FAQs

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

COLA is a cost of living adjustment to wages, pension, etc. based on a standard.

For Maine Public Service Retirees who have a pension from Maine Public Service Retirement System (MainePERS), the COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them. Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living; the CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.

For retired public service educators and State retirees, the COLA is calculated on the first $20,000 of the pension indexed.

For the majority of participating local districts (PLD-municipalities) the COLA is calculated on the full pension benefit.

In 2019, eligible State, Educator, Judicial, and Legislative retirement plan retirees received a 1.6% COLA on their benefit up to $22,451.03 (which is the 2019 base), or a maximum increase of $29.94/month. The 2020 COLA-base will increase by 1.6%, to $22,810.25. The amount of the COLA for 2021 will be determined during the summer of 2020 and appear in the 2020 September pension benefit. 

In 2019, eligible PLD retirees received a 1.6% COLA on their full pension benefit.

http://www.mainepers.org/

Regarding COLA with respect to Social Security wages:

https://www.ssa.gov/cola/

If there is a COLA increase, it is added to the September pension each year. The September pension is distributed near the end of the month

In Home Care

What type of assistance is available for in home care?

There are many different types of home care assistance however not ever areas of the State of Maine have access to all the services.

  • Nursing care.  In consultation with the doctor, nursing care may include wound dressing, ostomy care, intravenous therapy, administering medication, monitoring the general health of the patient, pain control, and other health support.
  • Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy. .A physical therapist can help a patient regain or strengthen use of muscles and joints. An occupational therapist can help a patient with physical, developmental, social, or emotional disabilities relearn how to perform such daily functions as eating, bathing, dressing, and more. A speech therapist can help a patient with impaired speech regain the ability to communicate clearly.
  • Medical social services. Medical social workers provide various services to the patient, including counseling and locating community resources to help the patient in his or her recovery. Some social workers are also the patient’s case manager–if the patient’s medical condition is very complex and requires coordination of many services.
  • Care from home health aides. Home health aides can help the patient with his or her basic personal needs such as getting out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing. Some aides have received specialized training to assist with more specialized care under the supervision of a nurse.
  • Homemaker or basic assistance care., Homemaker or person who helps with chores or tasks can maintain the household with meal preparation, laundry, grocery shopping, and other housekeeping items.
  • Nutritional support. Dietitians can come to a patient’s home to provide dietary assessments and guidance to support the treatment plan.
  • Home-delivered meals. Often called Meals-on-Wheels, many communities offer this service to patients at home who are unable to cook for themselves. Depending on the person’s needs, hot meals can be delivered several times a week. https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/
  • Pharmaceutical services. Medicine and medical equipment can be delivered at home. If the patient needs it, training can be provided on how to take medicines or use of the equipment, including intravenous therapy.
  • Transportation. There are companies that provide transportation to patients who require transportation to and from a medical facility for treatment or physical exams.

Financial assistance for home care is predominately provided by health insurance plans, Medicaid, Veterans Services or private pay.  Under most circumstances, financial assistance is dependent on the determination of a physician there is a medical need or a home care assessment by an agency.   The amount of service can also be determined by the physician or home care assessment. 

In Maine, home-delivered meals and transportation are generally provided through the local Area Agency on Aging.  These agencies can be found at www.maine4a.org

Legal Issues

Legal Services for the Elderly (LSE) is a nonprofit organization that has been helping Maine seniors since 1974.  Their mission is to provide free, high quality legal services to Maine residents who are aged 60 and over.

You may reach an attorney by calling their Helpline at 1-800-750-5353 or the Maine State Bar Association Lawyer Referral Services at 1-800-860-1460.  You may also reach LSE at www.mainelse.org

Additionally, there may be benefits available from your former employer.  For example, State retirees only may contact the Living Resources Program which offers among other services legal/financial information and support at 1-844-207-5465.

A will protects your interests after you are gone.  If you want to make sure a certain person gets a special item, leave money to a favorite charity, or you want to have your close friend instead of a relative to receive most of your money or property, make a will.

If you do not have a will, state law will determine where your things go.  A will can prevent family and others from fighting about your property in court.

https://estate.findlaw.com/wills/top-ten-reasons-to-have-a-will.html

Maine Public Service Retirement System (MainePERS)

What You Should Know
Maine Public Employees Retirement System

Organization and Structure.  The Legislature established Maine’s State Retirement System in 1942 for State Employees. Over time, more public sector workers joined the System, including educators, municipal workers, Governors, judges, and legislators.  In 2007, the Legislature changed the name to “Maine Public Employees Retirement System” (MainePERS) to better reflect the diverse membership.  MainePERS also determines eligibility for medical disability benefits, administers death benefits, group life insurance benefits and a defined contribution plan for Participating Local District members.

