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Issues & Archives

Origin of SRS Retirees Association

Brief History of Issues

2002 Pension Adjustment



Origin of SRS Retiree Association
The Savannah River Site Retiree Association was formed when the WSRC, site contractor after 1989, announced in 1997 that previous promises of medical benefits would not be kept.

A contingent of SRS retirees recognized the urgent need for a formal association. The first general meeting was held on September 9, 1997, at the Knights of Columbus site on Dougherty Road in Aiken, SC.

At that organizational meeting Bylaws were adopted. The bylaws were written to meet Federal Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(4) regulations for a nonprofit organization and South Carolina corporation codes. Applications were filed with federal and state agencies for approval. Meeting both federal and state requirements provided a sound professional structure for operating the association.

Because retirees are located all over the United States, it is not practical to have frequent full membership meetings to conduct business. The bylaws provide for a 30-member Board of Directors to give extensive expertise and experience.

Initially, a 13-member Executive Committee met monthly, and the full Board of Directors met quarterly. The Bylaws were later changed, and now the SRSRA activities require a vote by the entire SRSRA Board of Directors which meets and votes on items on a monthly basis.

Officers of the Board of Directors possess the authority of South Carolina Corporations to conduct normal SRSRA corporate business and execute activities approved by the Board of Directors.

In subsequent years, the threat of erosion of medical and pension benefits has continued. A brief history of these issues is listed below in, coincidentally, a Brief History of Issues.  [Note: the issues listed here document the history of the SRSRA. Progress on current concerns and issues will be discussed on a "Current Issues" link that will be listed in the navigation section on the left‑hand side of this window.]

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Brief History of Issues
Medical Coverage and Cost
Transfer of Pension Funds
Pension Adjustment
Physicals Eliminated
Communication between DOE and SRS Pensioners
Medical Coverage and Cost  ‑‑‑ Medical coverage for WSRC/BSRI Retirees has continually eroded since 1993 despite promises made to Retirees that coverage would be provided Retirees and survivors without charging them premium contributions.

Genesis of Issue

January 1994 - Medical Plan was changed to increase deductibles and lower plan payments for various medical procedures.

January 1995 - Plan participants were required to pay co-payment for office visits.

January 1996 - Plan changed from Aetna to Blue Cross. Retirees notified late December 1995. Deductibles increased again and plan payments for procedures lowered.

January 1997 - WSRC/BSRI announced requirements beginning 1998 that Retirees pay up to $150/mo. for medical coverage despite promises by companies not to do that.

July - Sept.1997 - Meetings with WSRC president and other officials by Retirees to plead for reversal of decision. WSRC president decided to provide lower coverage (standard) choice in plan without contributions by pensioners or premium (prime) choice previously provided and promised.

2009 - Increase in the 2009 Medical (+24%) and Dental Plan (+45%) premiums for retirees. These very large premium increases will cost every post 1997 retiree an additional $408 annually.


Summary

There has been and continues to be an erosion of pensioner healthcare coverage while increasing the cost to those who are now on a fixed income.

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Transfer of Pension Funds  ‑‑‑  In April 1989 at transition of the Savannah River Contract from DuPont to Westinghouse, pension funds accrued for employees were transferred from DuPont to Westinghouse. Included in these funds were $40 million included in the trust that was subsequently removed by WSRC with DOE approval. No one has received an explanation of what happened to these funds.

Genesis of Issue

1993-1997 Repeated attempts by individual Retirees to find out why these funds were removed from the pension trust and what happened to the funds have been met with "No Comment" responses by WSRC and DOE.

Summary

SRS Retirees want an answer to this Question because it appears funds were removed from the trust illegally and has resulted in continued erosion of Retiree Benefits.

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Pension Adjustment  ‑‑‑  WSRC/BSRI management had rigidly refused to grant pensioners any consideration for a pension adjustment to at least partially compensate for the increase in cost‑of‑living since the time an employee had retired.

Genesis of Issue

1994-1996 All attempts by pensioners to broach this subject with WSRC/BSRI Management and Human Resources benefits mangers were simply "brushed off" as "not merited."

July-Sept.l996 This issue was discussed in meetings with the WSRC president who promised to look into it. After doing so, WSRC president stated it was "not merited," but would continue to look at it annually.

Summary

In April 1998 the WSRC/BSRI pension plan had been in effect for nine years. During that period aggregate inflation for the period was 18% and 11% since 1993 as stated in Perry Holcombe's letter to the Secretary of Energy dated July 30, 1997.

A letter was sent to WSRC asking that a cost‑of‑living adjustment be made to WSRC/BSRI pensions in 1999. This letter was a follow-up to previous discussions with Site Management. In addition, a letter was sent to then Congressman Lindsey Graham asking for his assistance concerning the excess pension funds that were retained by the Department of Energy (DOE) when E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company left the Site on April 1, 1989.

