Retirees: Get Fired up for Our Fight for a TRS Cost of Living Increase in the 88th Texas Legislature!

Why Texas Teacher Retirees Need a Cost of Living Increase from the 88th Texas Legislature 

The main focus of Texas AFT Retirees Plus this legislative session is the fight for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to TRS retirees’ monthly pension annuity. A COLA would increase the monthly amount that retirees receive in their pension checks in order to account for the rising cost-of-living from inflation and other factors. Currently, the average TRS retiree’s monthly annuity is $2,174.      

TRS retirees have not seen an increase to their monthly pension since 2013, and that increase only applied to TRS members who retired before August 2004. A dollar now is worth only two-thirds of what it used to be worth in 2004. So, the educators who retired after 2004 have had the spending power of their monthly annuity dramatically diminished. Most states provide an automatic COLA to teacher pension recipients, but teachers in Texas who retired after August 2004 have waited nearly two decades for theirs.    

While the TRS Board of Trustees cannot implement a COLA on its own, TRS communicates regularly with the Texas Legislature, and legislators rely on the advice and perspective of TRS to make important decisions for the system.      

On the subject of a COLA, TRS received an update from its actuaries on the health of the fund and the feasibility of a COLA. Actuaries stressed the importance of funding any potential COLA in a responsible way. TRS could theoretically fund a COLA out of existing TRS investment funds, but that would put undue stress on the fund and would not be financially responsible.       

To responsibly provide TRS members with the substantial COLA they deserve, the state of Texas must appropriate funds to TRS for the purpose of funding a COLA. The least expensive way to fund a COLA is for the Legislature to provide TRS with one-time seed funding. A portion of the state’s $32.7 billion surplus could be used to fund a COLA.     

TRS actuaries explained that TRS is one of only two systems across the country in which retirees are not provided with an automatic COLA and negatively affected by federal Social Security provisions, like the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset. Retirees in other states can at least rely on yearly Social Security COLAs, even if they don’t have a COLA for their pensions. Texas and Louisiana are the only states with the dishonor of having reduced Social Security benefits while also failing to provide an automatic COLA.     

Actuaries explained that a major factor in TRS’ inability to provide regular COLAs is that the state of Texas funds TRS at a lower proportional level than any other state. A total of about 20% of employee payroll is contributed to TRS each month by the state of Texas, school districts, and employees themselves. Every single other state funds their teacher pensions at a higher proportional level than Texas. While TRS is efficient in its use of contributed funds, the system is hampered by the state’s comparatively low contribution level of 8% of employee payroll.     

The interest form for those wishing to testify at the state legislature: 

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Spotlight on Texas AFT Members 
Texas AFT Retiree Plus Members Rita Runnels and Phyllis Ruffin Speak at December 2022 TRS Board of Trustees Meeting For Cost of Living Increase for TRS Retirees     

Texas AFT Retiree Plus executive members Rita Runnels and Phyllis Ruffin provided public comment at the TRS Quarterly meeting in December 2022. Rita and Phyllis drove over 150 miles to testify in favor of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for TRS annuitants. Rita shared her perspective with the board as a teacher who retired in 2006 but has never received a COLA.  When she retired her financial planner created her retirement plan which assumed that TRS retirees would receive a COLA, but that COLA never came, she testified to the board.  No TRS member who retired since 2004 has received a COLA.

Phyllis, a Texas AFT organizer in the Houston area, shared stories of financial hardships that she heard from TRS retirees in her area.  Phyllis told the board about a retiree in her area who had had to take out 10 high interest payday loans to make ends meet because the purchasing power of their pension had shrunk significantly due to inflation.  Phyllis is running to represent retirees and active members on the TRS board. Ballots to vote for Phyllis will go out in March 2023. Please support her!     

Many thanks to Rita and Phyllis for being such eloquent speakers on the plight of Texas TRS retirees who urgently need a COLA raise!                        

Source:  Texas AFT Hotline:  12.9.2022  

The 88th Texas Legislature 
Texas AFT Retiree Plus Vision Statement:

Our purpose is to protect, strengthen and enhance the quality of life for all retired educators in the state of Texas. We are committed to preserving and improving the Texas Teacher Retirement System’s defined-benefit pension plan, TRS-Care and expanding Social Security access.  

Texas AFT Retiree Plus Goals for 88th Texas Legislature:

Social Security Updates for 2023 

The Good News
Social Security Recipients Get 8.7% Cost-of-Living increase, the Highest in more than 40 Years

Social Security recipients will receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment of 8.7% in January 2023, the largest increase since 1981, the Social Security Administration announced. The spike will boost retirees’ monthly payments by $146 to an estimated average of $1,827 for 2023. The hefty increase, which follows a 5.9% adjustment for this year, is aimed at helping Social Security’s roughly 70 million recipients contend with the high inflation that’s been plaguing the US since last year. “Will the COLA be enough to keep up with inflation? It’s too early to say,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst at The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group. “It depends on what inflation is going to do from October onwards.”

Source: (

The Not so Good News
Congress Unable to Reach Compromise on Repealing Social Security WEP Before 2022 Session Ends

Congress was unable to reach a compromise on a solution for the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) or the Government Pension Offset (GPO) during the 2022 session. Congressional leaders reported in December 2022 at the end of the congressional session that they were not able to achieve a bipartisan deal to reform the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Negotiators could not reach an agreement on how to pay for the reform proposals. We now have 2 million retirees across the country harmed by the WEP. AFT and our allies are not giving up on this fight for fairness and repeal at the federal government level.


Medicare Updates for 2023 

Good News
Medicare Part B Premiums will DECREASE in 2023, First Decrease in a Decade

Each year the Medicare Part B premium, deductible, and coinsurance rates are determined according to the Social Security Act. The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $164.90 for 2023, a decrease of $5.20 from $170.10 in 2022. The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $226 in 2023, a decrease of $7 from the annual deductible of $233 in 2022.

More Good News
Medicare Part D (Prescription drug coverage) for Insulin Gets Capped for 2023

In original Medicare, the cost of a one-month supply of each Part D-covered insulin is capped at $35, and you don’t have to pay a deductible  for insulin. This applies to everyone who takes insulin, even if you get Extra Help. If you get a 60- or 90-day supply of insulin, your costs can’t be more than $35 for each month’s supply of each covered insulin. For example, if you get a 60-day supply of a Part D-covered insulin, you’ll generally pay no more than $70.   Plans have until the end of March 2023 to update their systems to reflect the $35 cap on insulin, which means you might be charged a higher amount during this time when you fill a prescription for insulin. If you pay more than $35 for a month’s supply of a covered insulin product in January and/or February 2023, your plan must reimburse you within 30 calendar days for any amount you paid above the $35 cap. Contact your plan to find out how to get reimbursed. Note: Starting July 1, 2023, similar caps on costs will apply for insulin used in traditional insulin pumps (covered under Medicare Part B). For insulin used with a traditional insulin pump that’s covered under the Medicare durable medical equipment benefit, you pay 20% of the Medicare Approved Amount after you meet the Part B deductible. You pay 100% for insulin-related supplies (like syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, and gauze) unless you have Part D.

Source: Insulin Coverage (    

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