ORTA's Advocacy

ORTA's continued mission is advocating for YOU, the retired educator!

ORTA AND the STRS AUDIT FUNDRAISER

On October 28, 2020, the Ohio Retired Teacher Association (ORTA) engaged in a donation campaign of to raise $75,000 to pay for the services of Edward Siedle (Benchmark Financial Services) to conduct a forensic audit of the STRS Pension System. The decision to engage in this project was driven by several factors impacting STRS retirees:

  1. STRS retirees were promised an annual cost of living increase (COLA) at the time of their retirement. This promise was also codified in Ohio law (ORC 3307.67). In 2013 STRS did not pay the annual COLA.  In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the COLA was reduced from the promised 3% to 2%. In 2017, the promised COLA benefits were reduced to ZERO. A COLA has not been paid for the last five fiscal years. Not fulfilling promised benefits creates a lack of trust between retirees and their pension system.  Addition examples of lack of trust include: (1) teachers retiring by a specified date according to STRS guidelines to avoid a 5-year waiting for a COLA, not receiving their COLA. (2)  Teachers forgoing the 5-year waiting for a COLA not receiving their COLA after the 5-year period.

  2. At the same time that retirees were experiencing a loss of promised benefits, active teachers saw an increase of 40% in their contributions to STRS. Active teachers also witnessed an increase in the number of years required to receive full retirement benefits. These changes resulted in many teachers paying more, working longer, and not receiving the level of benefits promised.

  3. Finally, with retiree not receiving the benefits promised, active teachers paying more and receiving less, the STRS board voted to increase salaries at STRS and pay nearly 10 Million in performance incentives for the STRS investors. The performance incentives have been paid annually, despite no clear benchmarks for earning these ‘bonuses.

  4. So, with the stock market at an all time high, ORTA began asking questions at STRS Board meetings. ‘What is the plan or pathway for STRS to pay the obligations to retirees? How can a system that is self-rated as one of the best pension systems in the U.S. pay salary increases to its employees and bonuses to its employees and not be able pay its obligations to its retirees? When can retirees expect to be paid what we were promised?’ The answers to those questions and many more questions were unsatisfactory.

Thus, began the idea that it is time to seek answers from an expert not beholden to the STRS staff. A true outsider’s opinion was needed. Edward (Ted) Siedle is a former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney that received the highest whistle blower award in SEC history. Ted Siedle has spent 3 decades forensically auditing more than 1 trillion dollars of pension assets and has won national awards for his work investigating pensions. His book Who Stole My Pension? is a bestseller. 

ORTA Reaches its $75,000 Goal

Through generous donations from people interested in this pension crisis the money to secure Mr. Siedle’s services was reached in less than 3 months. Listed below is a little information on who donated to our cause:

  • 641 ORTA members contributed to the Forensic Audit

  • 324 non-ORTA members contributed to the Forensic Audit

  • 22 local ORTA chapters contributed to the Forensic Audit with Hamilton Co. RTA contributing a whopping $15,000! Other chapters stepped up and contributed with Lucas Co. RTA chipping in $1,000.

  • One anonymous donor, not a retired teacher or related to a retired teacher contributed over $1,200. Another active OEA member made a $500 donation.

  • The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) made a contribution of $10,000.

This grassroots donation campaign was successful, in part, because people can easily see that a pension system that breaks a promise must be investigated. None of us know what Mr. Siedle will find, however, his work is the first step in fixing a system that is only working for the benefit of its Members.  As Mr. Siedle says, ‘State directed audits pay extra for gentle treatment’. The only way for STRS retirees (and active members) to have peace of mind is to have a truly independent and external review of what is taking place at STRS.

Here are a few of the more important recent actions ORTA has taken:

  •  September 2019 – ORTA participated in the NRTA lobbying event in Washington, D.C. where we provided information   to the Ohio Congressional Delegation on three pieces of legislation directed at reducing medication costs for senior   citizens.ORTA also lobbied several Ohio congressional members in an effort to gain support for   the repeal/modification  of WEP/GPO laws that negatively impact STRS retirees.

  •  ORTA has been a consistent voice for the establishment of a ‘Pathway to COLA’. This Pathway to COLA would provide for establishment of benchmarks or conditions that would be necessary for the return to increases in retirement benefits.

  • ORTA participates at Healthcare Pension Advocacy for STRS (HPA) meetings and has done so since HPA was established. Efforts by this committee resulted in STRS holding premiums for Medicare at the current level through. Additionally, HPA convinced STRS to retain the $29.90 subsidy for Medicare recipients.

  •  ORTA has been present at all meetings of the ORSC (Ohio Retirement Study Council) as this group of legislators meet to   discuss legislation that impacts public pensions in Ohio.

  •  ORTA has met with STRS Executives to work on COLA issues and concerns. These efforts continue as ORT is present at all STRS Board meetings and offer comments to STRS Board members during the public comments portion of each month’s meeting. 

  • ORTA continues to work with STRS (through the HPA) on ‘health care policy development’. This will shape the direction of health care provided by STRS for years in the future.

  • ORTA has met with local leaders in each of the 5 regions of Ohio (Northwest, Southwest, Central, 

  • Northeast ,and Southeast) to develop leadership and outreach to all areas of the state. 

  • ORTA publishes a monthly newsletter that is emailed to all members with an email on file and posts these newsletters on line at the ORTA website. 

  • In each newsletter legislative matters are discussed and or published, helping to keep our members informed of legislation that may impact their retirement.

  • ORTA has worked with the Ohio Delegation in Washington D.C. on legislative matters such as the Windfall Exclusion Provision (WEP) that penalizes public employee retirees. If fact, legislation has been introduced to rectify this unfair situation. 

  • ORTA has met with Ohio legislators to convey what the loss of COLA has meant to the thousands of STRS beneficiaries. ORTA has also provided information on the impact of the loss of COLA to all legislators through emails and letters.  

  • ORTA has worked with a grassroots group STRS Members Only Facebook group to advance the restoreourcola.com petition drive.

 

 

Did you know...

ORTA members Dean Dennis and Bob Buerkle have begun a lawsuit with STRS to fight to restore our COLA. The lawsuit was filed in the fall of 2019, and further details can be found here

*ORTA has NOT taken legal action with the STRS for COLA restoration; this at the freewill of Mr. Dennis and Mr. Buerkle

Current Petitions

A great way to make your voice heard is to sign a petition. These petitions are for both COLA, but one is for STRS to set their Investment Rate Assumption more in line with their actual 30 year funding period earnings, and the other is to apply pressure to restore the promised COLA. 


—30 Year Funding Petition

​—
Restore Our COLA

 

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250 E. Wilson Bridge Road | Suite 150

WORTHINGTON, Ohio 43085

 614.431.7002