Life Insurance & Vets Bonus Bills Advance

Life Insurance & Vets Bonus Bills Advance

Public Service Committee Endorses Mass Retirees Proposals

OCTOBER 24, 2019: The Joint Committee on Public Service has favorably released two Mass Retirees sponsored bills pertaining to state life insurance benefits, as well as the Veterans Bonus. Both proposals are among the Association’s top legislative priorities.

For the 2019-2020 legislative session, each proposal was filed in both the House and Senate. However, the bills have now been combined into single proposals for each subject matter. 

Legislation increasing the Basic Life Insurance benefit for state retirees and active employees was filed by Rep. John Lawn (D-Watertown) and Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn). The bill, HB2312, will likely be referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. If passed, the legislation would increase the Basic Life Insurance benefit from the current $5,000 level to $10,000. The last increase took place in 1985, when the current $5,000 benefit was set.

“Increasing the Basic Life Insurance benefit from $5,000 to $10,000 is a major focus for me personally. As some members might know, over the past few years I lost my dad and both in-laws. The current benefit does not even come close to covering modern funeral & burial costs, which was always the intended purpose,” explains Association President Frank Valeri. “We have been working closely with both the legislative leadership and the Group Insurance Commission to find an affordable way to increase the benefit.

“Earlier this year we surveyed our members to gauge interest and the needs of retirees. The results, which we have previously published in The Voice, show an overwhelming desire that the life insurance benefit be increased. I want to personally thank Public Service Chairmen Senator Mike Brady (D-Brockton) and Rep. Jerry Parisella for making this issue a top priority.”

Chairman Parisella is also the lead sponsor for H2346, the Association’s proposal to increase the Veterans Bonus. Currently, retirees who are deemed veterans, automatically receive an additional $15 per year of creditable service added to their base pension. The bonus is capped at $300 a year (20 years of service) and was established in 1957.

In fact the 1945 report, which established the modern retirement system under Chapter 32, called for the creation of a $300 annual bonus for retirees who are veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, when indexed to inflation the $300 benefit first proposed in 1945 represents more than $4,300 in 2019. 

“Since our founding in 1968, Mass Retirees has always been focused on veterans’ benefits. We helped create the 1996 law allowing for the purchase of up to 4 years of credit for military service. Unfortunately, that law did not allow veterans who already retired to purchase credit,” explains Mass Retirees CEO Shawn Duhamel. “However, any increase in the Veterans Bonus would apply to all current and future retirees alike. We believe our proposal is a straightforward and affordable way to recognize and thank our veterans for their service. And 74 years after the benefit was envisioned, it’s about time for an increase!”

Like the life insurance proposal, HB2312 has a Senate companion bill (SB1503) filed by Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth). The two bills have now been merged into one proposal, which will likely be referred to House Ways and Means. The Committee is chaired by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-North End) – a former Public Service chairman and Mass Retirees ally.

All other proposals filed by Mass Retirees for the 2019-2020 Legislative Session remain under the review of the Public Service and Health Care Finance Committees. Mass Retirees members and subscribers can follow the progress on all bills in the upcoming January 2020 edition of The Voice.