|I hope each of you enjoyed your summer. Since then
much has been happening with NARFE.
Our Arizona legislative advocates were busy in August attending and talking to our senators and representatives and our Arizona state legislative representatives. Then in September, Congress went back to work and NARFE had to start preparing for further attacks on our benefits. Thankfully, with all our phone calls and letters, NARFE and our other coalition partners convinced our senators and representatives to beat back the 52% increase in Medicare premiums for those of us that worked under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or other retirement plans and did not pay into Social Security and also did not work enough quarters either before working for the Government or after we retired. As there will not be any COLA increase in 2016, it appears now, in mid-November, for those under the so-called “hold harmless clause”, the Medicare premiums will remain at $104.90 per month and for those that do not have their Medicare premiums taken out of their annuity, the premium will be $118.80 per month plus a $3 surcharge per month for a total of $121.80 per month. For those not already on Medicare and become eligible for Medicare in 2016 or later, these people will pay the $121.80 per month.
By mid-September, we received the list of 110 health fairs to be held in Arizona. A couple of these were cancelled but that left a good many health fairs to attend. Many of our Arizona chapters went to work getting volunteers signed up to attend many of these health fairs ranging from Flagstaff in the north to Douglas in the south and from Yuma in the west to Safford in the east. Of course most of these health fairs are in the Phoenix and Tucson areas and thus those chapter members have been busy. As I write this, all the health fairs have not been held but I want to thank everyone that worked at these health fairs and explained why the active working employees need to help us tell our senators and representatives that “Enough is Enough”. We need their help whether it be in a Local Chapter or the eNARFE Chapter.
Top legislative threats included:
1. Decreasing the rate of return on the Thrift Savings Plan’s (TSP) G Fund – reducing it from about 2.25 percent to about 0.02 percent. This money was to be used for a surface transportation funding bill. NARFE members were able to stop this at least for the time being.
2. Increasing federal retirees’ and employees’ health insurance premiums. Making employees and retirees pay a larger percentage of the health insurance premium cost. This also has not happened as of now.
3. Decreasing the Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) by switching to the Chained CPI. NARFE and our members do not support this bill but would support switching to the CPI-E which would include medical costs.
4. Decreasing federal employee pay by 6 percent through increased payroll deductions toward retirement. All current federal employees would not receive any additional retirement benefits but would get a 6 percent disguised pay cut.
5. Reduced federal pay raise or reinstituted pay freeze. It appears that in 2016 (third year in a row) there will only be a 1 percent pay raise. For those in the “locality pay areas”, they will receive a slightly higher increase. The only new “locality pay area” in Arizona is Tucson and that is effective January 1, 2016.
On October 16, 2015, I received the “Final Recommendations” from the Strategic Planning Committee – Strategic Goals report. I sent this out to ALL Chapter Presidents and asked them to share and discuss with their chapter members. A copy of this report will be included in this edition of the Arizona NARFE News. The National Executive Board (NEB) met on November 17-19, 2015, and that meeting was to further discuss these recommendations and the 2016 Budget. I have heard some comments from other states and/or chapters and I’m not sure where they are getting their information from because I do not read these recommendations to include some of their thoughts.
By the time that you read this article, Open Season for our Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) will have closed. I trust that you reviewed your current plan. If a current employee decided to enroll or make a change, you should have used Standard Form (SF) 2809 and returned it to your Human Resource Officer or used Employee Express if offered by your agency A retiree needed to use Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Form 2809 or OPM’s Annuitant Express system. As everyone knows our health insurance premiums on average increased by 7.4 percent; some more and some less. The big surprise was that there is not much difference in the premium between Self-and-Family and the new Self-Plus-One enrollment. Even more surprising is that in some cases, it is less expensive to continue enrollment in Self-and-Family. And, those federal families that have two (2) Self-Only enrollments will find that they will be paying more to go to a Self-Plus-One enrollment. I hope everyone considered all factors and made the best choice for themselves.
Well, it is that time of the year when many Local Chapters have held an election of officers. I certainly trust that every member stepped up and offered to help your chapter in some way; even on a Calling Committee that you can do from home. But, I want to remind every chapter, whether you had an election or not, that either the President, Secretary, or Membership Chair has to go online and complete a new F-7, Update to Chapter ____ Officer Roster. Please review all officer positions and change as needed but be sure to review the “Chapter Dues” and “Meeting Place” at the lower section of the form. This information is used by the Arizona Federation and some of it is included in our Arizona NARFE News such as the location of your meetings. Some of our NARFE snowbird friends and visitors might like to visit your chapter and possibly join.
A long time and we need new members to step forward. New members have new ideas and NARFE can always use new ideas. I had an email some time ago that stated that one thing that might stop people from volunteering for a NARFE office is the fear of failure. It stated that peoples’ confidence in their abilities diminishes as the years pile up since they retired and that to try something new may be out of their comfort zone. To try and prevent this, the outgoing officer might continue to act as the assistant officer and help the new person for a few months or whatever length of time it takes. Or, if someone was interested beforehand, the new person could shadow the person in office. This is and was a great idea and I would hope that those in office and those going out of office would be willing to help other members. Some of us have held the reins for
Shortly, it will also be Income Tax time. This year the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will require everyone to have an IRS Form 1095 in order to file our income tax returns for 2015. David Snell, Director, Federal Benefits Services Department, has stated “OPM will be providing information regarding the new tax forms required by the ACA.” The January NARFE magazine will include a short article on this subject. This magazine should be received in the later part of December. This IRS Form 1095 is proof that we have the minimum essential health care coverage required by the ACA.
As of December 1, 2015, Arizona will redistrict to four (4) districts. We were unable to find a volunteer to be the District Vice President (DVP) for District 3, the western side of Arizona. The new Districts are:
District 1 – DVP Ronnie Castaneda – Yuma Chapter 266, Valley West Chapter 1395, Sunnyslope Chapter 1686, and Sun City West Chapter 1789
District 2 – DVP Cris Gumbmann – Tucson Chapter 55, Sierra Vista Chapter 1400, Roadrunner Chapter 1874, and Casa Grande Chapter 1905
District 3 – DVP Peter Lamb – Prescott Chapter 321, Havasu Chapter 1413, Mohave Valley Chapter 1467, Flagstaff Chapter 1699, and Bradshaw Chapter 2106
District 4 – DVP Coral Van Hooser, Scottsdale Chapter 1234, Mogollon Chapter 1235, Saguaro Mesa Chapter 1469, and Tempe Chapter 1505.
The Federation Board members have been busy setting up our Biennial Workshop (Training) and working with the new District 4 setting up the 2017 Federation Convention. Hopefully by the time that you read this newspaper, both the contracts will be signed. And, I want to thank District 4 for agreeing to host the next Federation Convention.
Dates to Remember June 3-4, 2016 – 2016 Biennial Workshop – Clarion Hotel Phoenix-Chandler – Information will be available in early February
– Discussion of the Resolutions to be voted on at National Convention as well as Training
August 28, 2016 – September 1, 2016 – 2016 NARFE National Convention in Reno, Nevada
May 7-9, 2017 – Arizona Federation Convention – Holiday Inn & Suites, Mesa, AZ – Hosted by District 4
Hopefully you had a great Thanksgiving and didn’t eat too much and I wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season and a healthy New Year is 2016.
UPDATED: January 25, 2016