In a letter dated Aug. 15, all Teacher Retirement System (TRS) pensioners were notified that TRS will deposit extra money in their checking accounts "by mid-September 2019."  Popularly called the "TRS 13th check," the deposit will be equal to the retiree's regular monthly gross annuity amount, or $2,000, whichever is less. 

Led by the TRTA Legislative staff, Legislative Committee, and nearly 100,000 TRTA members, whose months of emails, phone calls, personal visits and handwritten letters to members of the 86th session, finally paid off!  The Legislature passed Senate Bill 500 (the supplemental budget) and Senate Bill 12 (the Retired Teachers’ Security Act) on the final day of the session.

SB 12 provided two major benefits for TRS pensions.  In addition to the 13th check, the state will make gradual increases to the TRS Pension Fund from 6.8% to 8.25% by 2024, in addition to lesser gradual increases by employers (1.5% to 2%) and active employees (7.7% to 8.25%). Those gradual increases will raise the base of the TRS Pension Fund to ensure its actuarial soundness, creating the opportunity for cost of living adjustments (COLA) for current retirees, and for those current educators who will be retiring in coming years. 

After regular double-digit COLAs through the 1980s and 1990s to meet increases in the U.S. Consumer Price Index, the last significant TRS pension increase was in 2001. 

The 10.77% increase (including a 6% inflation adjustment) went to those retiring prior to Sept. 1. 2000, and 4.5% to those retiring between Sept. 1, 2000 and Aug. 31, 2001. Since then, Texas retired educators received one 13th check, capped at $2,400, in 2007; and a 3% pension increase, capped at $100 per month, in 2013.

During the 2017 85th legislature session and the subsequent special session, TRS Care Basic, the education retirees’ health care plan was changed from no cost to a minimum of $200 per month for a retiree only.  SB 1, also supported by the vast majority of members in the 2019 86th session, assured no increase in TRS Care premiums during the upcoming biennium.  

TRS pensioners, when you see that extra money in your accounts in mid-September, please remember to thank your Legislators for their phenomenal support. 

In Erath County those were Representative Dr. J.D. Sheffield and Senator Pat Fallon. And, be sure to thank the Texas Association of Retired Teachers for their strong voice and advocacy for you. If you receive a TRS pension and are not a TRTA member, you need to join to become a part the advocacy for the security of your future TRS Pension! 

Contact TRTA.org, or better, circle Sept. 3 on your calendar. 

That is the Erath County Association of Retired School Employees ice cream social at 2 p.m. at the Graham Street Church of Christ Community Room. 

Senator Fallon and Representative Sheffield or their staff members will be there in person for you to express your thanks.

Jan Vaughn,

Stephenville