Outlook July / August 2017
Immediate Retirement
FERS employees can retire when they reach their so-called Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), provided they meet certain service requirements. The MRA falls between 55 and 57, depending upon the employee’s year of birth. Employees are eligible for immediate retirement with unreduced benefits if they are: age 62 with 5 years of creditable service; or age 60 with 20 years of creditable service; or at their Minimum Retirement Age (age 55 to 57) with 30 years of service.

FERS employees can also retire on an immediate annuity (with unreduced benefits) at age 50 with 20 years of creditable service or any age with 25 years of creditable service in certain involuntary separation cases and in case of voluntary separations during a major reorganization or reduction in force. The agency must be offering an early-out or undergoing a major reorganization or reduction in force.

If you retire voluntarily on an immediate annuity at minimum retirement age (MRA) plus 30 years of service, or at age 60 with 20 years of service, you will get the special annuity supplement.

The Special Annuity Supplement is a temporary supplement paid by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to certain FERS retirees up to age 62. Both the Special Annuity Supplement and Social Security have earnings offset provisions. This means that if a retiree becomes employed or self-employed after retirement and has earnings, there may be a reduction applied to the Special Annuity Supplement or to Social Security benefits.

The reductions apply (or not) depending on certain factors such as: amount of earnings, time of earnings, sources of earning and age. The exempt amount for the Special Annuity Supplement is the same as the amount established by the Social Security Administration. The exempt amount for 2017 is $16,920.

If the retiree’s earnings in a calendar year exceed that year’s exempt amount, the supplement will be reduced the following year by one dollar for every two dollars that was earned above the exempt amount the previous year.

Outlook May / June 2017
Money Problems Follow Us to Work
Many employees are so stressed out about their finances and the thought of preparing for retirement that it’s hurting their job performance, according to a new survey by the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Three out of ten workers admit to feeling anxious. The same number say financial worries carry over to their jobs; and of those workers, more than half say they’d be more productive if they didn’t have to fret about money.

No wonder they are stressed. Of the workers who provided financial information, nearly half have less than $25,000 in savings, do not own a house or have a pension either. About one quarter of those surveyed have less than $1,000 in savings. Typically, young workers are the least likely to have savings; and about 28% of those age 55 or older have less than $10,000 stashed away.

The solution for some is to delay retirement. Nearly four out of ten workers expect to retire at age 70 or older. However, only four percent of retirees polled actually stayed on the job that long. A job loss, poor health or caregiving responsibilities caused many people to retire earlier than anticipated.

It might be tempting to grab your Social Security Benefit as soon as it becomes available, but the temptation may pass when you realize that your benefit will be cut by 25% and that cut will last your entire lifetime.

Retirement with debt is never a smart thing. Try to eliminate all debt before considering retirement. Pay off that credit card debt, the car loans, and you may want to consider mortgage prepayments, too. Examine all debt and work hard to get rid of it; you will be happy you did.

Outlook March / April 2017
Keep Your Brain Young by Staying Fit
Sudoku - Crossword Puzzles - Computer training. Half of all Americans believe these games and mental tasks keep the brain healthy, according to a 2014 AARP survey, but there is little evidence to prove that theory. If you really want to retain mental clarity and improve your odds of warding off dementia, researchers say hit the gym.

Over the last decade, scientists have begun to understand the crucial relationship between exercise and brainpower. Just as exercise helps keep muscles strong, blood vessels flexible, and stress low, it also enhances mental abilities, stops brain shrinkage and promotes the formation of new neurons.

“Studies even suggest that people who are physically active have lower rates of Alzheimer’s and other age-associated neurodegenerative disorders”, says Arthur F. Kramer, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education at Northeastern University in Boston, and an expert on exercise and the brain.

As we age, the hippocampus, an area of our brains that is key to memory, shrinks leading to memory problems and possibly dementia. Research by Kramer and others showed that when previously sedentary men and women 50 to 80 years old walked around a track 40 minutes a day, three times a week for six months, their hippocampi actually increased in size. A control group that did not walk had smaller hippocampi than when they started.

Another study of nearly 900 men and women with an average age of 71 found that those who had exercised moderately or vigorously over five years (jogging, hiking, swimming, or dancing) performed on par with someone a decade younger on tests of memory and other brain skills. These studies support the prevailing theory that heart health and brain health are linked. Regular exercise helps prevent high blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries, and keeping blood vessels healthy ensures an optimal flow of blood to the brain. In addition, aerobic exercise creates higher levels of protein known as brain derived neurotrophic factor, which helps repair and protect the brain.

So what does all this mean for those concerned about developing Alzheimer’s? A recent study of 876 men and women age 65 or older found that those who were more active had a 50 percent reduced risk of developing the disease.

Outlook January / February 2017
Social Security Changes in 2017
1 - Benefits will increase slightly.
The program’s 60 million beneficiaries will get 0.3 percent increase in monthly benefits in 2017. Retired workers will see a $5 bump on average to the previous $1,360. I, myself received an increase this year. A letter was sent, back in December, with an explanation of the increase. But that cost of living adjustment will, for many, be eaten up by higher Medicare Part B premiums.

2 - High earners will pay more taxes.
The amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax in 2017 will increase to $127,200, up from $118,500 this year. This tax hike will affect about 12 million people paying into the system.

3 - Retirement age inches up on the scale.
For people born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age (FRA) is 66. Next year, the full retirement age will increase to 66 years and 2 months for those people born in 1955. This increase will continue each year until reaching the retirement age of 67 years for those born in 1960 or later.

If you have questions about your Social Security, visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call toll free number: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If you speak Spanish, press 7. For all other languages wait until someone answers and ask for an interpreter.

Outlook November / December 2016
The New Retirement
When you were young and working in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, you probably had thoughts of your own retirement and the life of leisure you would someday lead.

Did you know in 1983, only 56 percent of American workers and 80 percent of those making $20,000 or more could expect an employer-provided pension, according to the Social Security Administration? Nowadays, only a quarter of working Americans; the majority being union members, have the security of an employer-provided pension, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past 30 years, pensions have been replaced by workplace-based Savings Plans like the 401(k), which took much of the financial burden off the employer and shifted it straight onto the employee. Many of us have spent years trying to figure out how to manage our 401(k) plans and made costly errors along the way such as: choosing high fee investments or prematurely withdrawing money.

Now that the Gold Watch Retirement Era has ended, a host of new forces are altering the traditional approach to retirement planning. To name a few: rising health care costs and historically, low interest rates for fixed-income investments. Many of us will have no alternative, but to dial back our spending habits and lower our lifestyle expectations.

Half of all Americans, who work in the private sector, do not have access to an employer-based retirement plan, such as a 401(k). One requirement of a 401(k) is for employers to siphon money out of every employee’s paycheck and put it into a Retirement Savings Plan (unless the worker opts out), which would both promote self-reliance and create a foundation for a safety net.

The Federal Government already has an outstanding workplace savings plan for its own employees: The Thrift Savings Plan. Given the fact that it is cheap and has simple, prudent investment choices, one must wonder why not open it up to the tens of millions of savers, who have no workplace savings plan at the moment? Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, has proposed doing just that. Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, is well aware of the fact that entrenched lifers in Washington do not want to share their great plan with others who do not have one. For fear that it would cost too much or make things too complicated; therefore, he has introduced legislation that would create a sort of shadow thrift savings plan.

Here are four tools to help plan your retirement:
1. Get your Social Security Benefits estimate. It provides an estimate of your individual benefit at ages (from 62 - 70) and your full retirement age from (66 to 67) depending on where you were born. Knowing your benefit amount can help you determine how much to save on your own.
2. Estimate your yearly expenses in retirement. Think about, WHY YOU NEED IT - To help plan the perfect strategy.
3. Determine your monthly retirement income. Calculate how much money you will have available in retirement, per month.
4. Pay off all credit card debt before retirement.
Baby Boomers - the Vulnerable Years
People born from 1946 through 1964 are just beginning to retire and in large numbers. On average, 10,000 people sign up for Social Security each day.

The Great Recession disproportionally affected people in their 50s and 60s, sending many into early retirement without a sufficient nest egg or pushing them to work longer than they had planned to make up for lost savings. A recent survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 37 percent of retired CR subscribers left the workforce earlier than expected, and on the whole, were less satisfied in retirement than those who retired as they had originally planned, or later. Though many retirement experts recommend eliminating mortgages and other debt prior to retirement, a 2015 Pew Charitable Trust report found that 47 percent of baby boomers were still paying off old debt. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York research has shown that the average 65-year old is holding 47 percent more mortgage debt in 2015 than back in 2003.

In retrospect, the best thing to do when you have those fleeting thoughts of retirement and the life of leisure is to start planning early.

Outlook September / October 2016
Working Longer May Add Years to Your Life
It was 1965 when I began working for the United States Postal Service. As my retirement approached, I couldn’t wait for it to begin and on December 31, 1999 that time had finally arrived. I was 55 years old and it was a great feeling knowing that I was all set to rest easy. Within two days of retirement, I was on my way to my hometown in Puerto Rico. After one month of rest and relaxation, I returned back home to the Bronx. Before long, a good friend of mine, Mr. Booker Rue invited me to help him at the Credit Union. I did, and he decided to hire me.

Within three months of retirement, my health suddenly took a bad turn. I was getting headaches and the left side of my face became paralyzed. I went to the Emergency Room at Roosevelt Hospital and I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. I was scared because one side of my face was paralyzed. Three months later, I recuperated and continued working at the Credit Union. Later, our Branch President Frank Orapello hired me to work full time at Branch 36. I believe that move changed my life forever. I was no longer retired, I was working full time and I liked it.

And for this reason, I want to share the following article with all our members.

Working Longer May Add Years to Your Life
Even one extra year adds benefits, a new study says. If you’re considering retiring early, you may want to reconsider. New research suggests that working a little longer may benefit your health.

Over the course of an 18-year study by Oregon State University, healthy older adults who retired a year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death, compared with those who retired at 65. Even unhealthy adults who worked an extra year benefited with a 9 percent lower risk of death.

Because poor health is one reason people retire early and die younger, researchers looked only at those who worked an extra year past 65, and included both retirees who said health was a factor in their retirement and those who said health was not a factor.

“It may not apply to everybody,” says Chenkai Wu, a doctoral student at Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and lead author of the study, published online in March by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, “but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives.”

Outlook July / August 2016
Understanding Medicare’s Alphabet Soup
Medicare coverage is made up of four parts, each one providing different kinds of coverage and is identified by one of the first four letters of the alphabet.

PART A helps pay for stays in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, home health services and hospice care, as long as certain conditions are met. You don’t pay monthly premiums for Part A, if you (or your spouse) paid sufficient Medicare payroll taxes while working. Otherwise, you can obtain Part A Services by paying monthly premiums.

PART B helps pay for doctors’ services (both in and out of the hospital) and outpatient care such as lab work and screenings. It also covers some medical equipment and supplies such as wheelchairs and oxygen, if certain conditions are met and covers most drugs or vaccines that are administered in a doctor’s office. You pay monthly premiums for Part B, unless your income is limited enough to qualify for state assistance. Medicare typically pays 80 percent of the Medicare-approved cost of each service, and you are responsible for 20%-unless you have supplemental insurance that covers these out of pocket expenses like our own NALC Health Benefit Plan.

PART C provides an alternative way to receive Medicare Services through Medicare Advantage, which is administered through private Managed-Care Plans such as HMO’s and PPO’s. These plans must cover all the same services as the traditional Medicare Program (A and B), but may charge lower copays. The plans may also (at their discretion) offer Part D drug coverage and some extras, such as routine dental, vision and hearing care. You may pay a monthly premium (in addition to the Part B premium) although some plans charge no premiums of their own. Medicare Advantage plans may restrict your choice of doctors and other providers, or charge higher copays for going out of network.

