You may have heard of other retirement systems that are defined by tiers that delineate many aspects of a retiree’s benefits. While our system is not like this, it turns out that a Teachers’ Retirement System member’s cost of living adjustment (COLA) benefit is determined by a tier that includes when the person joined the system and the date of retirement. In each case, a COLA is applied if the retirement fund meets the expected rate of return. You may recall that our efforts resulted in the COLA standard being adjusted from 8% to 6.9% to match the current expected rate of return for the pension account. For members who retired prior to September 1992, their COLA ranges from a minimum of 3% to a maximum of 5% each year, based upon the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The calculations for the remaining two tiers are more complicated, as they are determined by the performance of the retirement fund for the preceding fiscal year, the adjustments granted by Social Security, and the different minimum and maximum rates for each tier. More complete information can be found on the TRB site here https://portal.ct.gov/TRB/Content/Retired/Retired-Menu/Cost- of-Living-Adjustments.
The COLA is only applied to an individual’s pension amount, not to any voluntary annuity payments. As a COLA adjustment increases a member’s taxable income, members my choose to change their federal withholding tax by submitting a Federal Tax Withholding Change Form. Members may change their state withholding tax by submitting a Connecticut Tax Withholding Change Form CT-W4P. Keep in mind, when making this determination, that 50% of the income you receive from the Teachers Retirement System is exempt from Connecticut State Income tax, but not from Federal. (Some members may have all of their TRS income be exempt from state income tax in 2022. See the information on tax changes on the next page.) The following TRB chart displays the COLA amounts that will take effect with your “checks” at the end of July.
Social Security Fairness
Retired educators who live outside of CT pay particular attention, please, especially if you live in Arizona (50,000), Florida (138,9000), Illinois (148,000), Oregon (23,000), South Carolina (25,000), or Texas (300,000). Social Security Fairness is actively working to overturn the unnecessarily punitive WEP/GPO penalties that impact many of our retirees. Social Security Fairness has commitments from 280 members of the House of Representatives to bring their proposal out of committee for a vote and only need ten more Representatives to sign on in support. While public employees from fifteen states are impacted, the retirees from those states live throughout the country, so their representatives may not understand how many residents of their state have lost retirements benefits they earned due to the WEP/GPO. Estimates of those numbers are given next to each of the states listed here. Even if you are not impacted by the WEP/GPO provision, if you live in one of the states identified, please go to this link to get information on contacting your Representative on behalf of the retirees who are impacted. https://ssfairness.org/alert-we-need-only-10-more-co-signers-on-h-r-82/
Connecticut Income Tax Changes
You recall that we don’t provide tax advice, but we do try to keep you informed of changes that may affect you, and there are some new changes related to taxes on retirement income for Connecticut residents. First, we have retained the 50% exemption for CT income tax purposes on all income received from the Teachers Retirement System. This exemption is available, regardless of your total income. What is new is how Connecticut is advancing their plans to reduce state income tax liability on other types of retirement income; however, these provisions are subject to income-based limitations, which use the adjusted gross income (AGI) amount from your federal tax return. For example, Individuals with an AGI of $75,00 or less and joint filers with an AGI of $100,000 or less may deduct 100% of their Social Security benefits for Connecticut tax purposes. For those with higher income levels, partial deductions will be available. There are other provisions, all income restricted for various additional types of retirement income. Some retirees may use the 50% reduction granted to all filers for TRS income, but others may find the general provision smore advantageous. You may not take more than one reduction on the same retirement income, but you may be eligible for different types of deductions on different types of retirement income. Does this seem complicated? Here is your ten-page resource for information on the latest provisions that will apply to your 2022 Connecticut Income Tax filing.
If you need any sort of help with coverage from UHC, OptumRx, or CIGNA, contact the TRB at HealthInsurance.TRB@ct.gov You are asked to also send a copy of your concerns to the executive director at the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut because they are compiling information on concerns and problems encountered. Please do this for any concerns you have already sent to the TRB, also, using this address firstname.lastname@example.org During the most recent TRB meeting, the administrator provided this information on the health insurance plans:
- Enrollment has gone well
- A review of approvals for members using the Advantage plan shows that 98% of prior
authorization requests were approved. Reasons given for the 379 requests rejected
from January to mid-June were: did not meet Medicare approval, lack of medical
necessity, lack of necessary information.
- TRB has received 291 email inquiries about health insurance in the past month. Typical
concerns have been working within the Hearing network, prescription drug costs,deductible issues, providers not accepting UHC, etc.
IMPORTANT– Members on the Supplement plan have been experiencing coverage problems related to their deductible amount. Apparently, some UHC Representatives have given erroneous information that does not reflect our Supplement plan coverage. It is important for all members using this plan look through your previous claims to be certain you were not short-changed. The correct deductible amount for Supplemental plans is $233, NOT $2,233.
The increased subsidy for members who receive their health insurance through their previous board of education takes effect July 1, 2022. The amount was doubled.
TRB Legislative Changes
It was reported at the recent TRB meeting, that a package of legislative changes they submitted was approved, although information about what was in the package was not provided. It will be posted at some point on the TRB website at this location. https://portal.ct.gov/TRB/Content/Other-Resources/Legislation-and-Policies/Legislation
Were you aware that TRS accounts deemed inactive for specified periods will be turned over to the General Fund? This happens after 25 years of no activity for accounts of members who were vested and after 10 years of no activity for members who were not vested. Perhaps someone you know from work is on the inactive accounts list and you can let them know. The easiest way to search is on the list sorted by employer that can be found here.
Scholarship support for aspiring educators
Our SFCRTA Scholarship Chair, Geraldine Petrizzi does an amazing job of informing high school guidance counselors in southern Fairfield County about our book awards to aspiring educators for their first year of college.
SFCRTA BOOK AWARD RECIPIENTS
This year there were six deserving applicants for our five Book Awards in the amount of $2,000 each. Due to the generosity of our membership, the SFCRTA Board of Directors voted to award six Book Awards for this year only. We are delighted to congratulate the following recipients of the 2022 SFCRTA Book Awards who will pursue their future career in education:
- Jackeline Carias attends the Academy of Information, Technology and Engineering in Stamford. She will study Early Childhood Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
- John Kennedy attends Norwalk High School and will attend James Madison University. He will study to be a Secondary Education History teacher.
- Olivia Marshall attends Staples High School in Westport. She will attend The College of William and Mary where she will study English and Elementary Education.
- Sarah Martinez attends Norwalk High School and will attend Norwalk Community College to study Early Childhood Education.
- Paul Migliaccio attends Greenwich High School and has been accepted to Eastern CT State University where he will study Elementary Education.
- Megan Young attends Greenwich High School and will pursue her education at Loyola University Maryland and study Elementary Education.
SFCRTA Fall Breakfast Meeting- in the planning stages. More information to follow.
Employment or Volunteer Opportunity
New Pond Farm is located in Redding, CT and runs five primary areas of programming- environmental studies; farming and gardening (includes beekeeping); Native American lifeways; astronomy; and the arts (including Shakespeare programs, biannual art shows, and music). They have opportunities for paid and volunteer work. Here is a link with information.