We work to keep SERS’ members informed of issues that directly affect them. The latest on what is affecting you through your retirement system will always be posted on our website’s homepage. After news items have been publicized, they will be housed on the “Important Retirement News” sections of the Members homepage and the Retirees homepage. You also can refer to this section when you are looking for older news items.
Important Retirement News
Monthly Payment Amount May Change Effective January 1, 2019
Did you notice a change in your monthly payment amount effective January 1, 2019? This change could be related to your tax withholding and/or your health care premiums. Since neither of these changes increased or decreased your monthly gross payment amount, you do not need to report this change to Social Security.
- Tax Withholding
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated the income-tax withholding tables for 2019. The updated percentage method tables reflect changes in tax rates and tax brackets and were effective on your January 1st check. The withholding information is posted on www.IRS.gov.
How Does This Affect Me?
Depending on your tax bracket and number of allowances you designated, your monthly payment may be more or less than previous months. Review your 2018 payment stub and compare it to a 2019 payment stub for the change.
- Health Care Premiums
Premiums decreased for most enrollees in the Aetna Medicare Plan (PPO) in 2019. For Aetna enrollees with only Medicare Part B and less than 25 years of service at retirement, premiums will remain the same.
There were also premium decreases for enrollees in the Paramount Elite Medicare and PrimeTime plans. For AultCare enrollees with only Medicare Part B and less than 25 years of service, premiums are increasing.
Our health care vendors submitted lower rates for 2019, which allowed SERS to pass along those savings to enrollees. Positive Medicare revenue, lower increases for prescription drugs, along with good claims experience all contributed to lower premiums.
Inspector General Warns Public about SSA Spoofing Scam
(October 23, 2018) – Another day, another scam.
Yesterday, the Acting Inspector General of Social Security warned the public of an ongoing spoofing scheme, where scammers falsely display the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) toll-free number.
People have reported that the caller claims to be an SSA employee. The caller reports they do not have all of the person’s personal information, such as their Social Security number, on file, or that the SSA needs additional information or the person’s benefits will be terminated.
Please keep in mind: Generally, the SSA will not contact citizens by phone. If an SSA employee is following up on information, such as a claim, they will NEVER threaten you for personal information, or promise a Social Security benefit increase or approval in exchange for information. If you receive a call in this regard, simply hang up.
Be extremely cautious, and avoid providing any personal information – especially your SSN or bank account numbers – to unknown people over the phone.
If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to work for the SSA, you should report it to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271, or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.
IMPORTANT: Report Your SERS Income to Social Security, Even If the Amount is the Same as Last Year
(September 9, 2018) – If you are retired and receive a Social Security benefit based on your own private sector work record, or based on a spouse, ex-spouse, or deceased spouse’s work record, you must report your monthly SERS gross pension amount to Social Security annually. The Social Security Administration will send you a letter asking for this information, and you still need to respond even though cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increases have been suspended until 2021.
Receiving Medicare Part B?
Failure to report your monthly pension amount will result in your Social Security check being suspended for overpayment. Any deduction for Medicare Part B premiums from your Social Security check also will end, which could result in your Medicare Part B coverage being terminated.
If you are unsure about the amount of your monthly SERS gross pension income, you can find it on your quarterly SERS check stub. If you receive a monthly Medicare B reimbursement of $45.50, do not include that as part of your monthly pension income.
Receive a PLOP?
Also, if you received a partial lump-sum option payment (PLOP) when you retired, you must contact SERS because you need to provide Social Security with your unreduced pension amount.
If you are unsure about what amount to report to Social Security, please call our Member Support Team to get a Social Security verification letter from SERS that includes your monthly gross pension amount for the last three years. You can request this letter by contacting SERS toll-free at 800-878-5853.
You are one of more than 237,000 active and retired members. Don’t have an online account with SERS yet? It’s easy. Visit Account Login to register today. It’s a secure and convenient way to view your account and stay connected with SERS.
Account Login provides the ability to:
- Review your account balance and service credit
- Update your personal information, such as address and beneficiary
- Create estimates
- Apply for retirement or a refund
Because the functionality and capabilities of the computer system have been increased, the system’s security features have been upgraded. This means that even if you previously registered for an online account, you will need to create a new account to access your SERS account information.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
In October 2017, SERS’ Board of Trustees approved a three-year cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) suspension for retirees and benefit recipients in 2018, 2019, and 2020. House Bill 49 (HB 49) indexed the COLA to the percentage increase in the CPI-W (the measure of inflation used by Social Security), not greater than 2.5%, with a floor of 0%. Both changes became effective January 1, 2018.
The Board also approved a change to an administrative rule that required new benefit recipients to wait until the fourth anniversary of their benefit for COLA eligibility. The new standard applied to benefits commencing on and after April 1, 2018. Additionally, the rule provided that multiple benefits originating from the same member account not have more than a four-year waiting period in total.
The changes did not affect the COLA increases retirees received before January 1, 2018.
Advocacy Group Sues
On January 31, 2018, the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio (SERS) was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE).
The SERS’ legal team is reviewing the details of the lawsuit, but we believe that all actions taken by SERS regarding the changes to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) were legal and prudent.
We are confident that the actions taken by the Board and the Legislature are in the best interest of SERS and its members and retirees and we will prevail in this action.
For nearly two years, SERS held several open meetings with representatives from all advocacy groups, including OAPSE, to discuss possible benefit changes and their effects on SERS and its membership. We modeled the effects of numerous combinations of changes before deciding on the COLA changes that were implemented.
We are disappointed that OAPSE’s opposition to these changes was not registered during the open process when they could have been addressed with input from all interested parties.