2020 retired teacher pension payments

2020 Marks Changes to Your Pension Payments

If you receive a pension from the Teachers’ Pension Plan of BC, you will have noticed some changes to your pension payments in 2020.

MSP Premiums End

If you watched your bank account near the end of December you might have noticed an increase in your pension amount. Because premiums were eliminated in the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) beginning in 2020, and most of us paid our MSP premiums directly from our pension, the deposit amount increased by $37.50 per person in December. In the past we paid ahead for MSP – and the January premium would have been deducted in December. But not anymore!

Pension Increase

A cost-of-living increase to our pensions came into effect on our January payment. You will have noticed a 1.9% increase. This increase now becomes part of our guaranteed pension. BC and Ontario are the only provinces where the teachers’ pension plans have consistently provided full cost-of-living increases.

Pensions and Benefits Committee

retired teachers free hearing test

Hey there – I Went for a Hearing Test!

In the last Connections I shared an article about a presentation I attended by HearingLife on the impacts of hearing loss on seniors and the need to have regular hearing check-ups after reaching the age of 60. HearingLife is one of BCRTA’s Advantage Partners and offers BCRTA members savings on hearing-aids.

What I didn’t mention was that my wife and I often complain to each other that we can’t hear what the other is saying and we frequently ask one another to repeat things. Even worse are the miscommunications about events and happenings. Occasionally one of us says in exasperation, “I TOLD YOU ABOUT THAT LAST WEEK, YOU NEVER HEAR WHAT I HAVE TO SAY!!”

I reflected on this after the Hearing Life presentation. After some discussion, my wife and I decided we would give HearingLife a try by getting our hearing tested.

Now I want you to know that I have never before entertained doing this because over the years I had a nasty suspicion that I was going to be told that I needed hearing-aids whether I was suffering hearing loss or not.

So off we tootled to the HearingLife office nearest to us in Penticton. It was easy and convenient to schedule the appointments. My wife had her test first, followed by me. The tests took about half an hour for each of us and then we had a combined consultation for about fifteen to twenty minutes.

The consultant who did the testing was an amazing person who took the time to discuss how the ear works and the causes of routine hearing loss. She had a professionally-equipped audiometric booth and a thorough testing process. The friendly manner of the testing and consult was greatly appreciated.

What was amazing to the technician and to me and my wife was that the results of our tests provided almost 100% identical hearing profiles. That is apparently quite unusual. What surprised me even more were the affirming words from the consultant—she told us that we have amazingly good hearing for our age (I am seventy and my wife is sixty-nine). She indicated that because our hearing is so good that we don’t need to worry about another test for two or three years.

When we asked her about our concerns regarding not hearing each other she asked us how long we have been married. We said forty-two years. She replied that the answer was easy – there is what she calls the “Marriage Syndrome” that after a long marriage, often hearing is not a problem. What is a problem is “listening”!

Her advice was not to go around shouting at each other but when communication is essential to take the time to sit down, face each other, snap our fingers and say, “Are you listening to me?” Then we will be set to get the information across. For me, at least, this is good advice because my attention span is becoming increasingly shorter as our marriage continues to grow in numbers!

So… have you had your hearing tested?

Terry Green
BCRTA Well-Being Committee Chair

Editor’s Note: BCRTA Members always receive a 10% discount off HearingLife standard pricing. Other discount offers are made from time to time, and HearingLife offers price matching for equivalent devices. To learn more contact HearingLife for details and let them know you are a BCRTA member.

Tax Tips for Retired Educators – Updated for 2019 Tax Year

Last year’s tax preparation checklist was our most frequently accessed resource. So we are back this year with an updated guide to help you make the most of your tax return. BCRTA does not offer income tax advice, but here are some common things to keep in mind. Working through this list will help you complete your return to your maximum advantage. This year’s check list was put together by our Pensions and Benefits Committee, with some additional tips from financial expert and PostScript columnist Mike Berton.

