TRS “13th check” for pensions to be sent to retirees as soon as September

Texas AFT Retiree Plus members meet in San Antonio to discuss next steps for activism.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees met this week and approved the disbursement of the supplemental pension payment—the so-called “13th check,” which was approved by the Legislature this spring as part of Senate Bill 12—for as early as September, with the official time frame termed “early fall.”

The one-time supplemental check will be the regular pension payment amount for all those who retired before December 31, 2018, but it’s capped at a maximum of $2,000. The September disbursement (the last 13th check came in 2007, in December of that year) is good news for many retirees who are still facing the significantly higher deductibles and added health-care costs for TRS-Care that spiked in 2017.

Our Retiree Plus members were instrumental in getting the good provisions of SB 12 passed, including the increases in contribution rates to the pension fund that will make a true cost-of-living increase possible in the 2021 legislative session. (Texas AFT pushed for only an increase in the state’s contribution level, but lawmakers ultimately passed increased contribution rates to active employees and school districts as well.) The Retiree Plus members had worked hard to educate legislators—with letter campaigns, visits with lawmakers and press conferences—on the dire need for a pension increase. However, at their meeting yesterday in San Antonio, it was noted that much still needs to be done to address the significant increases in TRS health-care costs. (Although TRS announced this week that at least no increases are scheduled for 2020.)

Another issue at the forefront of Retiree Plus members’ activist agenda is passing a Social Security Fairness Act bill in the U.S. Congress to try and repeal two harmful offsets to Social Security benefits—the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset (GPO)—for those with TRS pensions. Stay tuned for more information on the prospects for that bill and what you can do to urge Congress to pass it.

Want to keep the pressure on elected officials to recognize the needs of retired educators? Find out more on how you can play a part and become a Retiree Plus member.