NRLN 1st Quarter 2008 Legislative Report
Working To Undo EEOC Rule - Actions taken by the Executive Branch of government have kept the National Retiree Legislative Network staff very active on Capitol Hill. First, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continued its attack on retirees by publishing its regulation allowing employers to reduce or eliminate healthcare benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. The NRLN has made it very clear to key members in the House and Senate that this ruling adversely affects over 10 million retirees in this country who will not sit idly by as they are discriminated against by corporate America with the EEOC’s blessing. We have been working in concert with other organizations, among them AARP, to engage Congress in possibly overturning this ruling through legislation. There are many challenges to overcome in this effort but we remain committed to the battle on the Hill.
Efforts To Overturn Treasury Rule - The second action was taken at the Department of the Treasury, which ruled that companies could freeze the pensions of older workers while those of younger workers can continue to accrue benefits. The NRLN is in active discussions with the House and Senate committees charged with oversight over these issues. These committees, including the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, have been working with the NRLN and several other organizations such as the Pension Rights Center in efforts to overturn the Treasury ruling. While all of these activities present an uphill battle, we remain hopeful that the voices of millions of retirees will be heard in Congress.
Promoting Retirees Healthcare Issues - The NRLN is also working with various committees on the Hill on establishing the parameters of the debate on healthcare. All during the last year there was a necessary but prolonged debate on the status of healthcare insurance for children. This is a very important issue, but one which did little to move the spotlight on either children or the rest of the population, most especially retirees. The NRLN’s goal is to highlight the plight of healthcare for retirees and to propose specific measures that would improve retiree healthcare in this country. Congress will be holding a variety of hearings touching on the various areas of healthcare. The NRLN has been and will continue to work with the Congressional committees (the House Committee on Ways and Means, the House Committee on Education and Labor, the Senate Committee on Finance, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) on promoting the needs of retirees as their situation becomes all the more dire.
News Release Condemns EEOC Rule – On January 2nd, the NRLN issued a news release in which NRLN President Bill Kadereit condemned the publishing of a new regulation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that allows employers to reduce or eliminate healthcare benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.
"More than 10 million American retirees who rely on employer-sponsored healthcare and prescription drug plans stand to be hurt by the EEOC's rule," Kadereit said. "How can the agency that was created to prevent discrimination issue a policy that discriminates on the basis of age?"
Kadereit said he believes that the EEOC is overstepping its authority and is attempting to legislate rather than protecting older retirees as required by the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
Action Alert Urged Rebates For Retirees – On January 27th, an NRLN Action Alert urged Grassroots Advocates to write to Senators, Representatives and President Bush to demand that low-income retirees share in the economic stimulus rebates.
In the sample letter, Grassroots Advocates wrote that they were outraged over the proposed economic stimulus legislation that would exclude rebates to some 20 million Americans whose income is solely or chiefly from Social Security. They noted that lower income retirees are part of our economy, too, and would put a rebate to immediate use for mostly living essentials.
News Release Called For Rebates For Retirees – On January 28th, the NRLN took its campaign to gain economic stimulus rebates for low-income retirees to the news media.
"When the Bush Administration and leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives announced last Thursday they had agreed on an economic stimulus package, they ignored the fact that retirees who live from month to month mainly on their Social Security are part of America's economy," Kadereit said. "It is unconscionable for low-income seniors to be left out of sharing in the economic stimulus plans."
Second Action Alert Supported Senate Bill – On February 2nd, the NRLN urged its Grassroots Advocates to write to their Senators requesting support for the "Baucus-Grassley Stimulus Bill" that would provide an economic stimulus rebate to 20 million Americans whose main or sole income is from Social Security.
The letter stated, “When the Senate takes up the economic stimulus legislation, you need to keep in mind that many retirees on Social Security struggle to pay for the bare necessities of life. It would be wrong to exclude them from receiving a rebate check to help them pay their bills and possibly purchasing a little extra something to help America's economy.
The Senators paid attention to the letters they received and passed a bill that included low-income retirees to receive an economic stimulus rebate. When the House took up the legislation again it also included low-income retirees for a rebate.
Letters To Washington On Agencies Rules - On February 11th, NRLN President Bill Kadereit sent letters to a dozen of Congress' top leaders asking what leadership they intend to provide to uphold the laws that were written to help workers and retirees, not harm them as the Treasury's and EEOC's rules are going to do.
He pointed out that the ruling by the U.S. Treasury Department allows companies to freeze the pensions of older workers yet; there is no evidence that leaders of Congress are taking any action to thwart the blatant incursions into the Congressional domain.
The letter also noted another situation where the Executive Branch has run roughshod over the intent of Congress. This is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's publishing of its rule in the Federal Register that allows employers to reduce or eliminate healthcare for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.
More than 10 million American retirees who rely on employer-sponsored healthcare and prescription drug plans stand to be hurt by the EEOC's rule. The EEOC is overstepping its authority. The agency is attempting to legislate rather than protecting older Americans as required by the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). How can the EEOC that was created to prevent discrimination issue a policy that discriminates on the basis of age?
NRLN Action Alert Asked AT&T Retirees To Write To Congress – On February 26th, the NRLN sent an Action Alert to AT&T Grassroots Advocates impacted by the Treasury rule to encourage them to write to their Senators, Representative and the Department of Treasury.
In the letter, AT&T retirees expressed their outrage over the U.S. Treasury's ruling 2008-7 that allows companies to freeze the pension accruals of older workers in certain cases without violating laws that were intended to protect the employees' and retirees' retirement nest eggs. They asked, “How can the Treasury Department's ruling allowing years with "zero accruals" be consistent with Congress' very strong statement against wear-aways in the Pension Protection Act of 2006? Treasury's action goes against Congress' intent of protecting an employee's right to earn an additional retirement benefit for each year of additional employment without regard to the age of the employee.”
NRLN News Release Announces Vow To Undo EEOC Rule – On March 25th, NRLN President Bill Kadereit vowed to mobilize America's retirees in an effort to have Congress pass legislation to overturn a rule by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that allows employers to reduce or eliminate healthcare benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.
"It is time for retirees to rise up in this election year and demand that members of Congress and the President prevent employers' from breaking their promises to provide retirement healthcare insurance," Kadereit said.
He claimed the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal from the AARP and let the EEOC's rule stand is a slap in the face to men and women who worked for decades to earn retirement healthcare benefits.
When you send a letter, call or meet with your elected representatives you are strengthening the NRLN’s voice for retirees on Capitol Hill. Also, when you become an Individual Member or renew your membership with your annual contribution you are helping the NRLN have the financial resources necessary to advance its legislative agenda.