Eligible Medical Deductions

Any eligible medical costs that you pay that exceed 3% of your net income can be deducted when you complete your income tax return this year. A couple usually should combine all medical expenses on one tax return – usually the one with the lowest income – to gain the highest value deduction.
  • Eligible medical expenses are those payments made by you or your spouse that were not fully reimbursed by an insurance plan. Some examples that you should explore:
  • Prescribed medications
  • Payments to a medical doctor, dentist, and most paramedical service providers such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapy, etc.
  • See CRA’s complete list of medical expenses that may be eligible for tax deductions here.
  • Premiums that you paid for any health service plan other than MSP.
  • If you participate in our Johnson insurance with Prestige Travel Plan you should receive a letter that itemizes your claimable premiums as well as your claims history that shows your eligible deduction. If you don’t see this by March 16, follow up with them.
  • If you participate in MEDOC and have requested a letter that shows the eligible amount of premiums in a previous year you should receive it soon. This year’s tax notices are scheduled to be sent out by February 19th. If you are a MEDOC participant but have never requested this notice, call Johnson at 1.800.563.0677 and you will automatically receive one every year.
  • If you are signed up for Extended Health Coverage with Green Shield and premiums are deducted from your Teacher’s Pension Plan payments, GSC premiums are always shown in Box 135 of the T4 you received from TPP. See more about tracking GSC claims at www.bcrta.ca/gscclaims

The New Canada Caregiver Credit

The Canada caregiver credit (CCC) is a non-refundable tax credit that may be available to you if you support a spouse, common-law partner or a dependant with a physical or mental impairment.  For detailed information click here.

Disability Tax Credit

The disability tax credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit that helps persons with disabilities or their supporting persons reduce the amount of income tax they pay. For detailed information click here.

Age tax Credit

If you were 65 or older on Dec. 31, 2018 you may be able to claim an age tax credit. The credit is geared to income with the maximum discount for those whose income is less than $36,976, and the credit is gradually eliminated as your income increases. There is a corresponding provincial tax credit as well. This deduction can also be transferred to a spouse. For detailed information click here.

Charitable Donations

Tax credits are available for donations made to registered charities. In a spousal relationship, the claim can be split or attributed to either person to provide the greatest tax advantage. For detailed information click here.

Political contributions

Tax credits are available for any contributions you and your spouse made to registered federal political parties or British Columbia political parties. For more information about the federal credit click here and for British Columbia credits click here.

Tax Form Updates

The CRA has revised the T1 Personal Income Tax return form this year.  You should allow yourself a little extra time to complete the return. The new return has expanded from four to eight pages including calculations that were once on other schedules. Line numbers have changed from 3 digits to 5 digit numbers. Where possible, the print is larger to assist those with vision impairments.

Payment Options

If you are among the 16% of Canadians that owe tax after filing, you now can pay using a credit card, PayPal, or Interac e-Transfer (See Payments to the Canada Revenue Agency on the CRA website).

Other Options

You can now also file a return electronically on CRA’s website. You will have to register on the CRA website MY Account service to do this.  Once you have registered, you can take advantage of CRA’s “Auto-fill My Return” Feature.

Need Help Filing Your Return?

There are several low-cost or free tax filing programs available on-line. Search for “on-line tax filing.”  A listing provided by CRA can be found by clicking here.
There are also many volunteer run tax preparation clinics at Seniors’ and Community Centers around the province.

CRA Scams

Be on the alert for phone calls, e-mails or letters pretending to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency. If you receive one of these, provide NO information. Rather contact CRA directly by calling 1-800-959-8281 or check your CRA My Account on-line.

60 eh? Test Those Ears

On Dec. 3, 2019, the Well-Being Committee received an excellent presentation from Sally Thompson who is National Director of Affinity Development with Hearing Life, one the BCRTA’s Advantage Program partners. Her presentation was not so much about purchasing hearing aids, expensive or not, but on the importance of hearing health being part of our overall health profile. Starting at age 60 hearing acuity often declines. In fact, 47% of those who are of age 60 suffer some hearing loss. In addition to the inconvenience of not being able to follow a conversation or hear the TV, hearing loss also has an impact on both the functioning of the auditory processing of the brain and the overall health of the senior. The longer the hearing impairment is left untreated the greater the likelihood of significant long-term damage to the brain and serious health deficits for the individual.

Age, Illness, and Even Medications Can Affect Your Hearing

The use of some medications can impact the hearing nerves in the brain. For example, long term use of Aspirin or common antibiotics ending in “cin” can damage the auditory nerve.  Your doctor should be able to advise you on appropriate use to minimize damaging effects of these medications.  That is why it is important for hearing testing to be a regular part of your health regimen at the age of 60. There are many causes of hearing loss, some of which can be treated without having to resort to hearing aids. Hearing testing is a cost-free service with Hearing Life. You do not require a medical referral for a hearing test, you can simply call 1.855.749.7743 or visit the online booking page on their website. Mention you are a member of BCRTA and Hearing Life will schedule you into a clinic convenient to you.

