Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Dee Atkins has been retired from the Savannah River Site for more than a decade, and said one of the main issues she faces as a retiree is getting access to her benefit money held by WageWorks – a contractor hired to disperse benefits.
Atkins was one of more than 400 retirees in attendance at the SRS Retirees Association annual meeting on April 15 at the USC Aiken Etherredge Center. The association – or the SRSRA – spoke about the issues retirees face.
“We have to apply to get that money back on our health premiums and other medical expenses,” Atkins explained. “You have to go through paperwork and certain procedures to get that money back, instead of us having a debit card or something like that we can use.”
Retirees and SRS Retirees Association chair John Plodinec also addressed the issue. Plodinec said that a 75-year-old retiree shouldn’t have to go through such a complex process to receive benefits.
He said two other main issues are affecting SRS retirees: Pension and medical benefits.
“Pension has not been adjusted since 2002, and the purchasing power for our pension has gone down by 30 percent,” he said. “The old, the poor and the sick are all feeling it.”
Plodinec said the group is looking to get a pension adjustment that will be targeted toward a flat-dollar amount. The amount would reward a retiree based on the number of years worked at the Site.
With medical benefits, he said retirees who are taking expensive medications are having to pay for them out of pocket.
“They’re literally paying thousands of dollars for their drugs. And so they’re faced with that uneasy choice of saying, ‘Housing, food, medical ... what do I pay for?’ So we’re working to make adjustments and also help people use what they are getting a little better,” Plodinec said.
The workload in front of them, he added, will include working with both the Site and Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C.
On behalf of SRS, Site manager Dave Moody also spoke during the meeting. Moody applauded the retirees’ initiatives and said both the Site and members of the SRSRA are working to help improve the situation.
“These are your benefits, and we want you to contribute to how we make this better,” Moody said. “We know there will be some things that we can’t do, but we’ll work to help you so we can both help each other.”
He added, “You created one of the safest Sites in the DOE complex, and for that, we owe you. At the same time, we want you to help us grow the Site and be ambassadors for SRS.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard.