Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

UPDATED: RRB announces pre-retirement seminar schedule from spring through fall 2020

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has announced its schedule of pre-retirement seminars for the spring through the fall of 2020. The RRB hosts these seminars for rail employees and spouses who are within five years of retirement.

Registration is required to ensure accommodations and materials for all attendees, who are encouraged to bring original records (or certified copies) of documents required in order to file a Railroad Retirement application (such as proof of age, marriage or military service), along with an additional copy of each item to leave with field service staff.

While most of the program focuses on various aspects of Railroad Retirement benefits, each seminar closes with a brief presentation on railroad unemployment and sickness benefits to help prepare union officers for sharing reliable information with their members.

To RSVP for one of the seminars, visit the RRB website and select your local seminar from the scheduled list and follow the online registration link. To RSVP on paper, use the PDF registration form posted on the pre-retirement seminar webpage and print it and complete, then mail or fax your completed form to your local field office. Contact information for each office hosting a seminar can be found by clicking here. Online registration will be available approximately 60 days before the date of each seminar. Registration will close for any seminar that reaches capacity.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars begin at 8:30 a.m. and are held over the course of four hours. Doors open 30 minutes prior to start time. Security screening will be required for seminars hosted inside any federal buildings and photo ID will be required. No weapons are permitted in federal buildings. Please let the RRB know if you have signed up for a seminar and are unable to attend.

Dates and seminar locations:

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) March 27, Covina, Calif — Courtyard by Marriott, 14635 Baldwin Park Towne Center, Baldwin Park, CA PARKING FEE: $4
  • April 24, Plainview, N.Y. — Holiday Inn Plainview – Long Island, 215 Sunnyside Blvd.
  • April 24, Ashland, Neb. — Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 West Park Hwy.
  • May 8, Boston, Mass. — 408 Atlantic Avenue, Room 217 and 237
  • May 8, Lakewood, Colo. — Holiday Inn Denver – Lakewood, 7390 W. Hampden Ave.
  • May 15, Kansas City, Mo. — Richard Bolling Federal Building, 60 I E. 12th Street, Room G-41, (Dogwood Conference Room)
  • May 29, Cleveland, Ohio — Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, 12515 Corporate Drive, Cleveland, Ohio
  • June 5, Little Rock, Ark. — Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential, 707 Interstate 30
  • June 5, Totowa, N.J. — Holiday Inn, 1 US Highway 46 West
  • June 12, Fort Worth, Texas — Hampton Inn & Suites, Fort Worth-Fossil Creek, 3850 Sandshell Drive
  • June 12, Indianapolis, Ind. — LaQuinta Inn & Suites Indianapolis, S, 5120 Victory Drive
  • June 26 — Tinley Park, Ill. — Tinley Park Convention Center, 18451 Convention Center Drive
  • September 18 — Albany, N.Y. — site to be announced 60 days prior to seminar
  • October 23 — Philadelphia, Pa. — site to be announced 60 days prior to seminar
  • October 30 — Pittsburgh, Pa. — site to be announced 60 days prior to seminar

SMART-TD announces national bargaining team and dates

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — The team negotiating the next National Rail Contract which will affect more than 40,000 SMART Transportation Division members has been finalized by the union’s leadership.

The team will be led by TD President Jeremy Ferguson with the assistance of Vice Presidents Brent Leonard; John J. Whitaker III; Chadrick Adams; Jamie C. Modesitt; Joe M. Lopez and David B. Wier Jr.

Also part of the team are five General Chairpersons, Mike LaPresta (BNSF); Gary Crest (Union Pacific); Roger Crawford (Illinois Central); Thomas Gholson (Norfolk Southern) and Christopher Bartz (yardmasters).

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the most out of this round of national contract talks,” President Ferguson said. “It will be a challenging process and it could be quite contentious at times. However, we on the negotiating team are confident that as we work through the process we can achieve a positive result.”

The opening meeting of negotiations is scheduled for February 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C., with talks occurring in Cleveland, Omaha, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, as the year progresses.

SMART-TD is part of a Coordinated Bargaining Coalition that consists of it and nine other unions representing rail labor. Carriers BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads are represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) during negotiations.

In related news, CSXT will not be part of national bargaining, except for health and welfare issues. For the wages and rules portion, SMART-TD and CSX have agreed to begin bargaining locally on behalf of trainmen starting Jan. 21, 2020.

