Help is on the way for members cut from RetirementPlus
An update from MTA General Counsel Ira Fader
More than 8,000 MTA members were slated to lose RetirementPlus benefits: Are you one of them?
The Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System recently began identifying and informing hundreds of educators that they were ineligible to be in RetirementPlus, a program that provides an enhanced retirement benefit at a slightly higher cost for educators. The members affected are those who transferred into the MTRS from another Massachusetts public contributory retirement system after July 2001. When transferring into the MTRS, a transferee must complete a form “electing” RetirementPlus benefits. For thousands of people, a proper election did not occur, although these members had reason to believe that they were, in fact, properly enrolled in the program. When MTRS began to “remove” them from the program because there was no election form on file, we took legal and political steps to stop that process.
The MTA Division of Legal Services immediately contacted the MTRS and stated the MTA’s strong opposition to its action. We assisted affected members in filing hundreds of appeals on their behalf with the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. We then began a series of meetings with MTRS executive staff to explore a mutually beneficial solution to a problem that was growing by the day as more and more members realized, learned or were newly informed that they were not in the RetirementPlus program.
The MTA and MTRS are currently exploring corrective action.MTA General Counsel Ira Fader
The MTA and MTRS are currently exploring corrective action that is needed to guarantee the RetirementPlus rights of our members. We remain confident we will reach an accord with MTRS that will give all affected members a new opportunity to join the RetirementPlus program if they choose. We are also working on legislation that would fix the systemic flaws that created the problem in the first place. The MTA fought to create this benefit in 2001 with successful legislation. We will not stand by while thousands of members are deprived of a proper choice.
What This Means for You
We are reaching out to every MTA member who, before becoming an educator, held another job in the public sector in Massachusetts, was enrolled in another retirement system AND did not make (or does not recall making) a RetirementPlus “election” after becoming a teacher. (If you DID previously make an election — whether “yes” or “no” — then the current situation does not apply to you.) Many of you have already heard from the MTRS and you have been in contact with your local association. Many of you already have filed appeals and are being represented by MTA’s Legal Services Division. If you think you are in the category of affected members and you have not spoken with anyone yet, contact your local association leaders. We want to be sure that all rights are protected.
We are confident that, with our continued negotiations with the MTRS, every member who transferred into the MTRS after July 2001 will be given a “corrective” opportunity to participate in the RetirementPlus program and receive its enhanced benefits.