September 21, 2015

September/October President’s Message   From NYS Alliance for Retired Americans President Barry A. Kaufmann

This summer has been a very busy and eventful one for me.  After being elected to serve our 440,000-member organization on May 13 I have been fortunate to be able to visit and speak with many of our members from across the state.  Since my election NYSARA has run a very successful and well attended Retirement Security event in Albany, I attended the White House Conference on Aging in Boston representing our membership and Seniors across New York State and the NYSARA delegation attended the ARA Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. as the largest state delegation. I was fortunate to attend and speak at a Central New York Chapter of NYSARA membership meeting, helped celebrate Medicare’s 50th birthday in Cohoes with a concert by Peter Yarrow and an absolutely wonderful event co- sponsored by our Capital District Chapter of NYSARA. I also attended the Central New York Chapter of NYSARA’s annual picnic where I got to speak with the author of Social Security Works, Professor Eric Kingston,  celebrated the 80th birthday of Social Security co-sponsored by our New York City Chapter of NYSARA, spoke to the Senior Legislative Action Committee of Sullivan County on the myths perpetuated by some in congress about Social Security, attended a Western New York Chapter of NYSARA Board meeting, Spoke to CWA Local 1180 Retirees on “the challenges facing retirees/seniors” and held our first and second organizational meeting for a future chapter in the Hudson Valley.

I have been impressed with the passion and dedication of the Regional NYSARA chapter leaders in our 5 existing Regions.  Kudos to Audrey Iszard and Doris Welch of the New York City Chapter of NYSARA, Kevin Willis of the Long Island Chapter of NYSARA, Karen Wojcik Hess of the Capital District Chapter of NYSARA, Gerald Lotierzo, Doug Matousek and Bill Spreter of the Central New York Chapter of NYSARA and Steve Muscarella of the Western New York Chapter of NYSARA. I look forward to working with them to serve our members.  We are seeking to have more Regional Chapter’s and their leaders join us to dramatically increase our activism and our profile.

On a very sad note I must report the passing of Dorothy Breen (CSEA), NYSARA’s only Treasurer, on September 10, 2015.  Dorothy was the epitome of activism and perseverance; she was a mentor and a role model to all and will be sincerely missed.  I will be proposing to the Board an annual award on Dorothy’s behalf to honor her efforts on behalf of NYSARA and all its members.

If you are reading this you are seeing our new web site.  Please share it with friends.  Particularly noticeable on the web site is a section detailing issues that NYSARA has taken a position on under the NYSARA action tab.  Some of the issues we have taken a position on are paid family leave, patient staffing and care in general but particularly with regard to the nurses at Ellis Hospital, the robbing of the Medicare trust fund to pay for our newest proposed trade deal (Trans Pacific Partnership) and a support memo for NYS legislative bill # AO5565A KAVANAGH/S04748 that would allow localities to raise the income eligibility limits for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program and the Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program to any amount up to $51,000 beginning on July 1, 2016. 

Also of note is our new partnership with the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) on the Spread the Word program.  This program educates women to the symptoms of Coronary artery disease.  When you think of diseases endangering women today, you may not initially think of coronary artery disease (CAD), but you should. CAD — a leading cause of heart attacks, heart failure, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), or even death — is not just a man’s disease. CAD is just as likely to occur in women, and the risk of a blockage in your heart arteries increases significantly as women age. CAD is a serious condition that can be less obvious in women, which is why you need to listen to your body and be an advocate for your own heart health. Find a link to the program and additional information under the tab “Senior Issues” then “important links”.

As Seniors/Retirees we face challenges locally and nationally like we never have faced before.  From untrue rhetoric about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid like Governor Chris Christie saying that ““Harvard and Dartmouth said that Social Security is going to go insolvent in seven to eight years.” To Former Governor Jeb Bush saying of Medicare “We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.”  What he means is vouchers…  To all of our opponents the solution is raising the retirement age (Which reduces benefits by 13% for every year it is raised), means testing it, or dismantling it piece by piece as the current house rule that prohibits transfers of funds from the Social Security Retirement fund to the Social Security disability fund has begun to do. This transfer has has been done between the funds 11 times before without negative impact.  If the house republicans persist in this endeavor millions of disabled Americans including seniors will see a 20% benefit cut in 2017.  Since disability income is barely at subsistence level this would have a devastating impact.  Then there are the challenges of the President’s proposed trade agreement impacting many policy areas, including drug pricing that could increase costs on seniors. Leaked language in TPP shows that pharmaceutical interests are advocating for a 12-year period of patent exclusivity for biologics. This proposal is contrary to the Administration’s budget proposal, which contains 7 years of exclusivity.  And as we all know name brand, exclusive drugs cost many times the amount of generics that are permitted after the period of exclusivity is over.  Also, if the TPP is passed foreign corporations or subsidiaries will be able to challenge a number of public programs, including Medicaid, the 340(B) program, the Medicare drug discounts negotiated under the ACA and the VA system, if these programs affect their profits. That is in addition to the utilization of Medicare trust fund money ($700 million) to pay for retraining of displaced workers that was in the original bill that the Alliance for Retired Americans was instrumental in beating back.

Because of these very real challenges it is more important than ever before for us to be on the same page.  It is imperative that we educate our 440,000 members and all seniors about what is true and what is merely rhetoric repeated ad nauseum. This rhetoric is designed to drive an agenda that attempts to roll back the calendar to a time where over 50% of our nation’s seniors lived in poverty and the choice was between protecting savings and protecting health.  We must stand up for our caregivers by standing for paid family leave and fight for safe staffing at hospitals as well as safe and efficient patient care. 

What can we do?  We need to ALL register to vote.  The senior vote makes up 25% of the total voters that cast ballots in 2014, up 4% from two years prior.  We need to educate our peers about what the true facts are.  We need to work together to make our voices heard in the laws, policies and institutions that shape our lives.  We need to realize the power that our 440,000 members in New York State and 2.7 million nationally bring to an issue.  The New York State Alliance for Retired Americans must become a force to be reckoned with.  I look forward to working with all of you in advocating for the issues that matter most to ALL retirees.

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In Solidarity,













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Topics: President's Message