A joint meeting for the negotiating parties regarding facilitated bargaining is scheduled in Jacksonville, Fla., on January 22 and 23.

Additional meeting dates for these negotiations are currently under discussion, and a tentative schedule will be set in the near future. Neither the SMART-TD nor CSX have exchanged any proposals, and an agenda for the subjects to be discussed during these contract talks, which are separate from the National Rail Contract negotiations, has yet to be finalized.

Palmetto GBA: In 2020, RR Medicare ID requirements change

A message from Palmetto GBA:

Whether you’re new to Railroad Medicare or starting a new year with Railroad Medicare, it’s important to know about the change to how Medicare identifies you.

In 2020, Medicare providers must use your new Medicare number. The old Social Security-based number can no longer be used for claims filing, no matter what date your provider furnished a service to you. This means if you had a doctor’s visit on January 15, 2019, the provider must file the claim before January 15, 2020 and they must use your new Medicare number. If your provider does not have your new number, you need to give that to them. Claims filed without the new number will be rejected by Medicare and cannot be processed for any payment.

If the provider is not able to get with you to get your new number, they can use our Medicare number lookup tool on our website. We would hope this would be the exception, not the norm. In order to use the Medicare lookup tool, the provider must have your Social Security number (SSN). If you do not want to give your SSN to a provider, make sure to show them your Medicare card with your new Medicare number.

Additionally, you will also need to use your new Medicare number if you call customer service at Railroad Medicare or 1-800-MEDICARE. Medicare contractors cannot accept any other form of identification over the telephone or in writing.

Here are the details about new Medicare number:

  • It will have 11 characters.
  • The numbers will be generated randomly. Medicare considers them ‘non-intelligent’ numbers that don’t have any hidden or special meaning.
  • It will be unique to each patient.
  • It will contain capital letters (all letters with the exception of S, L, O, I, B and Z) and numbers (0-9).
  • The 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 9th characters will always be a letter, while characters 1, 4, 7, 10, and 11 will always be a number. The 3rd and 6th characters will be a letter or a number.
  • There will be no dashes in the numbers on the card.

As you may have experienced in the past, providers can’t always tell the difference between a Social Security Medicare patient and a RRB patient. They may submit your claims to regular Medicare instead of Railroad Medicare. To help providers know what patient they have, the new cards will have the RRB logo on them when applicable, so your doctor’s office will know where to submit claims. Your provider can also use an online portal if they have your Medicare number but don’t know if it’s a Railroad Medicare number. We educate providers on our portal regularly, but some may not be aware.

If you have a provider who may be confused, have them call our Provider Contact Center at 888-355-9165. Customer service representatives are available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in all time zones with the exception of the Pacific time zone, which receives service from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific.

Member input leads to access to life-saving emergency training

When an accident occurs and one of our members is on site — be it a bus operator or rail conductor — it often falls on that SMART Transportation Division member to provide assistance as the FIRST responder to the situation.

The member must assess and relay information about the incident to rescue crews and law enforcement personnel who are dispatched and, if able, provide potentially life-saving aid and comfort to any victims.

When dealing with accidents involving buses or trains, victims often have traumatic injuries as a result. These incidents are not going away, especially with all the distractions posed by smartphones or a reduction of situational awareness due to headphones or earbuds to members of the public who go near roadways or the rails.

In 2017 and 2018, there were more than 1,000 trespasser-related casualties (injuries and deaths), according to Federal Railroad Administration data. Through the third quarter of 2019, there have been nearly 900 casualties reported.

Grade-crossing accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians reported to FRA occurred at a rate of more than 2,000 annually each year from 2016 through 2018. Through the third quarter of 2019, FRA reports more than 1,600 of these incidents.

But it’s not just the lives of trespassers and drivers who encounter a grade crossing potentially in danger from an unexpected emergency.

Having two people in the locomotive cab of a freight train leaves just one person left to assist the other should they be in need of help. Train crew members can have a medical event while performing service. Bus and rail passengers also can have such an event due to an accident or a violent incident that occurs in the presence of our members. And let’s not forget that a medical emergency can happen anytime and anywhere to anyone at home or out in public.

Preparation and training in these situations are invaluable.