What to Expect

The hearing test process, regardless of the provider, should emphasize diagnosis first and not the purchase of devices. Included should be a discussion of your medical history, the results of Otoscopy, Tympanometry, Air/Bone Conduction, and speech understanding assessment. Ms. Thompson gave an explanation of some “advantages” her network offers to BCRTA members. The free hearing test determines the nature of the hearing loss and what sort of remedies are available (not always a hearing aid). Free trials of various devices help patients find the right one.

The Cost of Hearing Aids

A common concern is the cost of hearing aids. Thompson pointed out that devices have different price points, but the primary concern should be selecting the device that best addresses your needs. As I write this, Hearing Life is offering BCRTA members a 25% discount off the price of hearing aids, plus the special 10% discount that BCRTA members always receive. Hearing Life sometimes has a reputation of being expensive, but Thompson pointed out that they have a price-matching guarantee. Those who find the one-time cost of purchasing a device should consider that financing is available. Both Green Shield and Johnson EHC plans also have some coverage for hearing aids – check your plan. When you need a hearing aid, the final cost per day is small compared to the health benefits. According to Thompson, in addition to requiring a professional certification , all Hearing Life centers abide by a code of conduct that emphasizes honest and accurate hearing assessment and appropriate treatment planning. You should never receive a “pitch” from any hearing provider to buy something you don’t need.

Ms. Thompson concluded that hearing aids do not cure hearing loss but work to stabilize speech understanding capabilities in neuro-sensory cases. Successful treatment relies on a positive attitude, willingness to learn, practice, patience and commitment of the client to persevere in the acclimatization process of adapting to hearing aids. Most importantly, addressing hearing loss concerns does contribute to a longer, sustainable, and healthy lifestyle for seniors.

After her presentation I felt very reassured that we as BCRTA members have an Advantage Partner that can offer retired teachers a valuable and cost-effective way of treating hearing loss.

Terry Green
Chair, Well-Being Committee

Merry Christmas from BCRTA!

A Christmas Wish 2019

I used to dread snow days when I was a school principal. Will staff get to school safely? Will the parking lot be cleared? Will the school be warm? Will somebody lose an eye from an errant snowball? So many real and imagined worries.

But not Christmas storms – I loved the snowfalls that came during the holidays. They were great excuses to keep the car in the garage, cuddle up with a coffee by the fire, read a book from under the Christmas tree and complete our annual family jigsaw puzzle.

Don’t you feel the same way? Sometimes we need a big storm to slow our pace, and help us appreciate the simple blessings that surround us. Wrapped up in a spirit of giving, surrounded by friends and family, safe and warm, Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year. Deep snow makes it even better.

My wish is that you experience one beautiful, awe-inspiring storm this winter… from inside the warmth and security of your kitchen window. But let’s not be stupid, one storm is probably enough!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Gerry Tiede
President, BCRTA

ACER-CART to Engage With New Parliament

At the suggestion of the BCRTA executive, the Western Region of the Canadian Association of retired Teachers (ACER-CART) has recommended to the ACER-CART national executive that it prepare introductory material to be sent to all Members of Parliament, the newly appointed Federal Cabinet, and Canada’s senators.

This material will outline who we are as provincial or territorial organizations under the ACER-CART banner, and specify what our goals and priorities are for federal legislation. ACER-CART vice-president (also BCRTA president) Gerry Tiede, along with Western Regional coordinator, Marilyn Bossert of Alberta have begun action on this initiative at the national level.

ACER-CART’s Western regional representatives met in Edmonton in November and exchanged ideas on a variety of topics including governance models, insurance trends, national health trends, and ways to market our provincial organizations to retired teachers.

Steve Bailey sits on the board of ACER-CART as BCRTA’s representative.

BCRTA has been serving retired educators in BC for 75 years!

