Retirees warned that guarding integrity of Chicago's pension fund is a major priority

The refreshments were plentiful and the turnout was great at the latest meeting of the retiree group of the Chicago Teachers Union, on Thursday, April 26, 2007, in the Executive Room, of the Chicago Teachers Union offices at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago.

The first speaker was Vanessa Fabbre of Rush Medical Center on the West Side who spoke about free programs for retirees, presently available only at the West Side campus of Rush. The details about the free programs can be accessed at 1-800-757-0202 or online at Free screenings are held twice a year. One was just held the day before this meeting.

Later, toothbrushes, key-rings shaped like a tooth, and pamphlets offering information on prostrate cancer screenings for men were made available in front.

The next speaker was Kevin Huber, of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, who spoke about the legislative process.

He stated that $65 million in funds have been used to provide rebates on health premiums of retirees. He asked for support of HB 1231 which raises the amount the Pension Fund can spend on health insurance from $65 million to $75 million a year. The reason for this is so that the current 70 percent rebate can be sustained.

Huber added that are going to be a lot of retirees this year, perhaps as many as 1800. He wanted each retiree to call two other retirees and ask them to also call two others to get in touch with Springfield regarding support of HB 1231. (One audience member mentioned that Career Service retirees get no rebate at all.)

He also said that on March 13, 2007, the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) received no payroll records from the Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) because of software changes. However, the Pension Board was able to pay temporary paychecks to the affected persons.

During a question period that followed, one retiree asked about the 70 percent rebate in regard to a spouse. The answer was that if you get the 70% rebate from your spouse’s pension fund, you get zero additional rebate. If you are getting the subsidy from another source, (the spouse’s pension fund), you get no more. You can get only one 70 percent rebate on health premiums. This decision was made by the trustees and is reviewed every three years.

Our Medicare Part D premium is now $93.50 a month. 70 percent of only that $93.50 Medicare Part D premium is rebated. Persons who earn a higher pension pay a higher Medicare Part D premium. Interested persons can look at the Medicare website to see what is considered a higher income. (Our Medicare Part D has no “donut hole.” Other Medicare Part D plans have a donut hole. We pay more, but we get more.)

Currently, our pensions are free of state income tax. One person asked if the state will start taxing our pensions. We need to be very careful that an amendment is not added to any current bill regarding this. Two bills that amendments could possibly be added to are the governor’s gross receipts bill and Senator Meek’s bill.

The CTPF is currently almost 80 percent funded. The State Teachers Pension Fund (the Teacher Retirement System, or TRS) is funded less. The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the guarantor of our

money. $65 million goes from the state to the CPS and then to the

CTPF. Our pension fund would like this money to go directly from the

state to our pension fund.

The “windfall” provision was also mentioned. Retirees from the CPS who receive a pension as well as Social Security suffer a 60% cut in pay-out of Social Security funds.

In regard to the CTPF health plan, if you opt out, you are allowed to opt back in only one time.

After Kevin Huber, Mary McGuire, Recording Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), mentioned that pension questions are the most frequently asked questions.

Currently only 11 percent of the work force have defined benefits now. We need to assure that those that follow us will have the same wonderful plan that we do.

Ren 2010 will have an effect on the pension plan as young teachers contribute less since they earn less and they don’t always stay in the system.

Next, Bob Dunker spoke about the Guardian First Dental Plan. Retirees can join at any time. The plan will notify those who are in the plan when they need to renew. Currently, 700 retirees are enrolled in this plan, 600 in the Preferred Provider Option (PPO) and 100 in the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Those in the PPO can go to a dentist in Guardian’s network or any dentist. Dentists in Guardian’s PPO network average a charge of 25 percent less than an out-of-network dentist (any dentist).

What was formerly known as the Eyeglass Fund Luncheon, but which now covers more than eyeglasses for students in need of them, will be held Sunday, June 3, 2008, at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, for $35.

There will be no more retiree meetings this year. Mention was made of no longer holding the meetings on Thursday but going back to Wednesday instead. When they would be held was not decided since time would have to be found to fit the meetings into the calendar of other meetings also being held..

The Retirees Spring Luncheon will be held in summer, on June 29.

Judy Dever asked for five things:

1) There should be a Union presence at immigration rallies.

2) Union related literature should be allowed to be distributed at Union functions.

3) Retiree delegates should be allowed to attend the Delegates Workshop.

4) Get the Union Teacher out on time to retirees.

5) Allow retirees to get their parking tickets paid and stamped before the meeting. We have reached the age where we have memory issues and this would keep us from forgetting to pay after leaving the meeting.

The last item on the agenda was the mention of trips offered by Collette Tours. Four trips were discussed: Crossing the Pyrenees, Beijing, National Parks, and Canada’s Winter Wonderland.

Most meals are included, you are flown to your destination, tours are led by professional tour guides employed by Collette, tourists are housed in centrally located hotels; Collette has an unmatched cancellation waiver. 


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