With this in mind, member David Herrmann of Local 446 (Cheyenne, Wyo.), a Union Pacific conductor since 1990, wrote to the SMART-TD President’s Office with a suggestion:

“One of the conductor’s responsibilities is to walk back after a train hits a car on a crossing,” he wrote. “Since 1988, I have been CPR qualified. I think it would be a good idea for every conductor to be CPR qualified to be a first responder, just in case.

“Even if the tracks are right near the highway, which in Wyoming they are not, a response team could take a long time to get there.”

The suggestion from Brother Herrmann to learn CPR and first aid, a sensible and potentially life-saving one, applies to all members regardless of where they work.

Just ask Thomas E. Baker, a conductor for Veolia/Tri-Rail and a member of Local 33 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who put his knowledge of CPR and first aid into action during an incident February 15, 2014.

SMART Transportation Division conductor Thomas E. Baker, second from right, is presented a crystal “distinguished service award” by South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Commissioner Steven L. Abrams, far right, for his life-saving action in performing CPR on a passenger in distress in February 2014.

On that day, he saw a woman collapse and fall down a stairwell onto a station platform in south Florida. With a background in the military and law enforcement, Baker was equipped with the knowledge and training needed to save the 65-year-old woman’s life.

“It was something that came natural to me,” he said. “I knew that she was in major trouble.”

He rushed down to the platform and performed CPR for 15 to 20 minutes before emergency responders arrived. The defibrillator on the train was not functional, but his exhaustive efforts saved a life. The woman survived.

Baker said his carrier now requires employees to be certified every two years in CPR, but that is not the case for all carriers, and he reminds his fellow members that the knowledge from taking a CPR/emergency first aid course is useful always and everywhere.

“You don’t bring just a hammer to a jobsite. The more tools you have in the toolbag, the more useful you are,” Baker said. “The more we know, the better off we are — it could be one of your co-workers whose life you save.

“It’s something I’ve always embraced.”

SMART-TD recognizes this as well. Within days of receiving conductor Hermann’s suggestion, Ralph Leichliter, an administrative assistant in the TD President’s Office, had reached out to Emergency University, which provides online training geared towards transportation employees, including courses on CPR, first aid, and additional training on the topics of blood-borne pathogens, heat-related illness and sleep and fatigue management.

Emergency University was established by highly trained emergency response professionals to educate people on life-saving measures in situations where immediate action is needed.

Multiple online course options are available through them, starting as low as $29.95. Choose the course you’d like and then enter the promotional code SMARTUNION at checkout. Successful completion of the online courses provides national certification for two years in CPR and first aid, meeting and exceeding the standards set forth by OSHA, the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

The descriptions for discounted packages, including the course package for rail/transportation workers, are available below:

By going through the Emergency University online training or taking part in CPR or first-aid training offered by organizations such as the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association, we can continue to prove every day, without a doubt, that the public, our co-workers and America’s roads and rails are safer with SMART-TD members aboard.

RRB: Railroad Retirement and Unemployment Insurance taxes in 2020


The amounts of compensation subject to Railroad Retirement Tier I and Tier II payroll taxes will increase in 2020, while the tax rates on employers and employees will stay the same. In addition, unemployment insurance contribution rates paid by railroad employers will not include a surcharge for the first time in five years.

Tier I and Medicare Tax — The Railroad Retirement Tier I payroll tax rate on covered rail employers and employees for 2020 remains at 7.65 percent. The Railroad Retirement Tier I tax rate is the same as the Social Security tax, and for withholding and reporting purposes is divided into 6.20 percent for retirement and 1.45 percent for Medicare hospital insurance. The maximum amount of an employee’s earnings subject to the 6.20 percent rate increases from $132,900 to $137,700 in 2020, with no maximum on earnings subject to the 1.45 percent Medicare rate.

An additional Medicare payroll tax of 0.9 percent applies to an individual’s income exceeding $200,000, or $250,000 for a married couple filing a joint tax return. While employers will begin withholding the additional Medicare tax as soon as an individual’s wages exceed the $200,000 threshold, the final amount owed or refunded will be calculated as part of the individual’s Federal income tax return.

Tier II Tax — The Railroad Retirement Tier II tax rates in 2020 will remain at 4.9 percent for employees and 13.1 percent for employers. The maximum amount of earnings subject to Railroad Retirement Tier II taxes in 2020 will increase from $98,700 to $102,300. Tier II tax rates are based on an average account benefits ratio reflecting Railroad Retirement fund levels. Depending on this ratio, the Tier II tax rate for employees can be between 0 percent and 4.9 percent, while the Tier II rate for employers can range between 8.2 percent and 22.1 percent.

