Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Federal retirees' groups press for
onetime boost to benefits

From Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post on Oct. 20:
Gary Faley, a retired freight yard clerk in Flint, Mich., paid attention the other day when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she will schedule a vote in November on a plan to give an extra $250 to retirees who will not receive a cost-of-living increase in their benefit checks next year.

Faley, legislative director of an association that advocates for the nation's 600,000 retired railroad workers, immediately sent out an alert asking members to phone a toll-free number and urge their congressional representatives to support the bill.

"My members will let them know we are out there watching them," said Faley, 62, of the National Association of Retired and Veteran Railways Employees.

Retirees from the nation's railroads are one of several constituencies that are affected by an announcement by the Labor Department late last week that consumer prices have gone up too little to warrant a cost-of-living increase in retirement benefits for 2011.

It will be the second year in a row that benefits have not risen. The consecutive years without an increase are unprecedented since the mid-1970s, when the government began to adjust such payments automatically, based on the inflation rate.

The largest group of people touched by the freeze are the nearly 54 million retired and other Americans who receive monthly Social Security checks. But the same formula that determines whether Social Security payments go up has ripple effects, affecting benefits for retired federal workers and for retired and disabled veterans, as well as former railroad workers.


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