PART D helps pay for prescription drugs that you use at home. You can get this coverage in one of two ways: 1) by joining a private “stand-alone” Part D Drug Plan for an additional monthly premium (if you are enrolled in traditional Medicare); or 2) by enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes Part D coverage in its benefits package.

Earning 40 credits by paying payroll taxes at work for about 10 years ensures that you won’t have to pay premiums for PART A Services (mainly hospital insurance) when you join Medicare. But you don’t need any work credits to qualify for PART B (doctors’ services, outpatient care, and medical equipment) and PART D (prescription drugs) provided that you’re 65 or older, and a U.S. citizen or a legal resident who has lived in the United States for at least five years. You may also qualify for Part A benefits on your spouse’s work record or you can pay premiums for them. If you wait to sign up until you’ve earned 40 credits you may-end up paying permanent late penalties.

Outlook May / June 2016
Changing Your Retirement to Disability Retirement
You may submit an application for Disability Retirement within one year of your separation from employment; provided you did not elect the alternative form of annuity, with a lump sum payment equal to your retirement contributions. The alternative form of annuity is an option, which is only available to non-disability annuitants who have life threatening afflictions, or other critical medical conditions. If you elected the alternative annuity, you received a lump sum payment equal to your retirement contributions and a reduced monthly annuity. You and your former employing agency must submit evidence that shows you became disabled while employed in a position subject to Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) coverage; and you and your agency must likewise provide evidence that you were unable to perform useful and efficient service because of disease or injury in the position from which you retired. Your former agency will also have to certify that it could not reasonably accommodate your condition. Moreover, you must not have declined an offer of reassignment to a vacant position in the commuting area at the same grade of pay level and tenure.

The one year filing limit can only be waived if you were mentally incompetent at the time of separation; or became so within one year thereafter. In such a situation, the application for Disability Retirement may be filed within one year from the date you are restored to competency or a guardian is appointed, whichever is earlier.

If you change to Disability Retirement, you will lose your special retirement supplement. This supplement is not paid to individuals who retire on disability.

You should contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding the impact of Disability Retirement on your Federal Income Tax liability. The IRS defines disability differently than the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Outlook March / April 2016
For Retirees and Survivor Annuitants
First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the membership of Branch 36 for their continued confidence in our team and for reelecting us for another three-year term. I would also like to thank you for the vote of confidence you have shown me over the years, as your Director of Retirees, as well. Remember, my door is always open and it will be my greatest pleasure to help you in any way possible.
Contacting the U.S. Office of Personal Management (OPM)
If you are interested in calling OPM about your health benefit enrollment, the toll-free number for this automated system is 1-888-767-6738. You may leave a message anytime, day or night. On regular business days, you can speak to one of the Customer Service Specialists during the hours of 7:30 am and 7:45 pm (Eastern Standard Time). People with hearing impairments and TTY equipment, may call 1-855-887-4957 for assistance.

With one call to OPM, you are able to make the following changes to your health benefits enrollment.
* Change from Family to Self-Only enrollment.
* Change plans when you have moved out of the service area of a health maintenance organization.
* Change from one plan or option to another because you are eligible for Medicare.
* Cancel or suspend your enrollment: OPM will send you the form needed to confirm it in writing.

When contacting OPM, always be sure to have your Retirement Claim Number (CSA number) or Survivor Annuity Number (CSF number) handy. You must provide your date of birth and it is important to sign and date all correspondence when dealing with OPM. All survivor annuitants and widow/widower(s) of a deceased employee, who are paying premiums directly to OPM, must provide the name of the former federal employee on whose service the annuity is based; as well as, your CSF number.

Health Benefits Coverage: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB)
There are three types of enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program.
1) Self Only - This enrollment provides health benefits for member only.
2) Self and Family. This enrollment provides benefits for you and all eligible family members.
3) Self Plus One - This enrollment provides health benefits for the member and one dependent.

If you are a retiree, a Self and Family enrollment covers you, your spouse and your children under age 26, including legally adopted children and your recognized natural born children. Foster children may also be included if you confirm that they live with you in a regular parent/child relationship and meet all requirements upon certification. Contact OPM for the certification form.

The monthly premium for Self and Family enrollment is the same amount regardless of the number of family members covered under the enrollment. Should a family member become ineligible for coverage, the premium will remain the same. However, should you become the only eligible family member, contact OPM to change your coverage to Self Only.

Disabled children age 26 or older
A child incapable of self-support due to a disability, which began before his/her 26th birthday and is expected to last more than one year, may continue to be covered as a family member after the age of 26. If the child’s eligibility is already established for continued coverage with your former employing office and the information has been forwarded to OPM, no further action is needed.
Foster Children
In regards to health benefits, a foster child under the age of 26, who is financially dependent on you and is living with you in a regular parent-child relationship, is covered by the plan. There must be an expectation that you will continue to raise the child into adulthood. A grandchild who meets the criteria may be covered as a foster child. A child temporarily living with you is not a foster child; neither is one placed in your home by welfare or social service agencies, which retain control of the child and pay for maintenance.
New Family Members
If you have a Self and Family enrollment, new eligible family members such as a new spouse, if you are a retired employee, is automatically covered by your health plan. Please be sure to notify your health care insurance provider with the updated information. Your provider will require proof of the relationship (such as marriage or birth certificates, along with the new family members name, date of birth and social security number). If you are enrolled for Self Only and acquire a new family member, you may change to the Self and Family enrollment plan.
Outlook January / February 2016
Retirement Mistakes
It’s wise to figure out a solid retirement budget before you retire. You can gain a greater sense of security by working a few extra years. If you lose your job, find work elsewhere even if it’s part-time, the main objective is to keep on working. Nowadays, people live well beyond their eighties. Therefore, when it comes time to calculating for retirement, expect that you and your spouse will live to the ripe, old age of 95. Better safe than sorry.
Tapping Benefits Too Soon
It might be tempting to grab your Social Security Benefit as soon as it becomes available, but the temptation may pass when you realize that your benefit will be cut by 25% and will last for the rest of your life. Things are a little different when you work in the Postal Service due to the fact that you will receive Social Security and a pension under F.E.R.S.
Retiring with Debt
Retiring with debt is never a smart thing to do. Try to eliminate all debt before considering retirement. Pay off that credit card debt, the car loans and you may want to consider mortgage prepayments too. Examine all debt and work hard to get rid of all of it.
Failure to Protect your Spouse
If you have a pension, it should cover the life of your spouse, as well as your own. Unless, of course, your spouse is financially secure. Do the research, investigate what benefits can be gained upon retirement. Oftentimes, a continuation of life insurance and health benefits are available through your employer when you retire.
Protect Yourself
According to a survey by True Link Financial, older Americans are criminally defrauded out of 12.76 billion dollars annually due to identity theft scams. All those scams that you smugly think will never work on you. Do you consider yourself friendly, thrifty or financially sophisticated? If you answered yes to any one of these descriptions, then according to that same survey you are the most vulnerable. Friendly seniors are more approachable and often give strangers the benefit of the doubt. Thrifty seniors are typically in search of a bargain and may fall victim because of it. Financially sophisticated seniors are comfortable moving large amounts of money around and so it would not be unusual to be asked to do so. Don’t be the next scam victims.
Tech Support
Here are some things to look out for and most importantly, how to protect yourself. This might just be the biggest consumer scam in the United States right now.

According to Microsoft, in 2015 an estimated 3.3 million people, many of them seniors, were victimized by a tech-support con at a total cost of 1.5 billion dollars. That’s one American duped out of an average of $454, nearly every 10 seconds.

Here is how the scam typically unfolds: You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Windows or Windows Tech Support, who states that viruses have been detected on your computer. In order to protect your data, you are told to immediately call up a certain website and follow the instructions. A dummy screen may appear that shows viruses being detected and eliminated; but in reality, malware is being installed that allows the scammer to steal your usernames and passwords, hold your data for ransom and even use the webcam to spy on you.

YOUR PLAN: Hang up the phone immediately. “Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls,” says Courtney Gregoire, Senior Attorney at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit. Also don’t click any links in unsolicited emails from Microsoft or in pop-up ads promising to speed up your computer. “If you haven’t downloaded Windows 10 or the latest version of OS X, do it,” says William Woodworth with Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Each update is free and contains many new security features built in.

Outlook November / December 2015
Stress
Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Everybody experiences anxiety, tension, and pressure at work and home.

A certain amount of stress in life is desirable. It keeps us motivated and productive. But too much stress or stress experienced over a long period of time without relief can be harmful to both physical and mental health.

When you feel stressed out at work, you can’t very well run away-although you may want to! And when the pressure is on, it’s probably not the right time to deal with the situation that’s causing such an uncomfortable stress level.

What happens at home can cause stress on the job and what happens at work can cause stress at home. We tend to carry our feelings or tension and frustration with us from place to place. Many things can cause stress-even positive changes. We may experience a marriage, a new child, a job promotion, a move or any other “good” change as stress.

Of course personal changes such as: illness, divorce, accidents or death of a loved one are well-known causes of stress. In addition, workplace situations such as: downsizing, layoffs, supervisory changes, and stepped-up production schedules also put one on edge or produce anxiety.

While every job produces some degree of frustration and stress, the first step to minimizing stress on the job is to identify its source. Frustration mounts when work schedules are overly demanding, the workload too great or when work demands regularly spill over into time reserved for personal life.

Contact with people at work can be a source of job satisfaction and also one of the greatest sources of stress. Dealing with different personalities, as well as, the technical demands of the job sometimes adds up to a trying situation.

Even the environment causes stress. Noise, smoke, poor ventilation, crowded conditions, and other factors can cause fatigue and tension. Office policies, organizational structures, job uncertainty and informal channels of communication can also affect the quality of work life.

It is important to recognize stressful situations, prepare for them as much as possible and act to reduce stress in healthful ways.

Work to change what needs to be changed and learn to accept things you can’t change. There are going to be some things in life that you cannot control. Accept it and do the best you can. A work layoff, a divorce, a death in the family-these are some stressors you can’t control. But you can control how you respond to them.

(This article was published by the USPS Employee Assistance Program)

Outlook September / October 2015
What is Retirement?
Retirement according to the dictionary is “To withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.” Retirement may also be achieved when one has other sources of income and becomes financially independent. Financial independence involves making sure that you will have enough to provide for your basic needs over a lifetime.

Retirement and financial independence are terms, which can be used interchangeably. They both mean the individual has or will have sufficient enough income, to live a decent lifestyle without the need to work for a living. Both may be achieved when one has enough savings, investment income and/or pension income to cover one’s own living expenses indefinitely.

Retirement means different things to different people. For some, retirement means leaving the current job or profession and moving on to a different job or field, while to others it means never having to work again.

History of Retirement
Retirement is a relatively new concept that came about as life expectancy increased. One hundred years ago, the concept of retirement did not exist. The article, The History of Retirement Planning explains how our modern day concept of retirement began due to a combination of increased life expectancy and the onset of government sponsored retirement benefits in 1935 when Social Security was created. Prior to such programs, people worked their entire lives only to find themselves nearing old age, destitute and increasingly reliant on their family and friends for support.
What is Retirement Age?
There is not a set retirement age in the United States; however, standard retirement age is considered to be 65. Today, under Social Security guidelines, full retirement age is based on your date of birth and is different for everyone. In general, retiring before age 60 would be considered an early retirement.
Biggest Retirement Decision You Will Make
As you near retirement, you will have to make many decisions that will have a lifelong impact. One of the biggest decisions to make will be when to retire. Other decisions are: define your spending habits and when to file for Social Security. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always best to take it early or to take it as soon as you are eligible. More benefits may be gained by waiting. If you have a pension plan, there will be additional decisions to make. For instance, will you take a lump sum or an annuity? Will you provide a benefit for your life only or will you provide ongoing benefits for your spouse in the event of your untimely death?

