Work progresses on Beacon Hill

Work progresses on Beacon Hill
October 1, 2021

October 1, 2021 Weekly Update: By Chief Executive Officer Shawn Duhamel

Before my brief hiatus in August, I reported to you that we anticipated a very busy fall. I’m happy to say that not only were we correct, but that things have been even busier than we would have thought. 

One driving factor behind the rush of activity is likely the ongoing pandemic. With most of 2020 having been seriously impacted by shutdowns and uncertainty, which carried over into the first half of 2021, it was only a matter of time before inertia took over and things got moving again. 

Watch today's video report here!

The past 8 days have seen both the House and Senate unanimously override Governor Baker’s veto of the increase in post-retirement work hours. Now state law, the new 1,200 annual limit is effective retroactive to July 1, 2021 – the date the budget became law. With a growing number of our members choosing to work in retirement, this issue was a priority for our Association.

At the same time, we know that we also have many members who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. This is especially true for long-term retirees – those members who retired 15 or 20 years ago (or more) and have witnessed the buying power of their pension not keeping pace with inflation. For that matter, the pressure of inflation and prompt payment of pension benefits is an important issue for all public retirees, regardless of when you may have retired. 

This is why an important focus of the work we do on your behalf is centered on retirement benefit improvements like increasing the COLA base or improving the veterans’ bonus. Both of these issues are addressed in bills now under active consideration by the Joint Committee on Public Service.

Two bills seeking to improve veterans’ benefits were also heard by Public Service this week. One modifies the definition of “veteran” used for retirement purposes to include all retirees under the 2004 definition change. The second bill would increase the Veterans Bonus from the current maximum benefit of $300 annually to a new $1,000 annual benefit. 

A third bill filed by Mass Retirees seeks to provide for the prompt payment of a retiree’s pension when they apply for retirement. Under our proposal, once the retirement system receives the complete retirement application an estimated pension payment would be required within 60 days. While most retirees do receive a prompt initial payment, delays in accessing records and processing applications have led to a growing number of complaints from new retirees not having received their first pension check for 3 to 4 months after retirement. As Frank Valeri said in his testimony on Tuesday, no retiree should be forced to wait longer than 60 days to receive their first check.

Our Legislative Liaison Nancy McGovern testified on the 4th of our bills heard on Tuesday, which would extend voting rights in retirement board elections to surviving spouses receiving a retirement allowance. Our Association has long championed the cause in support of surviving spouses. Having a vested interest in the success of the retirement system, survivors deserve the same voting rights as retirees and active employees. 

Finally, I need to share some sad news. On Monday we said a final goodbye to our dear friend and colleague Joe DiFranco, who unexpectedly passed away last week. Joe had served as our Northern District Vice President since 2008. A retired Peabody Fire Lieutenant, “Big Joe” also served as an elected member of the Peabody Retirement Board and was our PEC designee.

Beyond his many years of dedicated public service, Joe DiFranco was simply one of the nicest and most big-hearted people you could ever hope to meet. It was rare not to see him with a giant smile on his face. Joe was a true asset to this Association, as well as a great friend to many.

We have another busy week ahead, with final production taking place on our November newsletter and key meetings taking place next week on Social Security WEP reform. Tune in next Friday for a full update on progress with H.R. 2337

Most sincerely,


Shawn Duhamel

Chief Executive Officer

Mass Retirees Association