BCRTA 75TH ANNIVERSARY

With the 75th anniversary of the BCRTA coming up in 2020, an ad hoc committee is making recommendations to the Board of Directors concerning how we can best celebrate this milestone. Ideas are being developed for a logo, commemorative merchandise, historical commemorative material as well as PostScript and video presentations to mark the occasion. The Committee is particularly interested in having our BCRTA branches submit historical photographs and short articles to be used in developing our commemorative celebration.

Members are requested to dig into your branch archives and forward material to the 75th Anniversary Committee, Attn. Steve Bailey, at the BCRTA office. Any ideas you have for this celebration would be most welcome. The Heritage and Communications committees are excited about this initiative.

Committee members are Janice Androsoff, chair of the Heritage Committee, Arnie Lambert, chair of the Communications Committee, Carol Baird-Krull, member of the Heritage and Communications committees, and BCRTA directors Sterling Campbell, Floyd Smith, and Steve Bailey (Chair).

AGM 2019 Highlights

The BCRTA held its Annual General Meeting and Conference Oct 3-5 in Richmond. Here are some highlights:

Survey Shows Member Satisfaction

A survey of members made available online and in PostScript magazine drew a large response of over 1,500 submissions.

Members expressed a strong desire for BCRTA to continue to focus on defending pension security for members and seniors, and a strong satisfaction with the job BCRTA is doing in that area. Areas that could use growth include branch engagement and use of BCRTA Advantage programs. See some more details of the 2019 Survey here.

Speakers

Dr. Art Hister had delegates “in stitches”

The 2019 Conference Keynote Address was given by Dr. Art Hister, who had the delegates “in stitches” with his humorous health advice. Amongst his many bon mots was an injunction to be careful with medical advice that applies to “the average person.” After all, Hister quipped, “the average person has one testicle and one ovary.”

Following Hister’s talk there was a time for delegates to engage in some physical activity and a presentation on de-cluttering your home.

President Gerry Tiede updated the delegates on the association’s progress in pursuit of its strategic plan, and gave some further insights into current news in pensions.

Membership awards were given to branches with the most member growth.

The Friday evening banquet included the inaugural PostScript Excellence Awards, an event celebrating the contributions of members to BCRTA’s flagship publication. The winners were cheered by attendees. Dancing and socializing concluded the evening.

Finances in Order

On AGM day Grace Wilson, 1st Vice President and Treasurer, reported on BCRTA’s financial results for the year ended June 30, 2019,  which had a bottom line better than budgeted. A representative from auditor KPMG confirmed a clean bill of health for the financial statements. A budget for the 2019-2020 year was approved, along with a setting of member fees to $42 per year effective the year following.

Motions From the Floor

Two motions were made from the floor of the AGM:

Motion: “To eliminate the use of single use plastics and Styrofoam in our BCRTA meetings provincially and in the BCRTA branches.”

Moved by Barb Henshall, Campbell River

Seconded by Bonni Roset, Campbell River

Amended:  by Rosalind Kellett, Vancouver

Amended motion: “That BCRTA strive to eliminate the use of single use plastics and Styrofoam in our BCRTA meetings provincially and in the BCRTA branches.”

CARRIED

 

Motion: “That BCRTA encourage the federal and provincial governments to move quickly to ban flavoured juices used in vaping devices.”

Moved by:  Val Windsor

Seconded by Pat Thiesen,  Delta

CARRIED

2019 Member Survey Highlights

A recent survey of BCRTA members showed a strong commitment of members to the central purposes of the association and high levels of satisfaction.

A good cross-section of members responded to the survey.

Defending the pensions of our members and seniors in Canada has been a central goal of the BCRTA. Members indicated strong satisfaction with the association’s activity in this area.

While many members are comfortable with electronic communications, the majority of members prefer to receive our flagship publication PostScript Magazine as a full-colour print publication. PostScript is very popular with our members.

Members were asked about their experience in receiving support from the BCRTA office, and feedback was very positive.

The survey showed that the majority of BCRTA members provide some form of unpaid work in their communities. Based on the responses, BCRTA estimates that our members give more than 238,000 hours each month providing care to others, in the mentoring of young people, in service on non-profits and many other forms of volunteering. When valued at a modest hourly rate of $20, we estimate that BCRTA members provide some $57 million dollars per year of unpaid service to their communities!

The survey asked our members to indicate how important different activities of the association were to them. Here are some of their responses:

BCRTA’s Board of Directors and branch executives will be using the results of the survey to better serve our members.

Thanks to all who participated!