The following article was published in About Money from the Internet.

According to a new study by Sun Life Financial, more than 20% of American workers are forced into early retirement by layoffs, cutbacks, and shutdowns. In an age where pensions have gone by the wayside and the future of Social Security is in doubt, the report finds they often find themselves with half of the expected savings and investments they anticipated for their golden years. Reuters News Service points out that their results weren’t entirely surprising: half were the result of corporate actions with the second leading cause of forced retirement being injury and illness. It also said that family obligations were the reason ten percent of women left, while only two percent of men did.

Outlook July / August 2015
1905 World Series
I wanted to write something that I was very passionate about so this article is about baseball. While web surfing, I came across a wonderful article, which claimed that the 1905 World Series was the best World Series ever played. I wanted to share this great article with you.

The first modern World Series was played in 1903 and pitted the American League (pennant-winning) Boston Red Sox against the National League champions, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although Boston won five games to three, the series failed to draw the support of its fans and the Baseball National Committee. It wasn’t until 1905 that the series received organized baseball’s blessing and from that day forward, the fall classic has been uninterrupted and enjoyed by fans everywhere.

The first official series was one of the most dramatic series ever held. It brought together tough John McGraw’s National League New York Giants with mild mannered Connie Mack’s American League Philadelphia Athletics during a time that has been termed Baseball’s Golden Age of Pitching. Both clubs had superb mound aces: the A’s had the outstanding, Charles A. “Chief” Bender and Eddie Plank and the Giants had Christy “Matty” Mathewson, the darling of the crowd. Matty emerged the hero when he pitched the first, third and fifth games and won them all by shutouts. Mathewson’s record has never been topped, and still holds the most consecutive shutouts in a World Series. Another point of interest: Joseph J. “Iron Man” McGinnity won the fourth game for the Giants, 1-0. Chief Bender pitched the Athletics to their only victory in the second game, shutting out the Giants 3-0. The Baseball Championship of 1905 went down in history as one of a kind-shutout World Series. The Giants of course won it; four games to one.

The series drew a total of 91,723 spectators and grossed $68,436.81. Many grandstand seats went for a dollar and bleacher admissions were 50 cents. The World Champion Giants each collected $1,142, while the Athletics ended up with $823 per shares.

Many years after the World Series, a player named Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League and became the first black player in modern Major League history. Robinson’s acceptance into baseball led the way for a parade of black stars including: Larry Doby, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente and many others. And in 1974, Frank Robinson became Manager of the Cleveland Indians, making him the first black manager of a major league baseball team.

Outlook May / June 2015
In Retrospect
The NALC serves as a beacon of hope and light for the entire labor movement and letter carriers in this country have many reasons to be thankful and proud. From coast to coast, we have a powerful and influential legislative network that guarantees that our concerns are heard by the people in the position to help move us forward. Our ongoing lobbying efforts have secured many crucial and pivotal victories. To continue in the right direction, more employees need to contribute to COLCPE and become an E-Activist. We are getting beaten up politically and we must lobby and talk to our representatives and senators in order for growth to continue. Remember the job you save may be your own.

I have been retired fifteen years now and I still remember my life in the Postal Service. My route was a large part of my life. I watched people grow from young to old; time moves very fast. Whenever I talk to an old-timer, they waste no time telling me how they miss the good old days. These guys are quick to remind me how quick they were to deliver mail back then and how they delivered twice as much mail for much less pay. In retrospect, we weren’t subjected to the pressures of today’s Postal Service. Supervisors today lack the most basic necessity, common sense. Letter carriers are treated poorly and not shown basic respect by their superiors.

The tongue is made up of many muscles. You can inflame, joke, hurt, or soothe someone by the words you form with the tongue. One particular incident that demonstrated this in my postal career has always stood out in my mind. I was working my route and walked up the brownstone stoop where a husband and wife were sitting. I happened to notice that the husband had a bandage over his eye. Jokingly, I said to his wife without thinking, “Well, you finally took enough of his baloney and smacked him in the eye!” The husband abruptly got out of his seat and entered the building. I asked the wife who I knew, what had I said wrong. She informed me that her husband was just diagnosed with Cancer and the first thing that was removed was his left eye. I was shocked and sorry for what I said, but once it was said, it was said. These two people I always talked to on my route and my intention was not to hurt them. That day I learned an important lesson, the tongue is made up of powerful muscles; it can inflame, kid, hurt or soothe another person.

We all have problems and one is not less important than the other. We all deal with our problems in our own way. We can joke, laugh, and have a good time or we can be silent, angry or mad as we face our own problems. That day, I was embarrassed and sorry.

Outlook March / April 2015
This has been an extremely challenging winter for letter carriers around the country; it has been a long, cold winter to say the least. This winter has been one of the snowiest on record. Normally, when we spring forward to daylight savings time, we think about going outside and taking a walk in the park. This year, as we spring forward, we still have ice and snow on the sidewalks. Even so, the sun will soon be nice and warm, flowers will bloom, and thoughts will turn to summer family vacations for most retirees and letter carriers and much needed rest and relaxation

Food drive coordinators, Mike Kelly and Karla Navas, are making preparations for the upcoming food drive on May 9th. That day is a big day for letter carriers. It’s a day to be proud of what we are doing to make a difference in our communities. The food drive has become a nationwide event and has won the support of many sponsors, unions of the AFL-CIO, and the United States Postal Service. Volunteers are welcome and much needed. Our President Charlie Heege is asking for full cooperation from the Manhattan and Bronx Letter Carriers and also the retirees. We must make this the best year yet, together we can do it!

Many retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System did not file for Social Security benefits because they did not pay into the system. Unless you had two jobs or worked for a period of time before or after the Postal Service, you did not meet the minimum years under Social Security to receive benefits. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, part of the system includes Social Security, unlike the Civil Service Retirement System.

Here is a list of documents you might need if applying for Social Security: Social Security card, birth certificate (a certified copy, not a photocopy), W-2 or self-employment tax forms from last year, spouse’s Social Security number, marriage certificate, military discharge papers (if applicable), proof of citizenship (if not born in the United States), and your bank routing and account numbers if you want direct deposit.

Prior to 2012, Social Security sent printed statements three months before your birthday. Social Security no longer does that unless you are over 60 years of age and not receiving benefits. If you are looking to apply for Social Security, you may do so online at socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire or by calling 800-722-1213.

Outlook January / February 2015
Time to Take Stock
As we welcome in a new year, it seems like a good time to take stock of what we should be thankful for in our lives. We, as individuals, must cope with day-to-day problems in our personal lives. Issues regarding: health, money, raising children in today’s society, drugs and many other areas of concern. The list could go on and on. In as much as we are different, we are still the same in many ways. As a society, we must evaluate the standard of living available to all of us, as citizens of this great country.

I came from Puerto Rico back in the late 1950s, together with my two little sisters and younger brother. My father passed away and it was the sole responsibility of my mother to raise the four of us. My mother was a factory worker in the Garment Center. Although she worked more than 40 hours a week, my mother had little job protection. She worked from 8 in the morning until late into the evening. Not an easy thing to do when you have four children at home. Her salary was minimal and not enough to raise her four children. While I was in school, I was able to find a part-time supermarket job, which enabled me to help her pay the rent.

I attended Benjamin Franklin High School on East 116th Street (this is the same school Brothers Frank Orapello and Vinnie Sombrotto attended). I remember my mother struggling to keep up with the cost of living in New York City. Once I finished high school, my mission was to find a job, any job to help my mother and my family. Since this is the Land of Opportunity, I was able to get an application to work for the biggest and best factory in the world, the United States Post Office. It was not easy, but I was proud to be working for the government. Thanks to this job, I was able to help my family, marry, and make my life what it is today. Today, I must be thankful for those wonderful days I spent working for the United States Postal Service. I also must thank my union, Branch 36, for protecting my job security. It is amazing to be living in a country that allows you the freedom to vote; as well as, have a union that protects your rights as a worker. As union men and women, we have the right to negotiate, and the right to grieve for what we see as inequities. There are countries that do not permit the formation of unions. We, as a people, have many freedoms: freedom of the press, freedom to worship, freedom to speak freely and freedom to travel within our borders without restriction. Unfortunately, many of us take this for granted and don’t realize how these rights could be lost in a second.

We here at Branch 36 of the NALC will continue to do the best we can to serve you and protect you as our Brother and Sister Letter Carriers. On behalf of all of us, have a great year and be thankful.

Outlook November / December 2014
That Time of Year Again
It’s that time of year again, meaning: Thanksgiving is just around the corner. By the time you read this, our turkey and Thanksgiving dinners will already be well digested. I certainly hope you and your families are in a good state. We have all witnessed the bad things in life: illness or death of a loved one, disappointments, financial problems, anxieties, the aging process and many other negative issues that impact our daily lives. Yet through it all, we are still here and continuing our life’s journey as best we can. We all must be thankful for that. Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate and to be grateful for what we have and to make the best of every moment.

Thanks to all the letter carriers and their families who attended our Annual Dinner Dance at Marina Del Rey. Everyone is still talking about what a grand time they had with their families, friends and coworkers.

Congratulations to all the new officers at the NALC.

Open Season for the NALC Health Benefit Plan is from November 10th to December
8th. If you are planning a retirement in the near future take a good look at this medical plan. Take a look at this plan and compare it to other plans.

BROCHURE DOWNLOAD
The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Going Green mandate instructs all Federal Employees Health Benefit plans to reduce their use of paper by providing an electronic version of the Plan’s yearly brochure.

You may download the brochure from the Plan’s website at www.nalc.org/depart/hbp. If you would like to receive a paper copy of the brochure, contact the Plan at 1-888-636-NALC (6252).

Monthly Annuitant’s Pay-Retiree
HIGH OPTION SELF ONLY
$166.70
HIGH OPTION SELF & FAMILY
$337.35
Outlook September / October 2014
The most difficult things about writing an article every two months is finding a topic and getting started. This time however, there were too many things to write about and each one that came to mind had more than enough merit to warrant an article.

First, let me write about FERS RETIREMENT OPTIONS. There are three categories of retirement benefits in the Basic Benefit Plan.

Basic Benefit Plan offers immediate, early or deferred retirement. Employees who are eligible for immediate retirement or who elect deferred retirement receive full benefits; employees who choose early retirement see their annuities permanently reduced by 5 percent for each year they retire before reaching the age of 62.

FERS employees can retire when they reach their so called Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), provided they meet certain service requirements. The MRA falls between 55 and 57 and depends upon the employee’s year of birth. Employees are eligible for immediate retirement with unreduced benefits if they are:
1 - Age 62 with 5 years of creditable service.
2 - Age 60 with 20 years of creditable service
3 - At their Minimum Retirement AGE (age 55 to 57) with 30 years of service.
4 - The following chart shows the MRA.

On a final note, the greatest privilege granted to us as citizens of this great nation is our right to vote. Through this process, we have the power to determine who will represent us at the various level of our branch and the national levels, so please vote. The Rolando-O’Malley team will have my vote.

Outlook July / August 2014
From July 21st to July 25th, I attended the National Association of Letter Carriers’ 69th Biennial Convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. During this historical convention, 5,300 delegates from all state branches joined together to help shape the future of letter carriers and OUR POSTAL SERVICE!

On the first day of the convention our national president, Fredric Rolando highlighted the many victories that letter carriers have celebrated since the last convention in Minneapolis. He also spoke about the challenges the union will face in the upcoming months and years.