Unemployment Insurance Contributions — Employers, but not employees, pay railroad unemployment insurance contributions, which are experience-rated by employer. The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act also provides for a surcharge in the event the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account balance falls below an indexed threshold amount. The accrual balance of the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account was $157.5 million on June 30, 2019. Since the balance was more than the indexed threshold of $152.3 million, there will not be a surcharge added to the basic contribution rates for 2020. Previously, the rates have included a 1.5 percent surcharge every year since 2015.

As a result, the unemployment insurance contribution rates on railroad employers in 2020 will range from the minimum rate of 0.65 percent to the maximum of 12 percent on monthly compensation up to $1,655, an increase from $1,605 in 2019.

In 2020, the minimum rate of 0.65 percent will apply to about 84 percent of covered employers, with almost 5 percent paying the maximum rate of 12 percent. New employers will pay an unemployment insurance contribution rate of 3.10 percent, which represents the average rate paid by all employers in the period 2016-2018.

Enrollment period has been extended for new SMART VDP

The open-enrollment period for the new SMART TD Long-Term Voluntary Disability Plan (VDP) The high call volume that occurred as last week’s deadline approach allowed the negotiation of a longer period for members to take advantage of this benefit.

You can enroll by talking to a Benefit Specialist by calling 224-770-5328 or self-enroll by visiting www.smart-vltd.com.

Below are a few highlights of the new plan:

  • The new plan is replacing the old MetLife Long-Term Disability Plan that was canceled in April.
  • The new plan differs from the old MetLife plan because it does not offset with other benefits such as the RRB or the VSTD. This plan stacks on top of and pays in addition to other benefits.
  • Unlike the old plan, the new VDP is an individual policy that is guaranteed renewable. Your coverage can’t be canceled. (It remains in force up to age 72 as long as premiums are paid).
  • Premiums are locked in when you enroll. Your premiums do not increase as you get older.
  • Previous MetLife participants are guaranteed approved for a monthly benefit of up to $1,000.

Open enrollment has been extended to Jan. 15, 2020.

For more information or to enroll, contact your local field supervisor, visit www.smart-vltd.com, or call the SMART TD VDP Enrollment Center at 224-770-5328.

ERMA lifetime maximum benefit to increase in 2020

caduceusThe lifetime maximum benefit for the Railroad Employees National Early Retirement Major Medical Benefit (ERMA or GA-46000) Plan will increase from $166,400 to $171,100 beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

At the end of 2001, labor and management had agreed on various procedures to administer the annual changes in the amount of the lifetime maximum benefit under the ERMA Plan.

In conjunction with the formula established in 2001, a new lifetime maximum was calculated by utilizing the October 2018 consumer price index (CPI) data for Hospital and Related Services and Physician Services. The result is a lifetime maximum for 2020 of $171,100.

For individuals who have reached the lifetime maximum, the incremental maximum available is applied to eligible expenses submitted for dates of service on or after the effective date of the new maximum. For 2020, this amount will be $4,700.

This change will apply to all railroads and crafts participating in ERMA.

Daughter of retired member talks about why unions matter in essay

“My daughter and her friend work for Grub Hub and live off tips,” said Donna, “and they live with me because there is no way that they can afford to live on their own.”

Donna’s story hit me hard and here is why.

Adrienne McCauley provided this photo of herself and her father, Kelley, a former UTU/SMART TD member, who was able to provide for his family thanks in part to union protections.

My dad made a choice at 18 that if he was going to make a decent living, he could never do so off our family’s struggling cattle ranch in Arizona. So he hired out on the railroad, and with that he joined a union.

The first 15 years of Dad’s career were rocky. He was often laid off, sometimes for six months at a time (priority in scheduling went to railroaders with more seniority). Then Mom would get a job, Dad would create a side hustle — working for his father’s plumbing business, hauling freight in a semi-truck, working the family ranch, selling pipe for corrals as I remember — and my parents would nervously piece together their $250 weekly meager income to cover their bills for a family of five.

As the years went on, Dad rose in the ranks. With more seniority, he gained more “trips,” and in time our family financial picture changed enough for us to gain our place in the middle class. Just this year, Dad retired with a generous employee-sponsored pension and a halfway-decent 401(k).

