Rocky Flats Retirement Plans

I was notified by a reader that Rocky Flats was making changes to the retirement plans and attended one of the meetings where the changes were explained. I don’t pretend that the following is an official version of what is going on, although I’ve tried to make it as accurate as possible. The bottom line, as I understand it, is that management of retirement benefits will be transferred to an insurance company and that pension benefits will not be affected. This is being done because of the cost of administering the current plan. I was told when I arrived at the meeting that I had not received a letter announcing the changes nor did I need to attend because I took the lump sum payment when I retired. They graciously allowed me to attend the meeting.

I did hear some discussion that gave me comfort. It was stated there are no plans to change the health or death benefits for retirees. There was also a discussion about recent letters sent to salaried employees about confirmation of Medicare cost repayments. A confirmation letter must be sent to the benefit center by May 30 with documentation of Medicare costs to assure that the benefit continues. The discussion was that the reimbursements will be made quarterly. We have received deposits from the RRAs, but didn’t see any reimbursement at the end of the first quarter. Maybe that is coming at the end of June? It was suggested to call the benefit center to verify they have received the needed documents before the end of the month if you haven’t received a letter of confirmation.

Back to the changes in the retirement plans, the IRS is being asked to approve transfer of the plans to an insurance company. It is expected the IRS will issue a ruling in 12 months or so and, if approved, the completion will be in 18-24 months. Everyone, including those who have not yet reached the age to receive benefits, will be able to decide whether to take a lump sum or an annuity. The lump sum would be based on benefits earned, life expectancy, and interest rates. Spousal approval will be required. Financial advisors will be available to help make this important decision. Wells Fargo will continue to issue payments to those who have a current annuity until the process is completed. There was an appeal to keep the benefit center informed of address changes.

As an aside, I received an email that discusses DOE’s Office of Legacy Management obligations to the pension fund that is pertinent to this message. “At this time LM funds will be needed to meet its pension obligations, but the fund currently exceeds the anticipated liabilities.” The email goes on to state that any requirement to fund retirement obligations “. .  . would likely target DOE’s-USFWS (the Fish and Wildlife) visitor center.  .  .”

Efforts to Protect Rocky Flats Retiree Benefits

[Note: My first newsletter, which was recently sent to Rocky Flats retirees, dealt with upcoming changes to Rocky Flats retiree benefits and contained some of the content of the following posting.]


Signup for Newsletter

Firstly, I want to mention that readers can signup to have future ( newsletters on RF benefits and other issues sent directly to your email by typing your email address into the box in the upper right sidebar of this website’s landing page (just below, “Get Newsletter”), and clicking the “Subscribe” button. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription – which you need to reply to – in order to complete the signup process. (Of course, I won’t spam you or give your email address to others, and you can unsubscribe at any time, no hard feelings.)

I’m unsure at this point how many future newsletters might be forthcoming since it will depend both on the availability of new information and the level of reader interest. There’s only about a month remaining until RF retirees should receive details of the new 2015 RF benefit plans by mail and that announcement will be followed by about six weeks until (Nov. 30, 2014) retirees are required to sign up…or lose health insurance coverage.

I mentioned in a recent commentary on this website that I was alerted to some efforts to reverse the recent move by the Department of Energy (DOE) to reduce medical insurance benefits for Rocky Flats retirees and/or their spouses who are 65 and older. I have received messages about efforts to forestall these retiree benefits changes. One message contained a link to a letter to Congress asking for exemption from the new changes for people who retired from Rocky Flats prior to 1995.

However, I have since received a personal email message that “…our letter seems to be falling on deaf ears. Politicians don’t seem to have much interest in an election year…We have also contacted an attorney and discussed legal action but don’t feel there are sufficient grounds to do so.” Don’t lose your health insurance waiting for someone to stop this! Perhaps something can still be done, and I’m certain many people are thinking of what that might be. Be prepared for the likely outcome that such efforts will fail and make certain you complete the sign up requirements ahead of the deadline.

I’m well aware that some retirees won’t be helped by a decision to defer or eliminate the benefits changes for pre-1995 retirees: I happen to be in that group. I had the “pre-1995” benefits until I returned to work at Rocky Flats as a “second-tier contractor.” I was required to forego my no-cost medical insurance benefits to be able to return to work at Rocky Flats. I still remember how upset I was. I expect many pre-1995 RF retirees may feel that same anxiety being forced to cope with this current benefits change.

I will once again recommend that affected Rocky Flats retirees review the new health insurance options carefully and be prepared to sign up for a “less generous” (i.e., higher upfront cost) medical insurance coverage. The no-action alternative is to lose all Rocky Flats benefits if retirees don’t sign up before the November 30, 2014 deadline. The letter in the above link does a fine job of expressing the feelings of many pre-1995 retirees.

On a contrary note, I have also received email comments to this weblog from pre-1995 Rocky Flats retirees who believe that the retirees should not be “complaining.” Their opinion, in brief, is that pre-1995 RF retirees have enjoyed many, many years of benefits far more generous than those of most retirees in the “private sector.” I mention this in the interest of fairness and diversity of opinion. Remember that I have no official capacity on this subject and am only attempting to be a conduit for information and community feedback on this challenging issue.

Important endnote: Please be aware that I’m not providing any legal, financial, or retirement planning advice nor do I profess any special expertise and am not acting in any official capacity to disseminate Rocky Flats retiree benefits information. Please conduct your own due diligence in this matter and consult your attorney or financial planning professional, as needed, before making important benefits decisions.

Rocky Flats Benefits Changes—August Update

I’ve previously summarized important information on scheduled changes to Rocky Flats retiree healthcare benefits. These changes were described in June 2014 letters to retirees and also further elaborated in public briefings by the new DOE benefits contractor (Washington River Protection Solutions)  implementing healthcare benefit changes for Rocky Flats retirees 65 or older. These healthcare benefits changes are currently scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2015 and require near-term action by 65+ year old, benefits-eligible retirees to avoid loss of benefits. Please note: I’m acting in a purely unofficial capacity, do not endorse the benefits changes, and want mainly to make sure that my former colleagues are aware these important, upcoming changes so they can take timely and appropriate action. My main concerns are that some retirees may believe that they can safely ignore these changes because they were promised ‘lifetime benefits’ or, alternatively, some may be frustrated or overwhelmed by the apparent complexity of these changes. As I understand what is happening, these changes are moving forward and delay or inaction may result in Medicare-eligible retirees losing Rocky Flats-provided healthcare insurance coverage.

I’ve received many questions and comments since my initial blog postings and have myself attempted to find more information on the website provided in the healthcare benefits changes information letter (and packet) that I received by mail in June. That website has many links, but I was unable to find the correct pathway to access Rocky Flats information. When I called Rocky Flats Benefits Office at 1-866-296-5036 and United Health Care at 1-877-893-7224, they provided another link to a website a video recording of one of the informational briefings given in the Denver area in July 2014. For those that did not attend a briefing, I recommend watching the 1-hour video to learn what you will need to do over the next three months. Continue reading