Rolando noted what a remarkable achievement it is within the labor movement that our union is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. He further mentioned that not many institutions get to celebrate their 125th anniversary. He used that milestone as a springboard, to review the NALC past successes as they relate to the challenges that lie ahead for the union, and the United States Postal Service. He ended his speech on a high note when he said, “Our union is strong and unified, we know what is at stake and we have the facts on our side. Together, brothers and sisters, nobody can defeat us, nobody can divide us, and nobody can get in our way. LET’S GET TO WORK!”

Rolando introduced Richard Nash, eBay’s head of U.S., Canada and Latin America’s government affairs; eBay is one of the postal service’s largest parcel shipping customers. A quarter of all parcels handled by the USPS, Nash said, are generated by eBay, bringing in $2.2 billion in postage paid. Nash said the postal service is essential to his company’s success and eBay is a committed partner in NALC’s effort to protect the Postal Service.

Delegates watched a video, “Remembering Vince,” in which many NALC activists and Sombrotto family members shared their memories of the 1970 postal strike and of Vincent Sombrotto, who passed away last year. The video was an expanded version of the one shown after former president Vincent Sombrotto’s memorial service last January. Afterwards, the delegates viewed another video of television coverage of the 1970 strike. Rolando later introduced a teacher and arbitrator Tom Germano, a former New York City Branch 36 letter carrier who helped lead his fellow strikers to victory. To me, it was an honor to see and talk to Tom. It had been thirty years or more since we had seen each other. I clearly remember Tom working side by side with Vinnie. Tom shared reflections on how the strike changed the postal service and energized the rank and file letter carriers.

Stephen Sombrotto, son of former NALC President Vincent Sombrotto, was also introduced and he shared many memories of his father and his family’s experiences with the NALC.

It was a historic week. President Rolando threw out the first pitch at the Phillies/Giants game. Secretary-Treasurer, Jane Broendel, is retiring at the end of the year and was recognized by the delegates for her many years of leadership. I personally wish her the best.

Branch 36 President, Charlie Heege, asked me to notify all of our retirees that our 42nd Annual Old-Timers’ Brunch will be held on Sunday, September 7th, 2014. NALC President, Fred Rolando, has been invited to be a guest speaker. We look forward to seeing you.

Outlook May / June 2014
An American History
The history of the Post Office Department as we called it before the 1970 Postal strike, (UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE) is an ongoing story of enormous depth and breadth, rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States - no matter who, no matter where - has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service. For more than 231 years, the Postal Service has delivered on that promise, transforming itself to better serve its customers.

The history of the United Postal Service is about the men and women whose daily efforts have provided our nation with the finest, most efficient mail service in the world. United States postal workers take pride in processing, transporting, and delivering the mail to the people of our great country.

The UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE (USPS) is an independent agency of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.

The National Association of Letter Carriers started in 1889 and grew quickly. It had 52 branches with 4,600 members in 1890, and 335 branches by 1892. It focused on forcing postmasters to honor federal law mandating an 8 hour day for federal employees. In 1893 won a $3.5 million in back overtime pay. Many of the local postmasters vigorously opposed the union, even though it did not sponsor strikes. It joined the AMERICAN FEDERAL OF LABOR (AFL) in 1917. By mid-1960, it had 175,000 members in 6,400 local branches.

Like most other unions in the United States, the NALC, and most of its rank and file, is involved politically and has largely supported the Democratic Party. The union has also supported a few individual Republican candidates.

Prior to the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, the USPS was a federal executive department under the name of Post Office Department, and the Postmaster General was member of the cabinet. The rate of postal pay was set by Congress and federal law, meaning that the Postal Service and its employees were deeply affected by Congress. The NALC strongly supported the Postal Reorganization Act. The NALC distinguishes itself from other unions in several ways. For examples, membership is completely voluntary: NALC states that it membership includes 300,058 active and retired members, including 214,084 are active city delivery letter carriers employed by the USPS. NALC refers to its chapters as “BRANCHES” rather than “locals”. Since its founding in 1889, the NALC has had 18 presidents.

One of the National Presidents was Vincent Raymond Sombrotto aka “Vinnie”. He was a letter carrier at Grand Central Station in Manhattan and the 16th president of the NALC between 1978 and 2002. Vinnie became an official member of NALC in 1947 and played a huge part in the U.S. postal strike of 1970. Vinnie helped to expand NALC into more than 100 cities and involved more than 200,000 new members. Because of his great contribution as a leader of our great UNION, the NALC is fighting to protect the job of every postal worker of our Nation and to save the USPS.

Outlook March / April 2014
Social Security Disability Benefits
Social Security reaches almost every family, and at some point will touch the lives of nearly all Americans. Social Security helps not only older Americans, but also workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Today about 159 million people work and pay Social Security taxes and about 55 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits.

Most of the Beneficiaries are retirees and their families. The current Social Security system works like this: when you work, you pay taxes into Social Security. That tax money is used to pay benefits to:
people who already have retired,
people who are disabled,
survivors of workers who have died,
and dependents of beneficiaries.

The money you pay in taxes is not held in a personal account for you to use when you collect benefits. Your taxes are being used right now to pay people who are getting benefits. Unused money goes to the Social Security t rust funds.

Many people think of Social Security as just a retirement program. Although it is true that most of the people receiving Social Security receive retirement benefits, many others get Social Security because they are disabled, or a spouse or child of someone who gets Social Security or a spouse or child of a worker has died.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for Social Security at any age. In fact Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other government program.

Your link with Social Security is your Social Security number. You will need it to get a job and to pay taxes. This number is used to track your earning while you are working and to track your benefits.

As you work and pay taxes, you earn Social Security “CREDITS”. Most people need 40 credits (10 years of works) to qualify for benefits. 4 quarters is the maximum you can earn in a year.

You may start receiving benefits as early as 62. However, if you start your benefits early, your benefits are reduced. For example, if your full retirement age is 66 and you sign up for Social Security when you are 62, you only get 75 percent of your full benefit.

If you cannot work because of a physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. However the rules of the Social Security are different from those of private plans or other government agencies (USPS, etc.). The fact that you qualify for disability from another agency or program does not mean you will be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

If you become disabled, you should file for disability benefits as soon as possible, because it usually takes several months to process a disability claim. You must have the following when you apply:
Medical records and treatment dates from your doctors, therapists, hospitals,clinics and caseworkers.
Laboratory and other test results.
The names, addresses, phone and fax numbers of doctors, clinics and hospitals.
The names of all medications you are taking.
The names of your employers and job duties for the last 15 years.

For more information about Social Security disability benefits ask for DISABILITY BENEFITS (PUBLICATION NO. 05-10029). You can apply for Social Security disability on the website at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability

Outlook January / February 2014
This article is from the New York Times’ editorials and I’d like to share it with you.

This year America will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, a candidate for the greatest legislative accomplishment of the last century. We will recall the presidents who launched (J.F.K.) and landed (L.B.J.) this profound if incomplete attempt to repair the damage racism had done to our democracy and our humanity. We will esteem the leaders and martyrs name of the movement that forced the issue onto our national conscience, including the man we honor on this holiday. Somewhere in all this worthy commemoration we should pause to pay homage to a conservative white Republican named WILLIAM MOORE McCULLOCH. Never heard of him? Neither had I. But there is a good case to be made that the Civil Right Act of 1964 would not have become law without him. And there is a very good case to be made that Washington desperately needs his example today.

McCulloch was a congressman from a rural, conservative district in west central Ohio. He was frugal with the taxpayers’ money, favored allowing prayer in schools and keeping the federal government out of them, voted against foreign aid and gun control. These views were sufficiently in sync with his constituents that voters re-elected him 12 times.

With a district that was 2.7 percent black, he had no political incentive to stick his neck out on something as contentious as civil rights. But McCulloch was descended from abolitionists, and had been appalled by his exposure to Jim Crow when he worked as a young lawyer in Florida. This fortified in him a strong belief that the blessings of the Constitution were not meant exclusively for white men, and that it was the highest duty of the Federal Government to secure those blessings for all. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations knew they would need a large contingent of Republicans to get the civil rights bill past the segregationist Southern Democrats who held the commanding heights on Capitol Hill. And so they sent an emissary to McCulloch, who was the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and enlisted him as a partner. He agreed to an active collaboration with the Democratic White House, an alliance hard to imagine today and even then viewed by some in his party as bordering on treason. He had two conditions. First, if McCulloch helped get a strong bill through the House, he insisted the President would not allow it to be weakened in the Senate, where the oligarchy of Southern Democrats had successfully filibustered past civil rights measures until they were rendered toothless. Second, McCulloch wanted assurances that the Republicans would shares the credit of the passage.

The final version outlawed discriminations in hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations. It empowered the attorney general to bring suit to desegregate public schools. It prohibited discrimination in hiring, and let victims of such discrimination seek redress in the court. And it expanded protection of the right to vote. Yes Mc- Culloch was a champion of the voting rights Act, too. In the end the Civil Rights Act passed with a larger percentage of Republicans in support than Democrats...

Yes William Moore McCulloch was an Unsung Hero of Civil Rights. Today his hometown of Piqua, Ohio is represented by John Andrew Boehner.

In the House of Representatives there is an imposing two-story amphitheater called the National Statuary Hall, to which each state may contribute two marble or bronze likenesses of favorite historical figures. Ohio is represented by President James A. Garfield and William Allen, a former senator and governor known as a champion of westward expansion. The names of 10 Ohioans were put to voters in a statewide ballot. William McCulloch came in fourth, after Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Jesse Owens.

Outlook November / December 2013
Open Season
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the enlightened sectors of our society provided employment benefits for their workers. The United States government on the other hand, was very slow to offer basic benefits to federal employees. It wasn’t until the close of World War I (1917-18) that members of Congress, in response to a wave of patriotism with the return of servicemen, pushed through a bill adopting certain benefits for federal workers. By 1920, the government adopted sick leave, workers’ compensation and a retirement system.

These concessions came after a thirty year fight by the still young N.A.L.C., but the battle for the rights of our members and of all federal workers was not over.

There was a total disregard for the welfare of the hardworking letter carriers. Seeing a need to provide its members with a worthwhile benefit the NALC began its own independent health benefit plan in 1950 with $5,000 borrowed from the union’s treasury. The NALC Health Benefit Plan became a part of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program in 1960 and letter carriers joined the Plan in unprecedented numbers. There were some officials both in the government and private sector who wondered just how long a self-insured union sponsored health plan would survive competing with the “big boys” like Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Well, the NALC proved the government and the Health insurance industry WRONG. The NALC Health Benefit Plan was created with unionism and solidarity in mind. That mind-set has not changed.

Now we have the OPEN SEASON to change Health Plan and join a Plan - from November 11th to December 9th.

How to Enroll in the NALC Health Benefit Plan
If you have access to Postal Ease through the Employee Web on the Internet or through an Employee Self-Service Kiosk, you may enroll in the NALC Health Benefit Plan by following the screen instructions. Simply follow the prompt and select Federal Employees Health Benefits, enter you EID, your USPS PIN, and other required information. Otherwise, call Postal Ease at 1-877-477-3273 Option 1.

When you have successfully entered all of your enrollment information, you will be given a Confirmation number. If you are not given a Confirmation number, your enrollment has not been processed. Make sure to write the number down and keep it in safe place in case there is a question about the transaction.

Note to our Annuitants: You may call OPM’s Open Season Express line at 1-800- 332-9798. It is a very simple procedure. Have your CSA NUMBER and Social

Security number ready. You can log onto OPM’s Open Season online service at http://retireefehb.opm.gov to make an open season health benefits enrollment change, to request information on canceling or suspending your health benefit coverage, or to request information on paying your premiums directly.