Life would not have even existed for me if it were not for my father belonging to a union that was powerful enough to fight for our family. Union benefits that insured a hospital stay and a respirator for a month while my premature-baby lungs developed both saved my life and did not bankrupt us.

Even as my extended family was counting down the months leading up to my father’s retirement, the picture for most American workers became much bleaker. The bubble of decent union jobs in my railroad hometown are now an anomaly. Just 10% of American salaried and hourly workers are in a union today and even they are under attack from everyone from the White House to the state houses to the Supreme Court.

***

When I was a freshman in high school, a family driving in a Ford Fiesta on a rural road crossed the railroad tracks just a couple miles in front of the train my dad was operating. The mile-long train was going 70 mph, and while he pulled the brakes, there was no way to stop the 4,000 tons of cargo from sliding across the rails. The tiny car was stuck. As the train brakes shrieked, Dad wailed. He saw the fate of the trapped family in clear view. After impact and as the train slowed down, Dad jumped out of the cab. The three adults in the car were dead, but from behind the smashed passenger seat he heard a little voice crying, “Help me!” He delicately pulled the child from the car and held him until help arrived. Dad came home that night a different person. About a week later, the little boy died in the ICU. My father was never really the same after that, nor am I as I retell his story.

Soon after the tragedy, the railroad began an investigation. There was a sense of unease in our house. We knew that the train wreck was an accident, but what if Dad lost his job? With representation by the United Transportation Union (now SMART Transportation Division), he attended numerous hearings to testify in his case. He also attended counseling for PTSD. Over the course of several weeks, my father, Kelley McCauley, was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work without being penalized.

But this kind of employee protection in the USA is dying. We are now tied with Malaysia in being the easiest places in the world to terminate employees. Furthermore, we are pushing out stable jobs with the expansion of “alternative work arrangements,” like that of Donna’s daughter and her friend. According to federal employment numbers, the U.S. economy grew 94 percent from 2005-2015 — not in union jobs but in freelance and subcontractor jobs, with temp agencies, and in what is hilariously yet tragically called “the gig economy.” There is a straight line from the decline of unions to the rise in crappy jobs. Union members do not have “gig” jobs.

Back in October, I traveled home for Dad’s retirement party in Arizona. As we gathered in the American Legion Hall, half of those in attendance had been, like my dad, newly minted into the challenging club simply called “retirees.” And while my father and his colleagues have the protection of their union in retirement, the employees that follow them may not.

***

In January 2019, The New Republic magazine reported that Elwood, Ill., (population 2,000) near where I live and work as a community organizer with an affiliate of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, had been completely taken over by entrepreneurs whose “business plan” was to staff warehouses surrounding Warren Buffett’s Center Point Intermodal Freight Terminal for retailers such as Wal-Mart, Ikea, Home Depot and Amazon. Elwood was promised a bill of goods: Good jobs being the main one. Instead, the temp agencies have consistently hired people (in situations similar to Donna’s daughter and her friend) on 90-day trials, most of which never lead to full-time employment. These non-unionized workers are often “let go” and then hired for another 90 days by one of the temp agencies in Will County (which are sometimes owned by the same “entrepreneurs”). They never land that full-time job with benefits they need and crave that part of the American dream that my parents achieved.

Here is what makes me so angry: The same railroad that my father just retired from is the same railroad that stops at Warren Buffett’s Intermodal Freight Terminal in Elwood, loading and unloading large heavy freight cars, running back and forth across warehouses the size of five football fields, and then driving it to our house — in two-days or less — for our personal convenience. And many of us think that is great! It’s not great. It is wrong. Period.

Marilyn Robinson in her book, The Death of Adam, writes that worker protections, the two-day weekend and the living wage with benefits were “largely willed and reformed into existence” following the carnage of slavery and the Industrial Revolution. Is another revolution needed to help us see that our instant consumer gratification has a human cost? Is another revolution needed to stir the imagination of American workers to see the inherent value of organizing and collective bargaining?

I personally believe so. I think you do too. Let’s do something about it.

Adrienne A. McCauley is lead organizer for DuPage United and the Fox River Valley Initiative in the Chicago suburbs and exurbs of Illinois which are fiercely non-partisan, institutionally based, relational-power affiliates of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Her father is a retired member of SMART TD Local 113 in Winslow, Ariz.