It is the position of the SRSRA that those funds, with a then-current balance thought be in the range of $40 million, should be used to fund retiree medical and cost‑of‑living pension adjustments.

Update

The first adjustment to retirees' pensions was finally achieved in 2002 as discussed below in the 2002 Pension Adjustment.

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Physicals Eliminated  ‑‑‑  WSRC/BSRI and DOE unilaterally eliminated annual pensioner physicals. This was in stark contrast to assurance to pensioners, employees, and the public to safeguard the health and safety of all.

Genesis of Issue

March 1997 ‑ When pensioners called to make appointments for annual physicals they were told by WSRC medical personnel that WSRC with DOE approval had discontinued annual pensioners physicals.

July-Sept. 1997 ‑ This issue was discussed with the WSRC president who said he would "look into it."

Summary

For a pensioner to receive a comparable physical, a survey of local doctors indicate it would cost approximately $750 - not covered by the Healthcare Plan. For Retirees who worked for decades in high radiation areas this has been a devastating decision because there are no local physicians/medical facilities, with the experience and knowledge of radiation effects on the body, that are even near equivalency to the Savannah River Site medical facility and doctors.

Update

The SRS Retiree Association (SRSRA) subsequently negotiated with WSRC to provide an annual physical, of value $225, at a private Network provider. The SRSRA Newsletter regularly provides more information about this benefit.

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Communication between DOE and SRS Pensioners  ‑‑‑  WSRC/BSRI and DOE effect changes to Retiree benefits without any input, consolation, guidance or interface with pensioners. In some cases pensioners are not even told of changes until after the fact and in some cases are not even told at all.

Genesis of Issue

A prime example of this is the body of changes to the Dental plan coverage for Retirees and unilateral decision to place Retirees into a lower coverage plan. (Prime to Standard).

June 2, 1997 - Dental premium charges to pensioners were announced but elimination of Orthodontics & TMJ coverage was not announced. Pensioners also were not informed that restorative dental work carried a $50 deductible per family/yr.

June 24-25, 1997 - These changes were not announced in meetings with Retirees in North Augusta and Aiken.

August 7, l997 - These changes were not announced in a letter to Retirees stating that Retirees would continue the lower coverage (Standard) at no premium charge.

October 1, 1997 - These changes finally announced.

Summary

SRS Retirees need to have a voice in the WSRC/DOE decision making that affects Retiree pensions and benefits including requests for proposals (RFPs) for new contracts/contractors.

Update

The SRS Retiree Association (SRSRA) meets with both the Congressional Delegation and DOE/SR to provide input into RFPs pertaining to benefits for existing retirees.

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2002 Pension Adjustment
On August 1, 2002, South Carolina Third District Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-Seneca) announced an ad hoc Cost‑of‑Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees or their survivors who retired prior to May 1, 1999. The COLA became effective September 1, 2002.

"I'm very pleased the Site management and DOE have instituted a COLA," said Graham. "It's very much deserved. Keeping faith with those who helped win the Cold War is essential to future recruitment of personnel to secure our national defense needs."

According to Westinghouse and DOE documents, the COLA package included an increase of approximately 50 percent of the increase in the Consumer Price Index since the retirement date of each retiree. The actual increase will be calculated using a formula which increases the retiree's benefit by 3.4 percent plus an additional 0.10 percent for each month of retirement prior to May 1999 plus an additional 0.05 percent for each month of retirement prior to January 1996. The sum of those adjustments would then be recalculated based on any income leveling or survivor option adjustments.

"The SRS Retiree Association deserves much of the credit for their hard work," said Graham. "I'd like to also thank the other members of the South Carolina congressional delegation and Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia for his help."

Graham also thanked Secretary of Energy Spence Abraham and Bob Pedde, President of Westinghouse Savannah River Company, for recognizing the important contributions and sacrifices these retirees made to win the Cold War.

"When Secretary of Energy Spence Abraham came before the House Armed Services Committee this spring, I asked him for his support for a COLA adjustment," said Graham. "I'm very appreciative, and I know the retirees are as well, that he supported this package."

"Awarding this COLA during tough economic times is recognition of a job well done," said Graham. "SRS retirees helped fight and win the Cold War. They deserve equitable treatment."

Note that for a pensioner who retired in June, 1995, by the time the pension adjustment became effective, the cumulative change in the cost of living, as published in Barron's magazine, was over 20% as illustrated in the following figure. In contrast, the above figures indicate a pension adjustment of about 8.4%, or a little over one-third of the increase in the cost of living during that period.


Inflation

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US Mail: SRS Retiree Association
P.O. Box 5686
Aiken, S.C. 29804

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SRS Retiree Association, Inc.
Aiken SC

Revised: January 30, 2014


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