REMEMBER WE ARE A UNION WORKING FOR A UNION, AND HOPE TO REMAIN SO INTO THE FUTURE.

Outlook September / October 2013
This is an article that I read in one of the local papers. I want to share this article with you.

For nearly 40 years, home-care workers, wrongly labeled "companions", have been denied basic federal labor protections, including the right to be paid at least the minimum wage and time and a half for overtime.

The Labor Department has now moved to address that longstanding injustice, which affects millions of home-health aides, personal-care aides and other caregivers. Last week, the Department issued a strong new rule that entitles these workers to the minimum wage and overtime pay. The rule requires home-care agencies, which employ a vast majority of all home care workers, to adhere to federal wage and hour laws. It also set out clear rules for families that hire care workers directly, mandating the minimum wage and overtime pay during workhours, but allowing for unpaid hours that caregivers spend sleeping or on breaks.

For all its merits, however, the rule has a big drawback. It does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015. That is alarming because new federal rules often take effect 60 days after being issued. The Obama Administration has said that the later rule is designed to give state Medicaid programs, which pay many home-care bills, as well as families and individuals, time to prepare without disrupting care arrangements.

But the longer it takes for the changes to go into effect, the greater the chances they will never come to pass. The opposition to labor protections for home-care workers has been long and fierce UNLESS PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE SECRETARY OF LABOR, Thomas Perez, work with governors and LABOR and health care advocates to put the rule in place. One delay could beget more delay, which could beget repeal. This has happened before. Rules to extend the minimum
wage and overtime protection to home-care were passed at the end of the Clinton Administration and then were reversed when President W. Bush took office.

The home-care rule is a victory for low wages workers, and especially for working women, who make up most of the homecare work force. It should ease the burden for all Americans who must pay for public assistance for workers whose employers do not provide a decent wage. But it is as yet, a victory in word, not deed.

This is one of the many reasons I believe in the labor movement. I believe in unionism.

Outlook July / August 2013
I remember just starting out on-the-job back in 1965. During my first days as a sub, the shop steward came over to me and gave me great advice about joining the union. He explained the benefits of becoming a union member and the representation the union would provide if I got into any labor problem. He said, "If you are making a career of this job it is good to be a member. You never know when you're going to need the union." He also said to me," We are all union men here." I joined right away. It was the best choice I made while I was a letter carrier. Thanks to this individual who introduced me to postal unionism and urged me to become a union man, I'm a very proud member of one of America's great open shop unions, namely, the National Association of Letter Carriers.

To you prospective retirees who are thinking of dropping out of our union upon retiring, don't do it. Take it from me, a 46-year NALC member, it would be a foolhardy thing to do. You'd be missing the quality camaraderie you once enjoyed with your sisters and brothers at the postal station and union functions, the state and national conventions, and the great feeling of belonging. I know because I enjoyed most of them.

Invitations for the Branch 36 Oldtimers' Brunch have been sent out. Branch 36 retired members who live in the northeast region should get an invitation. If you are a member and your permanent address is in the northeast region and you did not receive an invitation, please call us at: (212) 239-3901.

The date for the Brunch is Sunday, September 8, 2013 at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Your invitation is required for admission to the Brunch. If you received one, please respond by the end of August. If you respond that you will attend and find out later that you cannot, please call me at the Branch headquarters. The phone number is: (212) 239-3901.

We have invited our National President Fredric Rolando to be our guest speaker. Local NALC branch officers were also invited. The numbers at the brunches get slimmer each year. Death and sickness are the main reasons. I enjoy the brunches because of the memories they revive, the routes we worked, the partners we had and the Christmas time

Outlook May / June 2013
Recently, I have received phone calls from members asking questions about retirement, "Am I eligible to retire?" That question is easy to answer after I establish eligibility under CSRS or FERS. "Should I retire?" is another often asked question. Well, that is not so easy to answer. Each person has a lot to consider. Can you afford to retire? What will you do after retirement? Will you work another job? Will you fish, golf, do volunteer work, move to another state? The final decision can come only from the individual after carefully considering his life circumstances.

Disability retirement is also asked about. Disability retirement as a result of a non job-related injury or illness must be requested and approved. The benefits for disability retirement have a different formula and generally produce lesser monetary benefits than standard retirement.

I am frequently asked about an "early out" and lump sum buyouts. Currently there is no offer of an "early out" or "lump sum" buyout that I or any other person in this office knows of. Usually, "early out" and "lump sum" buyouts are the wishful thinking of those who would like to leave the job before they are eligible to retire. When we do retire, we are told what our benefits are. We are also given options for life insurance benefits. Like basic life insurance, there is no reduction or half reduction and there also are other insurance plans that you can choose. There exists A insurance, B insurance and C insurance. If married, we also select a survivor annuity. Time goes on and we forget what the insurance benefits are that provide our beneficiaries with a sum of money in case of death. Some forget who the beneficiaries are.

I get many calls concerning survivor benefits and insurance benefits. From time to time you must review your benefits. Active and retired members who have questions about FERS (or retirement in general) are welcome to call the NALC Retirement Department toll-free at: 1-800-424-5186 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to noon and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for assistance.

The Retirement Information Office of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can be reached at 1-202-606-0500, or toll-free at 1-888-767-6738.

Social Security information can be obtained by calling toll-free at: 1-800-
772-1213.

You can also continue to call me at Branch 36 at: 212-239-3901.

Outlook March / April 2013

Over 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin envisioned a Postal Service that would serve our country... a Post Office that would bring the entire country and its people closer together. That vision became a reality. Ben Franklin not only created the Post Office that brought the American people closer together, but brought the countries of the world closer together with America.

Since that time, the Postal Service has grown to epic proportions. Today it's the best in the world. What other country has a Postal Service that serves its people with such a dedicated vigor? The carrier work force has contributed greatly to this nation, to its people and to every community in this nation. They've been on the streets, roads, and byways, night and day moving and expediting the delivery of the mail for centuries.

Now, after so many years of good service we the people and the Postal Service are under attack by some members of Congress. They want to cut service, yes the good service that our letter carriers have been providing for centuries. They want to eliminate Saturday delivery! This action would bury many jobs in the Postal Service. The Postal Service has eliminated more than 193,000 jobs since 2006, Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost if a day of delivery is dropped. Instead of fixing the real problem, some in Congress would rather end Saturday mail delivery.

This country's Founding Fathers are turning over in their graves as to what this Congress is trying to do to this great institution. The NALC is doing everything possible to save the Postal Service. Letter carriers, clerks and mailhandlers want to save the Postal Service because they understand how valuable an entity it is to the American public and our nation.

Letter carriers are working six days each week, ten and twelve hour days, keeping the Postal Service going. Of course they are well compensated for it, but letter carriers are among the most productive employees in the United States. They care about their jobs and they care about the service they provide to the public under very difficult circumstances, and this is the reason we must fight and save our Postal Service.

This past Sunday March 24, 2013, I attended our Branch 36 rally on 31st Street to protest the proposed five day delivery. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with brothers and sisters who are very concerned about the future of the Postal Service. Our President Charlie Heege did a great job and delivered a great speech. The rally was an enormous success.

We must continue the fight to save our Postal Service. Brothers and Sisters, all we have is each other. There were those who showed us the way in the past, but it is for us to mark the road to the future. Let's take that step together to save the Postal Service.

FIVE DAYS DELIVERY -- NO WAY
SIX DAYS DELIVERY -- IS THE ONLY WAY

Outlook January / February 2013
Vincent R. Sombrotto
We all have an idol or a hero in our lives and because of my love for sports, all my idoIs and heroes happen to be sports personalities. In baseball there was Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. In basketball, Walt Frazier. They were my idols because I love the way they played their games. They were leaders, but outside of sports there are also idols and my favorite of all happens to be someone who changed my life - not only mine, but many who worked for the Postal Service back in the late 60's and 70's.

Our pay was low. Almost every letter carrier had a second job. For me to survive, I was driving a cab to bring a little more income into my home. Believe me, it was not fun getting home at 3:00 a.m. to take a nap, a shower and go back to pick up a truck. I was very frustrated and upset working for the Federal government for such low pay.

In July, 1969, carriers and clerks of Kingsbridge Station in the Bronx called in sick, in reaction to the low pay from the Post Office. Thereafter, the Postmaster suspended the carriers and clerks. The word went out and on the very next day 16 carriers from Throggs Neck Station also called in sick, including a few from Westchester Square. The action of the Bronx carriers gave us a sense of courage to do the same. The decision of the Postmaster at that time was very weak. Many New York carriers were not scared after what happened in the Bronx. We started to hear rumors all over the stations that a group of carriers from Grand Central Station were talking about taking action calling for a strike. Vincent R. Sombrotto, then a rank and file carrier who did not hold an office in the branch, was one of the leaders of that group. Vinnie wanted the branch to take
responsibility to compensate those carriers for the wages they had lost for the day they were suspended.

It was Vince Sombrotto and his growing army of carriers who continued attending the branch meetings and continued telling the branch leaders to take action, calling for a strike, but everybody feared taking that kind of action, because of the consequences. The Branch's leadership opposed Vinnie's proposal. Then, on March 17, 1970, we were told that a special meeting was going to be held at the Manhattan Center at 34th Street and Eighth Avenue. About 3,000 members attended that meeting. That was the first time I saw Vince in action.

We needed a leader and there he was, telling us to vote to strike. The same day at approximately 11:00 p.m. the results were announced. 1,555 to strike, 1,055 not to strike. The strike did change my life very much; I must say that it was Vince's courage and leadership that helped me to vote "yes" that night. I was fearful, just like many of us who knew that it was a risk. Most of those members who went on strike had 20 or more years in the Post Office. That same night at 12:01 a.m. on March 18, 1970, was the beginning of the "Great Postal Strike." Our national president ordered us to go back to work. We didn't go
back. For us there was only one voice to listen to and comply with and that was Vincent R. Sombrotto.

Outlook November / December 2012
A Thanksgiving Message
My friends, at this time, Thanksgiving is here. When you read this, your turkeys and Thanksgiving dinners will be well digested. It is a time one should reflect on the good things we are personally thankful for; for me those good things include the fact that I'm still here. I am considerably healthy. I have a good family. I love to be with my grandson who is doing well in health. He loves sports and keeps me company in all my sports activities. I am thankful to be a retiree and able to have worked as a letter carrier for 34 years. I am also thankful to be the Director of Retirees for our Branch 36. To me this title is an honor because this is my other family.

I certainly hope you and your family are also in good spirits. We have all witnessed the miserable things in life… deaths of loved ones, disappointments, financial problems, aging and all other aspects of the negative side of life, but we are still here continuing our lives as best we can. For ourselves and our loved ones we must try to make the best of all other areas of our lives.

In my opinion, as retirees we have fared well. We still have COLA, effective from January, 2013; the retiree cost-of-living adjustment will be 1.7 percent under both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). We still have health plans under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). The open season is from November 13th to December 10th. This is the opportunity for every federal and postal employee to choose his or her health coverage for the 2013 benefit year.

I am not a politician, but I feel good and proud to know that 71% of the Latino votes helped to reelect our President Barack H. Obama. I believe the future of this great nation is in good hands. I'm sure the future of the Postal Service will be good too. President Obama is the best choice for letter carriers and other working people. We still have postal reform legislation that we have been fighting over for the past two years, specifically, S.1789 and H.R. 2309. The postal crisis is likely to finally push the new Congress to act on postal reform this coming year.

The spirit of Thanksgiving and the coming holidays make us feel like kids, people change and customs change, maybe for the better. Who knows? In any event let us all be thankful for what we have now. Let's be thankful we can fight for the issues that concern us.

