SRS retirees air concerns over planned benefit changes

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 5:11 PM
Last updated Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:34 AM
  • Follow Aiken

AIKEN — Savannah River Site retirees turned out in force Tuesday to question and share concerns over changes on the horizon for their benefits programs.

Back | Next
Lauretta Gordon of Augusta asks questions during the Savannah River Site Retirees Association Annual Meeting at at St. Angela's Hall of St. Mary's Church in Aiken on Tuesday.    EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Lauretta Gordon of Augusta asks questions during the Savannah River Site Retirees Association Annual Meeting at at St. Angela's Hall of St. Mary's Church in Aiken on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Energy, “through its contractors, is stepping away from promises made to employees at the end of the Cold War,” said Joel Harrison, one of about 600 people who attended the SRS Retiree Asso­cia­tion’s annual meeting.

The group plans to oppose what it describes as benefit changes by the DOE and its main contractor – Savan­nah River Nuclear Solutions – that will increase medical premiums and drop retirees 65 and older from the site’s health plan, instead providing a stipend to buy Medicare or Medigap plans.

Among the speakers Tuesday was U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who pledged the resources of his staff – and a new office in Aiken – to help former nuclear weapons workers sort through the changes coming in January.

Columbia County retiree Chris Noah asked how other members of Cong­ress feel about SRS and its workers who helped win the Cold War. Wilson assured him there is broad cooperation to make sure the “Cold War warriors” are appreciated.

“It’s not always obvious, but we do work together up there, particularly when it comes to pensions and retirees’ medical benefits,” Wilson said.

Retiree Don Greene said workers need more than individual help from staff members.

“The help we need is on an overall basis,” he said. “Whatever stipend we get with this change, in seven years, it’s only worth 50 cents on the dollar.”

David Zigelman, the retiree association’s chairman, said the planned changes stem from a DOE decision to have SRS benefits evaluated against 16 other companies.

“They concluded the SRS benefits, particularly for retirees, are richer than the average company,” he said.

The DOE’s consultant, however, found there were insufficient data to compare SRS benefits with those at other companies and said SRS benefits were no richer than at other companies, Zigelman added, citing a letter obtained from the department under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Kelly Sanders, the benefits manager for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said there will be abundant resources available to help retirees sort through the changes.

“We have nine more months until Jan. 1,” she said. “We will be making lots of contacts and lots of calls.”

There will be town-hall meetings in July and August, she said, followed by enrollment periods in November to make sure everything is in order by the time the plan goes into effect Jan. 1. A company has been hired to help with the transition.

“The company will continue to subsidize your medical care,” Sanders said. “That is not changing.”

Comments (5) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
nnaugusta 04/10/12 - 06:07 pm
How can SRNS/DOE go back on

How can SRNS/DOE go back on an agreement that way part of the retriement package? Washington is so full of lies and liars, cheats and cheaters. It is pathetic to see them on TV anymore. But the executives won't take a cut or be without insurance.

my.voice 04/10/12 - 09:47 pm
The SRS gravy train has left

The SRS gravy train has left the station folks. It's about time.

KSL 04/10/12 - 09:59 pm
I have no personal connection

I have no personal connection with SRS. But if they government can go back on them, I'm all for them going back on all federal government workers including the potus's That would mean, Heavens, they would be going back on themselves. They made enough money to fend for themselves to the same extent. Obama has made a ton of money for himself.

etlinks 04/11/12 - 07:21 am
Gravy train my butt, a lot of

Gravy train my butt, a lot of hard work and high levels of risk were involved with the different jobs that were accomplished on site. DOE has just lied to every employee who put their health on the line every working day.

Kendall 04/11/12 - 08:30 am
Hi y'all

Hi y'all

twentieth century man
twentieth century man 04/11/12 - 08:58 am
If my understanding is

If my understanding is correct, the DOE has compared present-day and future offered retirement benefits of 16 companies to retirement benefits at SRS/SRP primarily offered years ago. This is a guarantee to erode retiree (those already retired) benefits because private-sector retirement benefits have eroded over the past 25+ years (very few defined benefit programs still exist in the private sector; defined contribution plans predominate; their value depleted by the Tech Bubble, etc.). Also, "one size does not fit all." For various reasons future retirements will be enriched to attract workers to specific areas. (For example, how do you intend to attract personnel to ascend a burning World Trade Center?). This DOE, SRNS plan is grossly unfair, particularly to retired SRS/SRP employees.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Early voting in Augusta-area shows increase
Area early voting numbers are dwarfing turnout four years ago, particularly in Republican-leaning Columbia County, and forecast apossible record voting year for the Augusta area.