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June will bring retirement benefit increase for some state worker and teacher retirees

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By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A small number of West Virginia’s 50,000 total retired teachers and other state workers will see increases in their monthly retirement benefits beginning this June.

Governor Jim Justice has signed into law SB 3095 which applies to the retirees in those two categories with at least 25 years of credited service.

For those retirees, monthly benefits for people collecting less than $750 per month will increase to that minimum amount.

“To those folks, it’s a blessing,” said Ernie “Spud” Terry, spokesperson for the West Virginia Coalition of Retired Public Employees.

“That’s a huge increase for those folks and it’s long past due.”

The minimum for modified joint and survivor retirement annuities is set at $375 per month in cases of at least 25 years of credited service.

The increase is not retroactive to the time of retirement and it applies only to state workers “who have retired prior to the effective date.”

Terry estimated up to 600 people could see the increase but, he said, the overall need is much greater.

He also serves as president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Retirees Chapter 77.

In the two roles, he has long been an advocate for a cost-of-living increases for retirees along with the elimination of the state tax on Social Security which is to be phased out over three years under a separate bill pending with Governor Justice.

“We have folks that are retired who’ve gone over 20 years without any kind of increase in their pension and all the increase in the PEIA program and the cost of living. I mean, it’s a struggle for our folks,” Terry said.

“Our folks just need help in so many areas.”

The new law which came out of the 2019 Regular Legislative Session takes effect on June 3, 2019.

For this case, the law does not allow credited service for state workers to include time as an elected public official or a temporary legislative employee. It also puts some limits on years of service counted in higher education.