I WISH ALL A HAPPY THANKSGIVING, A MERRY CHRISTMAS, A HAPPY CHANUKAH AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Outlook September / October 2012
With the November 6, 2012 General Election fast approaching and the primaries mostly history now, we have many decisions to make. Very simply put, who shall we cast our vote for? Someone who will share out interests? Who, among the many candidates, not only here in our state but across the country, will support the letter carriers' future and the future of the United States Postal Service? In the past we have received many empty promises from different candidates, only to see how quickly they forgot us once they reach the halls of Congress. We won't let that happen again, no matter how well they receive us or how graciously they initially conduct themselves toward us.

You the voter must decide which candidates will best represent the retirees when they get to Washington, D.C. I won't advise you nor tell you which candidates to vote for. You are capable of making that decision after carefully studying the background of each candidate. In a class on the subject of politics given at the most recent convention, we must learn which candidates will benefit us and our families. We live in a democratic society. Get to the polls on Election Day and vote!

On Sunday, September 9, 2012, our Branch 36 celebrated our 40th annual Old Timers' Brunch. Thank you to all the retirees who participated in the Brunch. Our Branch 36 President Charlie Heege presented a great speech. What greatly disappoints me is that the number of retirees attending the Brunch is fewer each year. Death and sickness are the main reasons. Also, many of the new retirees are moving out of the state. Because the Brunch was given on September 9th, two days before the World Trade Center 9/11/2001 tragedy, a retired carrier from FDR Station named Melida Green-Niles wrote the following commemorative letter to me:

"Today marks 11 years since the tragedy unfolded on our city with the destruction of the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 277. These events changed the lives of many around the world, but we are thankful to our GOD who used this day to bring people of different color, nationalities and religions from all parts of the world together to support one another and grieve together. We are grateful to the first responders, fire fighters, police officers, medical personnel, volunteers and military members for their continued support, protection, duty and service. As we continue to move forward, we remain mindful of what this day means. We reflect with remembrance, prayer, compassion and love. We have learned to pay attention, get involved and the new mantra, 'If you see something, say something.' God Bless."

Outlook July / August 2012
I remember the U.S. Post Office Department as being an efficient post office that provided the postal customers with excellent mail delivery service. The U.S. Post Office Department is what it was called when I first started working and carried the mail.

I remember there was a scheduled leaving and returning time that carriers adhered to. It assured the mail of being delivered on time and it helped make for a mail delivery service par excellence.

Huge amounts of mail of all kinds were handled by the Post Office Department then. My first day of work was a cold day in December, 1965 and outside of Planetarium Station were #1 sacks full of parcels because there was no room inside the station. Of course at that time we had security guards. Carriers cased slews of first-class mail and all types of magazines.

I also remember the managers and supervisors as being sensible fair-minded and affable. When problems cropped up on the workroom floor, they used common sense to work out a solution, usually with the shop steward. I recall the old timers giving good advice about the job and how to be polite with our customers. After all, we were serving all those who used the American mailing system.

Currently, everyday postal workers are exposed to the ongoing debate on what is the future of the United States Postal Service. It is on TV, on radio and in newspapers across the nation. While our leaders in Washington, that is Congress, sit in judgment of this great institution, we all know that this body of representatives have a major role in putting the U.S. Postal Service in harm's way, by demanding the pre-funding of future retirees' health benefits 75 years into the future and to accomplish payment for the same within a ten (10) year period.

They have the colossal dumb nerve to say that the Postal Service is broke. In a nutshell, the Postal Service is NOT broke! The Postal Service has, at a minimum, about $57 billion it cannot use because Congress will not give the money back. According to recent actuarial studies, the Postal Service has overpaid somewhere in the amount of $50 -$75 billion into the Civil Service Retirement (CSRS) and overpaid about $6.9 billion into the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). This is not a taxpayer fund. This is a ratepayer and employee fund. If we can get H.R. 1351 approved, we can get a proper calculation of overpayment and get the fund transferred back to the Postal Service where it rightfully belongs. As you may know, the Postal Service is currently paying $5.5 billion a year to fund health benefits for future retirees who are not currently working for the Postal Service and have not yet been born.

That shows how little Congress knows about the Postal Service. Either its members fail to understand the full picture or they want the Postal Service to fail. Congressional members must acquire the salient facts involved in each issue and then arrive at an intelligent conclusion, not one that basically reflects having honored only those with ulterior motives who want desperately to essentially privatize our exquisite United States Postal Service. Long live the U.S. Postal Service!

Our NALC President Fredrick Rolando told us at the Minneapolis Convention that we have each other. He said, "Remember to keep your head up and remember the power of the union. IF WE DON'T SAVE THE USPS, NO ONE WILL."

Outlook May / June 2012
An Update On Congressional Misdeeds
I feel justified anger about the most recent irrational Congressional misdeeds being undertaken in Washington, D.C. in an ongoing massive action to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service, which is self-supporting via sale of postage and other postal services. Rich congressional representatives with, I think, mercenary ulterior motives, have published and republished immense propaganda to the effect that the taxpayers' dollars run the U.S. Postal Service and that those taxpayer dollars have been wasted. That is a ridiculous lie. Such misinformation was repeated by Republican John McCain et al., on television during a televised Congressional hearing regarding planned postal changes being made.

Paraphrased hereinafter are the words of NALC President Frederic Rolando, a reliable authority on the subject of the U.S. Postal Service:

"...The U.S. Senate voted instead to begin dismantling of the United States Postal Service by passing S. 1789, the deeply flawed postal reform bill, by vote of 62 to 37."

The legislation embraces a downsizing strategy and fails to fully remove the onerous burden to pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits. If it were to become law, it would be almost impossible to save Saturday mail delivery for the American people and their businesses. Added: It's like saying to a growing child, "I won't give you access to necessary food, but you'll have to be healthy without it."

A revised version of S.1789 was introduced which included amendments to stop the change to five-day mail delivery and to strike draconian workers' compensation alleged reform. Only the amendment to preserve door-to-door delivery was approved. We are gravely disappointed. Our fight to preserve the best service will continue.

Regarding a Lazard team with extensive experience in restructuring strategy, Mr. Rolando states that the white paper done by the Lazard team outlined the basic elements of a strategy that would aim to revitalize the Postal Service-rather than the approach being advocated by the Postal Service, which relies on massive and ultimately counterproductive, reductions in service. The Postal Service's "shrink to survive" strategy will simply facilitate the decline of this vital American institution, the report found. It is pathetic to note what Congressional enemies of postal employees are doing; they are going forward to destroy rather than save the U.S. Postal Service.

In the next issue of The Outlook I will discuss The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, H.R. 7. In the meantime, please familiarize yourselves with its content and why the NALC Alert states that "These cuts to federal and postal employee retirement benefits are totally unjustifiable and Congress should reject them outright."

Retirees, summer is approaching. Many legislative bills are in the hopper. Acquire copies of the respective bills, study them, and phone your political representatives to let them know which clauses you oppose and which clauses you favor.

I am asking all of you to go to the polls and vote. Those political people who are our friends deserve your votes. It is your obligation to remember to get to the polls to vote in November.

We continue to remain being the land of the free and the home of the brave. Remember to place your American flags on display this Memorial Day, 2012, to honor the war dead.

Outlook March / April 2012
I remember like it was yesterday. On March 18, 1970, forty-two years ago this month, I was standing in front of Planetarium Station. I was one of thousands of New York letter carriers who helped change the course of postal history by putting down our satchels, taking up picket signs and igniting what is known today as the largest wildcat strike in American history. The strike led to an immediate pay increase for letter carriers and other craft postal employees. It also created the opportunity for the passage of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 which established the U.S. Postal Service, giving postal employees and their unions the right to engage in collective bargaining over wages, hours, and working conditions. It is fair to say that without the strike, the Postal Reorganization Act would not have become enacted. Had there been no strike, our union would not have been able to bargain with postal management to achieve the wages, benefits and working conditions that today's letter carriers now enjoy.

After 42 years, we still have people in Washington, DC, including our current Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, attacking our collective bargaining rights. It is now our turn to be stronger as a union. We must stop these union-busting politicians who viciously want to destroy the U.S. Postal Service, like wealthy Congressional Rep. Darrell Issa (R. CA). He and those like him want to make the Postal Service extremely weak so that private industry can take over acquiring the millions
and more that the U.S. Postal Service is capable of earning now and in the future. We need politicians who intelligently care about the future of our Postal Service.

We need every carrier to belong to Branch 36. As we all know, there are a number of non-members (known as "scabs") in the Postal Service who feel they don't need to join the union because they mistakenly believe that management has already given them all the benefits they now enjoy, such as annual leave, pay increases, etc. Well brothers and sisters, it is up to you to set the record straight. Management doesn't give you a damn thing. Every job benefit you now have is the result of negotiation by the National Association of Letter Carriers in Washington D.C., and your Branch 36, an open union, meaning your right to join it is voluntary. You are a part of a career profession that you should be proud of. Never forget, Branch 36 is always there to defend your rights. In 1970, we risked our jobs, facing criminal prosecution and jail sentences to strike. We were the first out there and the last to return to work, and we did it with unity, because we believe in solidaridad humana, human solidarity. That is what our union is all about. To our members who are in the process of contemplating retirement, please read the excellent article written by our Washington, D.C. Director of Retired Members, Ernest Kirkland, in the March, 2012 issue of the Postal Record.

Outlook January / February 2012
Now that the holiday season is over, let's start the New Year by reaching out to save the U.S. Postal Service. As a member of the NALC, are you doing your part to save America's Postal Service? We all know that the U.S. Postal Service is a huge business. Next to the military, it is the largest employer in the U.S.

Saving our Postal Service for our own sake is one thing, but let's not forget that in so doing, we are also saving all this for postal managers and supervisors who continue to make stupid decisions. Postal management is trying to stop Saturday delivery. The Postmaster General continues to push for less than six-day delivery, even though doing so will certainly cause the loss of postal customers and much revenue. He continues to close postal offices around the country.

Closing down post offices to save a little money is just a big distraction and is a monumental error in sensible judgement. We are facing unprecedented attacks. We must fight back with everything we've got or be annihilated! Management is also lobbying Congress to cut our health and retirement benefits.

All things considered regarding this topic, my question to you is: Are you really doing whatever it takes to help save the Postal Service? Did you attend a rally on September 27th?

Have you written your Representative and asked him or her to support HR 1351?

Did you contribute to COLCPE?

If you have answered "no" to any of these questions, then you could be doing more to save the Postal Service.

We need every member to become pro-active in our efforts to save six-day delivery and collective bargaining. Every letter carrier should be an E-activist, donate to COLCPE, and become involved in the union, especially by going to union meetings. We need younger union members to step up to commence their involvement in union work and get involved in protecting their own job future in the Postal Service.

As members of the NALC, we must focus on the big picture at the national level. It's those men and women of the NALC who are in Washington, D.C. everyday, who go on fighting to preserve all members' jobs.

In his speech to the nation, our President Barack Obama mentioned taking care of our troops who are coming home and creating jobs for them. The President mentioned jobs in the Police Department and the Fire Department. How about the U.S. Postal Service, Mr. President? They deserve jobs to return to.

Many veterans back from Vietnam in the 70's were welcomed into the Postal Service and continue serving our nation, This is the time to say thanks to them. Their service to our country never ended. They continue serving our country.

Let's do our utmost to promote the life of our U.S. Postal Service.

