March 01, 2016
March/April Message from NYS Alliance for Retired Americans President Barry A. Kaufmann
It is the time of year to reflect on the successes of the past and project the actions of the future. The New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, long the best kept secret in New York State, has begun to take actions that will improve the lives of our members and all seniors in New York State. We have developed and strengthened partnerships that will help us moving forward. We have begun discussions with our State and National leaders on our issues and have gotten positive responses. We have helped move the ball forward on initiatives that matter to New Yorkers and have gotten people to listen because of our numbers and our credibility in representing our 440,000 members in New York State.
On national issues, NYSARA has continued the call for the rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) through communication with our members, the development of a one page statement on why NYSARA opposes the TPP, through promoting anti TPP resolutions in local municipalities and through participating, with many partners, in TPP forums across the state. Thank you to Jerry Lotierzo, Doug Matousek and Bill Spreter (Co-Presidents Central New York Chapter of NYSARA) for sponsoring a rally in Central New York on November 21. Thank you to Doris Welch (President NYC Chapter of NYSARA) and William Francis for their participation in a forum in Queens on January 21. Thank you to Stan Bergman (President Long Island Chapter of NYSARA) for his participation in an anti TPP forum on Long Island on January 28. Our national agenda is even more important at this time of the national campaign for President, 1/3 of the Senate and the House of Representatives. We must keep the issues of protecting and expanding Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the forefront and vote our interests in the fall. We must push for regulation of prescription drug prices, to prevent the gouging that companies do.
On the State front, NYSARA was asked by the 5 member Independent Democratic conference to take part in a survey of senior needs. We used the Action network to inform our members resulting in an upswing of survey responses, especially upstate. We were credited by the IDC for dramatically increasing their response rate. On February 19, 2016 Executive Director, John Costello and I traveled down to Queens to participate in a press conference to unveil the results of the survey. NYSARA was the driving force for getting paid family leave on the IDC’s Seniors First Agenda as a senior issue. We are supportive of many of the IDC priorities and have developed a relationship with the IDC that will enable us to have significant impact in future policy discussions regarding senior issues. We have offered suggestions to improve the IDC Senior agenda and will continue to work with them on behalf of our members. Remember, elections for the entire NYS legislature take place this November. NYSARA will educate its members about voting their interests in this most important election year.
On February 24, 2016, Executive Director John Costello and I had a ‘get acquainted’ meeting with NYS Senate Democratic Conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. We presented our priority issues and rationale, from the perspective of seniors. Legislators from all the conferences are VERY aware that seniors vote in a much higher percentage than the rest of the population.
The agenda we presented was:
Pass Paid Family Leave – 12 weeks at 2/3-wage replacement and mandated job return. This is a senior issue, as we never want our friends or loved ones to have to make a choice of financial distress or caring for us.
Increase the Minimum Wage – This puts more money in the Social Security and Medicare Trust funds thereby sustaining them. It also directly improves the economy because minimum wage earners typically spend the money. Lastly, because of the recession and other factors, seniors are often employed in minimum wage jobs. It is no longer only students.
Address Retirement Security – We need to find a way to address the retirement security pyramid. (Social Security and Medicare as the base, defined benefit pensions as the second level and investment income) We must find a way of increasing the defined benefit pensions even if it means having private employers buy into the NYS retirement system. We must change the thinking of legislators regarding 401k’s as a primary tool for retirement security. They were NEVER designed as a primary retirement vehicle, but were created as a tax deduction for corporate executives. Even now, the people who benefit most by these investments are the financial industry as the administrative costs of 401k’s and IRA’s is often triple that of defined benefit pensions. Finally, if most people are like me with investments, we can absolutely turn a $10 investment into $1 with far more skill than we can turn that $10 into $100.
Pass the Safe Patient Staffing Bill – A big Senior issue because of the higher number of seniors utilizing hospital care. Unsafe staffing hurts the bottom line by: increasing rates of costly hospital-acquired infections, increasing patient falls, increasing 30-day readmissions (fines of 1%-3% of Medicare income through provisions of the Affordable Care Act), increasing medical malpractice lawsuits, increasing nurse burnout and increasing staff turnover (cost for retraining) when compared to healthcare facilities that meet safe staffing levels.
Evidence and experience demonstrate that safe staffing is a cost-effective way to improve patient care and can lead to savings for our hospitals, nursing homes and our healthcare system.
Defeat the current Retiree Health Insurance issue in New York State – Knocking out the Medicare Part B reimbursement for retired state employees having the NYS health plan and increasing retired state employee health premiums is not a fair or viable option. When people make a decision to retire they do an analysis of their retirement income, including social security, pensions and savings. They analyze their expenses. They then make a decision to retire, sometimes with very little margin between income and expenses. Once in retirement, there are limited opportunities to raise their income level. If they retire under a defined set of information there should be no bait and switch by New York State. To change the rules in the midst of the game does not give retirees the opportunity to make an informed decision. Add to this the fact that New York State has offered a variety of retirement incentives and encouraged people to retire at the earliest possible time so NYS saves money by replacing higher priced senior employees with lower priced junior employees. This results in a negotiation where one set of rules is in place to encourage retirement and there is then a unilateral change in “terms and conditions” of the retirement. That is on its face abhorrent.
Monitor the process that proposes the establishment of an Office of Community Living – Proposing the merger of the Office for the Aging and Office for Disabilities. NYSARA opposes this without a clear-cut rationale and because of the possibility of loss of jobs. If the outcome is not CLEARLY beneficial it should not be considered.
Expansion of the EPIC Senior Drug program – As prescription drug prices skyrocket there is a need for more drug subsidies to seniors.
Making the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) permanent and equalize the permanent income limits of the SCRIE to the Senior Citizen Homeowner’s Exemption. – These two bills allow seniors to remain in their homes/communities by providing tax exemptions. The limits are set to sunset in 2016. NYSARA issued a support memo (found under the NYSARA action items tab on our website) last year.
We are beginning to assert our issues and must now be able to turn out activists to support our numbers. We can’t state that we have 440,000 members without people being able to see them in some form or fashion. We have some new tools to activate members and will be calling on our membership to take part in activities that enable us to advocate on behalf of seniors. To that end we will be holding our founding convention for the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans Education Fund. (501c4) Through the establishment of this organization we will be able to educate our members more fully, lobby on behalf of our organization and will be more likely to enable us to activate our membersip more fully.
April 14, 2016
11:00 am – 3:00 pm
800 Troy Schenectady Rd.
Latham, NY 12110
$10.00, which includes lunch and door prizes to those who stay until the end
Keynote speaker: Robert Roach Jr., President of the Alliance for Retired Americans
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