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August 4, 2015

Retirees ask Congress to “Keep Our Pension Promises”

More than 100 retired truck drivers from seven states drove to Capitol Hill on June 18 to ask Congress to overturn a recently-enacted law that allows certain financially-troubled pension plans to reduce the benefits of hundreds of thousands of pensioners. They attended an early-morning briefing led by the Pension Rights Center’s Digital and Outreach Director, Joellen Leavelle, and then participated in an outdoor press conference where Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and other congressional co-sponsors announced the introduction of the Keep Our Pension Promises Act of 2015. PRC staff then accompanied the retirees to meetings where they urged their elected representatives to support the legislation which will preserve their benefits, their pension plans, and the federal pension insurance program.

More: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Marcy Kaptur Act to Stop Devastating Cuts to Retirees' Pensions | Fact sheet: Why the “Keep Our Pension Promises Act” Must Be Passed | Photos from early-morning briefing

Robert Roach joins Pension Rights Center’s board of directors

New fact sheet and calculator help certain retirees predict possible pension loss

Robert Roach, Jr., who recently retired as General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, has joined the board of directors of the Pension Rights Center. Robert has 40 years of experience protecting pensions, including as the IAM’s chief financial officer and as a trustee of the IAM National Pension Fund. Most recently, Robert and IAM legislative staff worked with other unions, the Center, and AARP to oppose cutbacks in retiree benefits and to support the introduction of the Keep Our Pension Promises Act. He was a featured speaker at the June 18 press event announcing the legislation. A July 29 IAM statement quotes PRC’s board chair Nancy Altman as saying that “Robert’s expertise and dedication to protecting and strengthening the retirement security of America’s working families will be invaluable assets to the extremely important work of the Center.”

New IRS and Treasury repayment and lump-sum rulings will protect retirees

The Pension Rights Center has long advocated for curbs on pension repayment demands (also known as recoupment) and lump-sum buyouts that endanger retirees’ financial well-being. Sparked by client concerns brought to the attention of the Internal Revenue Service by the Center and the Pension Counseling and Information Program, the IRS issued guidance this spring, clarifying that pension plans are not required to seek repayment when retirees are mistakenly overpaid. The agency also sought comments on rules that should apply in overpayment situations. PRC’s Policy Analyst Jane Smith submitted our comments to the IRS on July 20.

Also in July, the Treasury Department and the IRS announced that companies will no longer be allowed to offer lump-sum buyouts to retirees already receiving a monthly pension – a position that we and other organizations representing retirees have urged the agencies to take. Lump-sum buyouts turn guaranteed lifetime retirement income into one-time sums of money that can easily be outlived.

PRC supports proposed Labor Department investment advice rule

In its ongoing efforts to ensure that consumers in retirement plans receive investment advice that is free from conflicts of interest, the Labor Department has issued a new proposed rule that would require financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients, rather than to maximize profits for themselves or their firms. On July 21, PRC’s Senior Policy Advisor Norman Stein submitted comments strongly supporting the proposed rule.

Pension Rights Center represented at White House Conference on Aging

The White House held its once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging, where it announced new initiatives to strengthen retirement security. Karen Friedman, the Center’s executive vice president and policy director, was one of 200 invitees to the conference. Prior to the event, she submitted comments on the Conference’s retirement security policy brief. At the conference, President Obama announced that the Administration will be providing guidance to states interested in administering retirement programs for private-sector workers who are not currently covered by workplace plans.

Former hospital employees thank PRC for helping to save their pensions

Representatives of the Pension Rights Center traveled to Orange, New Jersey to join 120 former employees of the Hospital Center at Orange in celebrating the second anniversary of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s decision to restore federal insurance protection to the bankrupt hospital’s pension plan. At the event, the Center was recognized for its role in helping to save the plan which had been declared a church plan exempt from federal law. The Center has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in three federal courts of appeals in cases challenging claims by other hospitals that their pension plans are exempt church plans.

Pension Rights Center in the news

Below are just a few of the articles we’ve been quoted in. Check out the PRC in the News section of our website for more.

–  Treasury curtails lump sum pension payouts
–  Critics question proposed rules for cutting pensions
–  Groups start working to pass federal law intended to stave off private pension cuts
–  As pension recoupment grows, advocates For pensioners offer advice to agencies
–  A small victory in the war over pensions
  Legislation offers workable solution to multiemployer plan underfunding

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  Pension Rights Center
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