SMART-TD serves Section 6 notice on carriers

On November 20, SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) General Chairpersons served on railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) the SMART-TD’s intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions.

Such notices are required by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act to reopen agreements. With this notice to the NCCC, and the NCCC’s earlier notice, the parties are set to begin the next round of bargaining.

While the national rail contract between the SMART-TD and railroads represented by the NCCC becomes amendable on January 1, 2020, the existing contract will remain in force until it is amended and ratified by SMART-TD members under the craft autonomy provisions of the SMART Constitution’s Article Twenty-One B (21B).

During this round of national contract negotiations with the SMART-TD, the NCCC will be the chief bargaining representative for matters pertaining to rates of pay, rules, and working conditions on behalf of BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads. Other railroads, including Amtrak, negotiate individually with the SMART-TD.

More than 40,000 SMART-TD members are affected by these national contract talks with the NCCC, and the resulting agreements frequently set patterns for other negotiated rail agreements.

SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson will lead the SMART-TD negotiating team. Members of the negotiating team will be selected early next month.

As noted in a press release on November 1, 2019, the SMART-TD will be joining with nine (9) other rail labor organizations who are participating in coordinated bargaining in this round of national negotiations.

Major elements of the SMART-TD’s Section 6 notices include:

  • Complete and permanent elimination of existing service scale (entry rates of pay);
  • A series of general wage increases, effective Jan. 1, 2020, and every six months thereafter;
  • Cost of living adjustments;
  • Shift- and weekend-differential pay;
  • Paid sick leave for all crafts, without censure or discipline;
  • Technology pay for daily required utilization of all in-cab and handheld reporting devices;
  • Additional rest opportunities and ability to miss work for family needs, quality of life, and doctor visits;
  • Additional training pay for all crafts, including compensation for qualification, re-qualification, and familiarization trips;
  • Carriers to give first-employment consideration to qualified conductors furloughed from other railroads;
  • Furloughed employees called back to work will be guaranteed a minimum of 60 days of work and pay;
  • Increased meal allowances;
  • Restrictions on transferring, consolidating, combining or centralizing yardmaster assignments;
  • Establishment of a formula for yardmaster extra boards; and
  • Enhanced benefits under the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan and the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000).

SMART-TD Section 6 notices were developed beginning with recommendations offered by SMART-TD members. A committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, reviewed and fine-tuned those suggestions, which were then approved by the entire Association of General Chairpersons, District 1.

To view the SMART-TD Section 6 notice, click here:
https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/2019+National+Rail+Contract/112019+–+Section+6+Notice.pdf

To view the carriers’ Section 6 notice, click here:
https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/2019+National+Rail+Contract/110119+–+NCCC+Section+6+Notice+-+SMART+TD.pdf

Reminder: Open enrollment underway for SMART TD long-term voluntary disability plan

Open enrollment for the new SMART Transportation Division Long-Term Voluntary Disability Plan (VDP) is underway. Enrollment started in May and runs through Nov. 30, 2019. All dues-paying members of SMART TD living in the United States and working at least 20 hours per week can apply for coverage. Members can enroll online by visiting www.smart-vltd.com, contacting their local field supervisor or by calling the SMART TD VDP Enrollment Center at 224-770-5328.

Since May 2019, SMART TD members have had a new disability benefit available to them. Enrollment for the new Long-Term Voluntary Disability Plan (VDP) ends November 30, 2019. Members can apply for coverage if they are a dues-paying member of SMART TD living in the United States and working at least 20 hours per week.

Previously, SMART TD members had long-term disability insurance available to them through MetLife, but the MetLife plan ended April 1, 2019. The new plan is underwritten by Amalgamated Life Insurance Company. Members who were enrolled in the previous MetLife plan are guaranteed approved for a monthly benefit of up to $1,000 per month (2 or 5 years’ duration).

“Applying for the new Long-Term Voluntary Disability Plan (VDP) is easy, because Amalgamated Life Insurance Company uses simplified medical underwriting,” stated Carl Galdine, the VDP enrollment director. “With simplified underwriting, there is no medical exam, only a few medical questions on the application.”

Enrollment packets including a letter, a summary of benefits, and information on how to enroll were mailed to SMART TD members in May and June. Members can enroll online by visiting www.smart-vltd.com contacting their local field supervisor or by calling the SMART TD VDP Enrollment Center at 224-770-5328 and speaking with a benefit specialist.