Outlook November / December 2011
Here comes Christmas, 2011! Let me be the first to welcome that time of year when the volume of mail picks up, the days get shorter, and summer vacation fades into the past. I hope everyone had some time off to reflect and regroup. This time of the year brings back memories of when I was a letter carrier in Planetarium Station. Back in December, 1965, my tour started at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. I did collection work and special delivery, then went to the street and delivered mail. I remember well that the mailboxes were very small but large enough to insert first-class mail and maybe a few magazines. Still, the volume of mail was very heavy and included lots of parcels. My day ended late in the afternoon with no days off. That was the time when the Post Office was a 24-hour job with no stop.

Clerks, mail handlers and carriers boxed up mail to be delivered by the regular carriers the next day. Still, the pay was not that great; all I was looking for was security, good benefits and a pension, but after awhile on-the-job, my pay was too little and I was forced to get another job driving a cab at night to be able to feed my family. I was not the only one. The majority of my fellow workers were doing the same thing. Those were the tough times of my era. The low pay at that time was one of the reasons we took the stand to go on strike. I took part in that strike. I feared loss of my job, but there was no choice
other than to go out there and do it.

The strike of 1970 led to the creation of the United States Postal Service and the first National Agreement with a no lay-off clause. Because of the strike, my pay became better and my job was safe with no need for a second job. Now, many years later, I realize how important that strike was, and I feel proud to have been part of its history. At this time, several unscrupulous politicians, such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) want to destroy the U.S. Postal Service, the jobs of more than 900,000 postal employees, and all the honest effort that we stood for all these years.

On October 13, 2011, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved H.R. 2309, which would eliminate Saturday mail delivery. This will eliminate 80,000 positions in the Postal Service and who knows how many businesses would be adversely affected by this action. It would mandate the closing of many post offices and end mail delivery to the doors of 90 percent of American households. If H.R. 2309 becomes law, virtually all residents and business owners would lose the door-to-door delivery they have long relied on, said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

I took the chance of losing my job 42 years ago and now I am asking all of you to get involved by just calling your Representative in Washington, D.C. to tell them H.R. 2309 is a bad bill and tell them to vote NO on this bill, Tell Congress not to destroy the U.S.P.S. Let them know that when our troops come home from overseas, their U.S. Postal Service jobs will be there for them. Tell them to create additional jobs and not to eliminate jobs. Our mail system is the best in the world, and let's protect our Saturday delivery and no lay-off clause. The U.S. Postal Service is one of America's oldest and most beloved institutions. Let's work to perpetuate its life. Simply phone your Congress person and speak up for that reason.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL AND A HEALTHY NEW YEAR

On September 11th our branch celebrated our retiree brunch at the beautiful Hard Rock Café. I want to express my sincere thanks to those who attended. It was a very enjoyable morning, and to me it is very important to see all the retirees having fun and reminiscing about memories of our past working days. From our national headquarters the speaker was Executive Vice President Tim O'MaIley. He answered many questions regarding our NALC Health Plan. All our Branch 36 officers also attended. It was a special day for us, but also was a very sad day because it was the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. We honor and remember the victims of that tragic day.

Branch 36 officers thank you all for attending the retiree brunch. I hope we will all see each other again next September.

Many members have been phoning me in regard to retirement. If you are contemplating retirement in the near future, please phone me at the office at: (212) 239-3901 at least three or four months before the retirement day. The Branch will help you to correctly fill out all the necessary papers.

I'd like to invite all the retirees and future retirees to join our Branch and the National Association of Letter Carriers to help save America's Postal Service. A plan is underway to close thousands of post offices throughout the U.S.A. and to eliminate Saturday delivery of mail. The truth is that in 2006 Congress passed a law that required the Postal Service to "pre-fund" health care benefits for future retirees. It required the Postal Service to pay a 75-year liability in just ten years.

By law, on September 30th the Postal Service must pay $5.5 billion. Congress created this financial crisis; let Congress fix it. All we ask you to do is call your legislator to support H.R. 1351, introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA). Call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your representative. By mail, the name of your representative, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515. At this time, the future of the Postal Service doesn't look too good, but with your help and the help of your Representative, this could save jobs and the collective bargaining rights of postal employees.

H.R. 1351 would allow the Postal Service to apply the billions of dollars in pension overpayments to meet the financial obligations of the Postal Service.


Dear Joe:
Thank you so much for talking with us on Tuesday. It was really a pleasure. All the information was so helpful and put our minds at ease.

If you see Pat McNally and Sonny Guadalupe, please give them our regards. We worked at Grand Central with them. Again, thank you so much.

Sincerely,
Albert and Patricia Ruas, Ret.
Grand Central Station

It looks like we finally have a House bill to hang our hats on. It is H.R.1351 introduced by Democrats, that is, Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts. Last April Rep. Stephen Lynch, the ranking member of the House Sub-Committee on the Federal workforce of the Postal Service, and the District of Columbia introduced H.R.1351, the U.S. Postal Service's Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011. This is a big step. The bill's passage would help the CSRS. NALC President Fredric Rolando is in full support of this bill. If this bill passes, it will recover our pension surpluses and will prevent a financial crisis in September when the Postal Service is scheduled to make another $5.5 billion payment to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. This payment is mandated by law. We are doing everything possible to have every member of Congress cosponsor this bill. You can do your part by going to our website to see if your member of Congress has endorsed the Lynch bill.

On July 6th, 7th and 8th, our Branch attended the annual State Convention at which we discussed and learned about many postal issues that will affect the future of the Postal Service. Also, we delivered a message during a demonstration in front of the office of Congressman Chris Gibson. Our reason for doing so is we wanted him to listen to our leader to explain to him H.R.1351 and why we think he should co-sponsor this bill. According to our State President George Mangold, Gibson is one of only five Congress people in New York who have not agreed to co-sponsor this bill.

Due to problems within the Office of Personnel Management, many newly retired people are phoning me in regard to not getting their interim payments on time. Our National Director of Retired Members, Ernie Kirkland, is aware of this problem, and he has been in contact with OPM and others with regard thereto. We are hoping this problem becomes resolved soon with 40 new hires in OPM and to have them working again in a prompt manner.

Our best suggestion to those considering retirement is to continue having at least five months of their estimated annuity available as a cash reserve while the process unfolds. Saving annual leave is a very good option.

The following important information appeared in the July, 2011 issue of Postal Record and is republished at this time for your knowledge:

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
The projected accumulation toward the ninth and final cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for letter carriers under the 2006-2011 National Agreement is $1,019 annually following the release of the May 2011 Consumer Price Index (CPI). The ninth COLA will be based on the July 2011 CPI.

The projected accumulation toward the 2012 retiree COLA was 3.4 percent following the release of the May CPI. Because there was no retiree COLA for 2010 or 2011, the 2012 retiree COLA will be determined by comparing the average CPI during the third quarter of 2011 and the average during the third quarter of 2008, the benchmark set when the retiree COLA was last paid.

The projected accumulation for the 2012 COLA under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) was 3.5 percent following the release of the May DPI. The 2012 FECA COLA is based on the increase in the CPI between December 2010 and December 2011 and will become effective on April 1, 2012.

Retiree Benefits
Everyone wants to protect his or her loved ones from financial problems. But until now, finding the best way to protect your family after retirement is very important. Most carriers that are about to retire are not aware of the benefit for them to choose. Life insurance and the medical plan are very important for a retiree. Before you know it, it's time to make the decision to retire. Don't wait for the last minute to know about all these benefits.
RETIREMENT SYSTEM
CSRS - Civil Service Retirement System (Federal Employment Prior to 1/1/1984)
FERS - Federal Employees Retirement System (after 1/1/1984 and Transfers)
If you are planning to retire within the near future and are covered under the regular Civil Service Retirement (CSRS or CSRS Offset), you need a handbook to guide you through the retirement process and provide you with information on the following:

a. Annuity and survivor benefits calculations
b. Other benefits - such as health benefits, life insurance and the Thrift Savings
Plan (TSP)
c. Procedures and time frames involved in applying for retirement
d. What to expect in retirement
For Federal Employees Retirement System, you also need this handbook. To get this handbook call SHARES SERVICE (POSTAL EASE) 1-877-477-3273. Our Branch is always here for you, to help and explain about all these benefits.

HEALTH PLAN
You may continue your health benefit into retirement if you have been enrolled in the FEHB Program for the 5 years immediately preceding retirement. Changes in your health plan can only be made during the open season which is in November of each year. Don't wait until retirement. Annuitants are entitled to the same benefits as active employees enrolled in the same plan, including FEHB Open Season changes and other opportunities to change enrollment. Your survivors may also continue health benefits if they are covered under your enrollment as a retiree and a survivor annuity has been established. The Postal Service contributes a larger share of its employees' health benefit cost than other government agencies. During retirement, the Postal Service's contribution for annuitants reverts to the government's rate of contribution and, therefore, your share of the cost of your health insurance premium may increase. The cost of your health insurance premium may change from year to year, just like an active employee.
Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance
The life insurance information on the annuity estimate shows the type of insurance in which you are enrolled under Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance. In order to carry life insurance into retirement, you must have been enrolled for 5 years, preceding the effective date of your annuity, or, if enrolled less than 5 years, from the date of your first opportunity to enroll.

These provisions apply to both Basic Life Insurance and any optional, or (Option A-Standard, option B-Additional, or Option C-family) you may have. Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance does not continue into retirement.

Annual Leave
You will be able to receive a terminal leave payment for accumulated annual leave carried over from the previous year and accrued annual leave for the year in which you retire, not to exceed the carryover maximum for your bargaining unit, which is 440 hours.
Annuity Limitation of 80 Percent
41 years, 11 months' service is 80 percent of high-3 average salary. The 80% maximum is attained by a combined total of years of service (civilian and military) of 41 years and 11 months. Retirement deductions withheld after 41 years and 11 months of service are applied toward payment of deposits or redeposits, with any balance automatically refunded to the employee at the time of retirement.

1) He chooses to buy additional annuity with excess contributions he made to the retirement system;
2) He has unused sick leave that will increase his earned years and months of service;
3) He has a voluntary contributions account and chooses to purchase additional annuity with that money.
None of the above are subject to the 80 percent limit.

Civil Service Survivor Benefits

Branch 36 members and their relatives like to phone me to get answers and make sure their paperwork is accurate. Many of those calls have to do with Survivor Benefits. That being the situation, I decided to reprint an article about that subject which was covered by a national NALC officer. It is hereby quoted:

The office of the director of retired members receives many inquiries from survivors regarding the current procedure in the event of the death of a civil service annuitant or an active employee of the USPS. The following will explain the proper action a survivor should take upon the annuitant's or employee's death. The exact type and amount of benefits depends on the particular case.

Benefits are not paid automatically. Survivors must apply to receive benefits.
1. Return any uncashed checks the annuitant receives after his/her death to the return address shown on the Treasury Department's envelope in which the check was delivered. If annuity payments have been sent directly to the bank or other financial institution, promptly notify that institution of the annuitant's date of death. Ask that any payments received after the date of death be returned to the Treasury Department.

Returning uncashed checks to the Treasury Department is necessary because government checks made payable to a deceased person cannot be legally cashed by anyone, even the executor of the estate.

Until the Treasury Department informs OPM that there are no outstanding checks payable to the deceased annuitant, they cannot authorize a survivor benefit.

Any unpaid accrued annuity due to the deceased will be paid to the eligible survivor
2. Notify the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Employee Service and Records Center, PO Box 45, Boyers, Pennsylvania 16017. Indicate the annuitant or employee is deceased and request forms for claiming survivor benefits.

SF2800 - Claim for Death Benefits, Survivor Annuity or Lump-Sum Payment. FE 6 - Application for Life Insurance from the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance

SF3104 - For employees on FERS - Application for Death Benefits (survivor annuity, basic death benefit, or lump sum payment.

