Retirees getting shorted
That’s how PSC Retirees Chapter Chair Bill Friedheim defined an ongoing situation where PSC retirees are still not receiving their full pension benefits from the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) because “the CUNY payroll office has not provided the accurate final salary history that TRS needs to calculate each individual’s monthly payments.”
Friedheim was one of several retirees speaking to the issue that has outraged PSC retirees during a CUNY Board of Trustees hearing in December at LaGuardia Community College.
“I do not know if Payroll’s inaction is a product of willful neglect, incompetence or an innocent oversight,” Friedheim said in his testimony. “But whatever the reason, CUNY punishes teaching faculty and professional staff who have dedicated anywhere from 20 to 50 years of their adult work-life building curriculum and enhancing services that enrich the lives of one of most diverse student bodies in the world. These TRS pensioners deserve better.”
The situation, he said, has resulted in nearly 100 retired members not receiving the full amount of pension benefits they are owed after dedicating their lives to CUNY. Worse, there appears to be no good excuse.
Laura Fishman, a retired historian from York College, told the board, “Because my TRS pension payments are based on the average salary of my final three years of service, these monthly payments now need to be recalculated based on the contractual increase. How frustrated and disappointed I am that the Teachers’ Retirement System has not yet received an accurate salary revision from CUNY. This affects not only my monthly pension payments, but also impacts the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) that retirees receive because this COLA is based on a percentage of the annual pension, which now does not reflect the amount to which I am entitled.”
Jane Mushabac, a retired professor of English from City Tech, said she has been waiting for more than a year for an updated pension calculation, even after she made many phone calls to TRS and to CUNY. And Terrence Quinn, a retired associate professor of educational leadership at Queens College, told the board, “I am here because just as I tried to impart values of decency and honesty to my students, I am asking that this board do the same for its retirees.”
Rumors have circulated that the delay is a result of short staffing within CUNY’s payroll office. Whatever the reason, Friedheim told Clarion, he hopes that the testimony would move the administration to fix the problem.
And at press time there was some indication that the message was getting through. At the Board hearing, administrators promised retirees that they would attend to the problem. The administration told Friedheim in January that the administration had sent new files to TRS, which is analyzing the new information.