployer plans in “critical and declining” status to suspend a portion of the accrued and vested pension benefits of their workers and retirees.
Retirees that are disabled and those 80 years of age and above are exempt from any benefit reductions. Retirees between would 75 and 80 would see partial benefit reductions compared to beneficiaries under 75.
Multi-employer plans that want to reduce or suspend the benefits must obtain approval from the Treasury Department and must comply with the following conditions:
 For plans with 10,000 or more participants, the plan's board of trustees must select a participant in pay status to act
as a retiree representative whose role is to advocate for the retired and deferred vested participants throughout the
suspension process.
 The plan's actuary must conclude that, with the proposed suspension, the plan will avoid insolvency, and the board
of trustees must determine that the plan will become insolvent without the suspension, and that all other
reasonable measures to avoid insolvency have been taken.
 The monthly benefit of any participant may not be reduced below 110% of the amount guaranteed by the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
 Plan participants must vote before reductions can be implemented. If the plan participants reject the reductions, the
Secretary of the Treasury may still permit the requested suspension, or a modification, to take effect for certain
"systemically important" plans – those that pose the greatest financial exposure to the PBGC.
 The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 (in 2015) per
participant per year. Thereafter, premium increases are indexed based on the national average wage index.
Thanks to the national Alliance for Retired Americans for this information.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Yes, it's December 31 and certainly it's cold.  But here are some memories from 2014, starting with one of our many rallies like this one in summer outside Senator Ayotte's office in Manchester.  


Spring brought us together for a Meet 'n Greet and policy discussion. 


We marched in parades on the 4th of July,


and endorsed candidates during election season,


and all year we had in our minds and hearts all the retirees, and all those who want some day to retire, in New Hampshire and across the country. 

We'd love to meet more of you in 2015, come join us as we work for dignity and security for all in retirement!