OPM will process your request as soon as possible. The letter of notification should include the full name of the deceased, exact date of birth, exact date of death, CSA number (claim number), and the address, relationship and signature of the person who is apparently entitled to benefits.
3. Obtain certified copies of the death certificate to enclose with applications SF 2800 and FE 6. Completing an application (SF 2800) for survivor benefits is necessary so that OPM can authorize payment of all benefits to the eligible survivor

Benefits may also include automatic health insurance coverage if the survivor has been covered by the annuitant's enrollment in one of the government's health benefits programs, and if the survivor is eligible to receive a survivor annuity immediately after the death of the annuitant.

When applying for life insurance benefits, if the employee was covered by a policy issued by the Office of Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance, there is no need for the eligible survivor to write the New York office of FEGLI. They cannot settle a claim until a certification of the deceased annuitant or employee's insurance status is received from OPM.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY, AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS

I am back at Branch 36 after having taken a leave of absence. It's good to be back again and I'm glad to resume writing to you. Now that the holidays are over, I hope everyone enjoyed themselves and will be staying healthy during the new year.

Of course this cold weather time is here to stay until it warms up again and I remind you to dress warmly according to the temperature and your personal needs. No one wants frostbite or hypothermia. Keep yourself in excellent health condition.

Every year our Branch looks forward to reaching out for a way to be of additional help to our membership. I have helped retirees correctly complete the filing of necessary forms, and will of course continue to do so. We can always
do this comfortably in the quiet Branch 36 conference room, or wherever you feel most at ease.

The other officers and myself would like you to participate in contributing to COLCPE, the Committee On Letter Carriers Political Education, known as COLCPE and pronounced "COLCEP." It will always be important for us to retain labor-friendly political representatives. Our current contract comes to a close in 2011. Never forget that the challenges our union faces this year are very weighty - they're tremendous. The job you save could be your own and others around you. The best way to honor COLCPE is to sign up for payroll deductions. Speak to your shop steward about how to do that, and if they're not sure, phone Branch 36 at: (212) 239-3901.

One of the events you should be on hand for is when the Branch celebrates a day at Citi Field. Most of the members bring their families.

We also feature the annual Old Timers' Brunch at which time all get together with the senior members to reminisce and share stories about our experiences on and off the job. The brunch takes place in September. We send out all the invitations to our retiree members. In November of every year we hold an annual dinner-dance. We also tirelessly do fundraising in connection with the Muscular Dystrophy Association to which we contribute, and by holding Comedy shows and Bowl-A-Thons. Branch 36 President Charlie Heege is thoroughly committed to these fundraising events.

Our national officers have been duly sworn in and installed. We need to support them as they work to protect letter carrier jobs and ensure that the provisions making up our national agreement are upheld. I am confident that President Rolando and all the other national officers will continue to provide outstanding leadership during these very difficult times.

Congratulations to all our new retirees. God Bless you all. May you enjoy good health and much happiness in your retirement.

Remember how you were the day you got the call to work for the Postal Service? You knew you would be working for the Federal government for one of its most trusted agencies. Then you could finally wear a nice blue uniform showing the public what a great job you have. My job will be to serve the American public very proudly. I’ll be the man they will trust with their most secure secrets. I will bring them good and bad news. I will bring them gifts from their loved ones, especially in the holiday season. That's how I remember my elation when I first started to work for the Postal Service at that time.

Now, as a working retired letter carrier I still see the same blue uniform and I continue to admire the mailman, and feel a lot of respect for him as well as trust. Letter carriers are the ambassadors on the street. The American public still recognizes these familiar faces and looks forward to receiving the mail deposited in their mailboxes.

Each year there are countless stories about our carriers making heroic attempts to save lives. We feel proud knowing that we can count on them to deliver the mail in a timely manner. Good or bad weather, the mail will be delivered. Excellent wages, excellent health benefits, excellent lifestyles, brought to you through the negotiation efforts of the National Association of Letter Carriers, one of the best, if not the best union in America. Do you know that your job is under attack? It's under attack by the GOP and their congressmen cronies. We're under attack because they want us to work harder for less salary, such as delivering five days not six, for less pay. You must be prepared to fight back. Here is how. Make the public want you. Treat the public as if you're serving your best friend. Work in a professional manner. Make the uniform you wear a respected symbol on your everyday route. No running around; make sure each piece of mail goes into the proper box. Drive carefully. Give to COLCPE to keep our friends in Washington, D.C. Attend our membership meetings. Make our union stronger and keep it respectable. While those who caused the recession are busy protecting their enormous salaries and bonuses, unemployment continues at an incredible rate. The jobs, wages and benefits of working men and women are under constant attack.

Stay strong and together we will prevail. As a union, we can only be defeated by our own ignorance, therefore, stay well-informed. Please sign up today to become an e-activist. Your best bet is to support NALC and COLCPE.

Again, I thank all those who attended the wonderful meeting we shared at the Oldtimers' Brunch on September 12, 2010 at the great Hard Rock Café. We'll be seeing it again together next year.

HAVE A JOYOUS HOLIDAY SEASON AND A HEALTHY BEAUTIFUL NEW YEAR
The most difficult thing about writing any article every two months is finding a topic and getting started. This time, there were too many topics to write about, and each one that came to mind had more than enough merit to warrant an article.

On August 8, 2010, I was on my way to Anaheim, California to represent my branch, Branch 36, as a delegate at the national convention. There is always something of interest transpiring when all the branches in the country, plus our possessions, are brought together. Our first day was family day, during which time most of the delegates celebrated and enjoyed a tasty cookout with their family. On Monday, our national NALC President Fredric Rolando opened the first session and gave us a dynamic speech. He told the delegates that the Postal Service is trying to cut Saturday delivery and how critical this is. He also let us know that our national union is one of the most trusted and powerful unions in the country.

The convention continued. It was interesting to note the large percentage of first time delegates. Those in attendance included the future convention delegates who will identify new problems and submit resolutions dealing with them. I enjoyed listening to the proposed resolutions and the discussions for and against each resolution. President Rolando did a good job chairing the convention.

I attended the Health Benefits Breakfast. Director of Health Benefits, Timothy O'Malley and President Fredric Rolando addressed the group to whom they spoke about how important it is to get new members to join the Health Plan. I also attended the Retirement Breakfast at the convention which I very much enjoyed, especially with members who were part of the 1970 Postal Strike.

One of my greatest moments was the showing of the 1970 Postal Strike video. I was happier and prouder to be a member of Branch 36 after viewing the video. Thanks to the outcome of the strike, all letter carriers enjoy a good job, good benefits, and great representation from our union.

Looking back to my letter carrier years, 1965-1999 fills my heart with a warm and wonderful feeling. Those years were happy ones, and forged a good and happy life for me, especially after the 1970 Postal Strike. I've often dreamed of those years when I was delivering mail on my route working for the U.S. Postal Service and serving all my customers with pride.

I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to all my friends and members of this great union Branch 36 whose prayers and thoughts were extended to me during my recent illness. You have given me hope and energy to continue my mission as Director of Retired Members. The past few months have been difficult for me and my family, but your support keeps me strong. The crisis is not over, but is better. Helping our retired members keeps me going.

I am sorry to inform you of the passing of my older sister in Puerto Rico. As Director of Retired Members I receive calls on a regular basis telling me of the passing of retired members.

I want to thank Branch 36 for the recognition of my involvement in rescuing a man from a car accident who needed CPR. God gave me the strength to help save his life.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of William Morales who was the Editor of the Outlook. I knew him for 15 years and worked next to him here at our branch. May he rest in peace.

Once again thank you for your support.

Annuity -Ask the Experts
This article is reprinted from the Federal Times (www.federaltimes.com).
If you've decided that you are ready to retire, here are the tools you'll need to pick your date:
First, you must figure out if you are ready to retire. To do that, you have to answer three questions: Do you meet the age and service requirements to retire? Are you financially able to retire? Are you emotionally prepared to retire?

The first question is an easy one to answer. You either meet the requirements spelled out in law or you don't. However, the other two questions are ones that only you can answer.

Know when your annuity begins. Ideally, you'll want to retire on a date that affords a seamless break between work and retirement. To come as close as possible to achieving that, you need to know the law.

If you are a Federal Employees Retirement System employee, you must retire no later than the last day of a month to be on the annuity roll in the following month.

If you are a Civil Service Retirement System employee, you have more flexibility. You can retire up to the third day of a month and be on the annuity roll in the same month; however, your annuity for that month will be reduced by 1/30th for each of those three days that you are still on the payroll.

Get credit for unused leave. If you retire before the end of a pay period, you won't get credit for any annual or sick leave you would otherwise have earned. Gaining additional hours of annual leave is important because they are paid to you in a lump sum at your hourly rate of basic pay.

Getting credit for "use or lose" leave. If you have accumulated more annual leave than you can carry forward into the next leave year, you'll want to retire no later than the day before the new leave year begins. Otherwise, that excess leave will be lost along with the dollars you would have received in your lump sum payment.

Therefore, if you are leaning toward retiring at the end of a year, it's important to know when the leave year ends. In 2008, it ended on Jan. 3, 2009, and many CSRS employees took advantage of that fact, giving up three days of their January annuity payment in order to gain the annual and sick leave they earned in that final pay period

In 2009, the first-month annuity reduction will be even less, because the leave year ends on January 2, 2010. The same is true in 2010, when the leave year ends on Jan. 1, 2011. (And yes, you can retire on a holiday.)

December 31, 2011, the end of the leave year in 2011, is a magic date for FERS and CSRS employees.

FERS employees can walk off the payroll and onto the annuity roll without losing a day of pay, and any CSRS employee can do the same without losing a day of annuity.

PRAISE BE TO GOD FOR ALL THOSE WONDERFUL MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES MILITARY WHO HAVE SERVED HONORABLY IN THE ARMED FORCES OF THIS COUNTRY.

Understanding the Retirement Process
Many retirement predicaments brought to our attention by retirees show that some letter carriers are failing to explore all of their options and make the right choice when they apply for retirement. These sometimes costly mistakes can be attributed to carriers (active and retired) not understanding their particular retirement system, their role in the retirement process, and the role of the Postal Service and the Office of Personnel Management, also known as OPM.

Before retirement, it is the employee's responsibility to contact the person designated in his or her personnel office for retirement counseling, in this case, the Shared Services for Postal Retirement (1-877-477-3273). This should be done in sufficient time to allow that person answers to retirement questions and to address related problems the employee may be facing. The employee should ask to review his or her official personnel folder to make sure all service is documented. An Annuity estimate should also be requested if one has not already been provided. The retirement application should also be carefully reviewed, especially the section where elections are made for survivor benefits since, in most cases, these are irrevocable decisions after the application has been processed by OPM. Understanding and making appropriate decisions about continuing health and life insurance into retirement is equally important.

The Postal Service responsibility in relation to the above is to take the necessary steps to assure that employees are able to make informed decisions regarding their retirement, health and life insurance benefits. The agency bears responsibility for the quality and timeliness of submission of the records to OPM.

The Office of Personnel Management has overall responsibility for administering retirement benefits under CRS and FERS. In processing applications for retirement, an OPM benefits specialist will review all documents to verify entitlement to annuity, health and life benefits. After retirement, OPM serves as the retiree's personnel and payroll office.

Retirees needing specific information about their cases or changes in their accounts may contact OPM at 1-888-767-6738 or by letter to OPM Retirement Operation Center, Boyers, PA 16017, or go on-line to servicesonline.opm.gov, use your pin number and CSA number.

As Director of Retirees, I would like to thank all of the Branch 36 members for reelecting the officers by acclamation to three more years in office. We are proud to continue to represent all of you concerning all your union needs. We sincerely look forward to doing so.




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