Below are highlights of the new Long-Term Voluntary Disability Plan (VDP):

  • Members can choose between a 2- or 5-year option
  • Members can enroll in a monthly benefit ranging from $300 to $5,000 ($100 benefit increments) (monthly benefit may not exceed 60% of gross earnings)
  • Previous MetLife participants are guaranteed approved for a monthly benefit of up to $1,000
  • Benefit does not offset and pays in addition to all other benefits
  • Benefit starts paying after 180 days (6 months)
  • Pre-existing conditions are covered after 12 months on the plan
  • Benefit covers members on and off the job (24-hour coverage)
  • Benefit is not subject to repayment upon receipt of a FELA or personal injury settlement
  • Members can retain coverage even if they are furloughed or suspended (portable)

“This new plan was designed to work well with the benefits that SMART TD members already have available to them,” Galdine said. “It stacks on top of all other benefits including the Voluntary Short-Term Disability Plan and RRB benefits. Also, this plan starts after a 6-month waiting period when RRB Sickness Benefits typically end.”

Open enrollment ends Nov. 30, 2019.

For more information or to enroll, contact your local field supervisor, visit www.smart-vltd.com or call the SMART TD VDP Enrollment Center at 224-770-5328.

Railroad unemployment and sickness benefits reduced again due to sequestration

Starting October 1, 2019, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will reduce railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits by 5.9%, down from the current 6.2% reduction, as required by law.

The adjusted reduction is based on revised projections of benefit claims and payments under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. It will remain in effect through September 30, 2020, the end of the fiscal year. Reductions in future fiscal years, should they occur, will be calculated based on applicable law.

The current daily benefit rate is $78.00, so the 5.9% reduction in railroad unemployment and sickness benefits will reduce the maximum amount payable in a two-week period with 10 days of unemployment from $780.00 to $733.98.

Certain railroad sickness benefits are also subject to regular tier I railroad retirement taxes, resulting in a further reduction of 7.65%. Applying the 5.9% reduction to these sickness benefits will result in a maximum two-week total of $677.83.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, and a subsequent sequestration order to implement mandated cuts, railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits are reduced by a set percentage, which is subject to revision at the beginning of each fiscal year.

When sequestration first took effect in March 2013, railroad unemployment and sickness benefits were subject to a 9.2% reduction. This amount was then adjusted to 7.2% in October 2013, 7.3% in October 2014, 6.8% in October 2015, 6.9% in October 2016, 6.6% in October 2017, and 6.2% in October 2018, as required by law.

In fiscal year 2018, the RRB paid about $12.7 billion in retirement and survivor benefits to about 540,000 beneficiaries, and net unemployment-sickness benefits of about $92.6 million to approximately 24,000 claimants.

Rail members: Online open enrollment in national health plans begins Oct. 1

Railroad employees covered under the National Railway Carriers/UTU Health and Welfare Plan or the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan are being mailed a notification of the online open enrollment period that begins Oct. 1, 2019, and ends Oct. 31, 2019, at midnight. The enrollment site is available 24/7 during the period. The information should be specific to the current enrollment for you and your eligible dependents.

The online enrollment capability provides the ability to view your personal information, add, delete and update dependent information, view enrollment materials, enroll in benefits for next year, and receive an immediate confirmation statement. There is no need to mail in a paper enrollment form. However, if you need assistance, have questions or require a paper enrollment kit, call Railroad Enrollment Services at 800-753-2692.

The enrollment website can be found at https://www.yourtracktohealth.com.

You are encouraged to visit the site and review all the information available. Use the login instructions at the end of this article to access and review your personal information and spend some time learning about the benefits and resources available on the site.

You will also be able to search medical provider networks.

It is required that covered dependent Social Security numbers (SSN) be provided to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Please supply any missing Social Security numbers on the Dependent Information screen.

If you are currently enrolled in the Health Flexible Spending Account, the election and yearly contribution will not rollover to the new plan year. You must enroll in your Health Flexible Spending Account every year.

Instructions to log in to the site:

  • Click “Login” at the upper right of the screen.
  • If you have already registered, enter your username and password.
  • If you have not yet registered, select “New User?” to complete your registration.

Once logged in, select the option to “Enroll Now for 2020,” located in the upper left corner of the screen.

Follow this link to view more information on the flexible spending account.