Maine law outlines the powers and duties of the Retirement System, and a Board of Trustees oversees its ongoing operations.  

The Governor appoints four Trustees:

(2) With relevant training or experience in finance or investments

(1) Recommended by Maine Education Association -Retired

(1) Recommended by retired state employees, retired participating local district employees or a committee comprised of representatives of these groups.

The remaining three Trustees are:

(1)Elected by Maine Education Association

(1)Elected by Maine State Employees Association

(1)Representing Maine Municipal Association

The State Treasurer or Deputy serves as an ex officio Trustee.

Operations and Responsibilities.  MainePERS primary function is to administer a “defined benefit” plan, meaning members can expect a particular monthly income when they retire.  MainePERS is responsible  to ensure the financial capacity to fund the system by collecting necessary contributions from employee members, employers (State, municipal or school district) and investing those funds for the long-term. In addition, most plans include an annual cost-of-living adjustment to retiree benefits so the rate of inflation will not erode the buying power of benefits. The System relies on skilled investment and actuarial staff, as well as outside consultants, to accomplish this important responsibility.

How is the Defined Benefit Determined? The member’s Plan, and choice of payment “option,” determines how the System calculates the monthly benefit. Generally, most members are entitled to receive retirement benefits at age 60, 62 or 65 using a formula based on (average of 3 years highest annual wages) X (years of service) X (2%) divided by 12  for the amount of the monthly benefit.

What Happens When Investments Fail to Perform?

MainePERS invests in a broad mix of stocks, bonds, and other equities to meet the goals of earning consistent investment returns over time, stable employee and employer contribution rates, and minimizing risk. By definition, retirees in a Defined Benefit plan are entitled to a guaranteed benefit, i.e. the benefit is “defined.” Since periods of low returns are cyclical and inevitable, the Maine Constitution allows the System to amortize losses over a 20-year period, again to avoid spikes in employer and employee contribution rates.

For More Detailed information

 You can find member and retiree handbooks on the MainePERS website:

https://www.mainepers.org/Publications/Publications.htm

For applicable statutory provisions, see: Title 5 MRSA Part 20, Chapters 421, 423, 425, and 427.

Your MainePERS pension is determined by your years of service, the average of your highest three years of earnings and your age.

MainePERS has different percentage reductions in your benefit if you have not reached the retirement age of your plan.

You can contact MainePERS for your specific information and estimated benefit amounts.

You may have Life Insurance through MainePERS.

State retirees have the minimum amount of Life Insurance through MainePERS and the value decreases over time to a lower amount.  During employment and at retirement you may have increased the life insurance plan.  To determine your life insurance benefit, contact MainePERS at (207) 512-3100 or 1-800-451-9800.

As for Educators and Participating Local District retirees, this depends on if your former employer offered this benefit.  You can contact MainePERS at (207) 512-3100 or 1-800-451-9800 to determine your benefit.

Another information source is:

https://www.mainepers.org/Group%20Life%20Insurance/Group_Life_Insurance.htm

MAR

MAR is a non-partisan organization, therefore, MAR does not endorse any political candidates.

MAR provides information to the membership on candidates’ positions and encourage members to make their decisions based on the information.

MAR does not take positions on partisan issues.  MAR does take positions on items affecting Maine public service retirees.

MAR does not provide financial support to political candidates.  The membership dues and the organization’s earnings are used for MAR operations and supporting members.

Upon someone’s death, depending on the individual circumstances, multiple organizations and agencies may need to be contacted.  Each organization may need a copy of the person’s death certificate.  A general checklist is:

Government Agencies

Financial Institutions

  • Maine Public Employees Retirement System  www.mainepers.org
  • Credit Card companies
  • Banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions
  • Mortgage companies and Lenders
  • Stockbrokers

Insurance and Annity Companies

  • Life insurers and Annuity companies
  • Health, medical and dental insurers
  • Automotive insurers
  • Home insurers

Yes. Anyone who receives a Maine Public Employee Retirement System (MainePERS) pension may be a member of MAR.  If your spouse was a member of MAR and you receive a MainePERS pension on your own or are a beneficiary of the spouse’s MainePERS pension, you can be a member of MAR.

You can contact Maine Association of Retirees (MAR) at 207-582-1960, or email mar@maineretirees.org or mail 280 Maine Avenue, Farmingdale, Maine 04344 to change demographic information.

Other organizations you may want to contact are:

  • Social Security Administration
  • Veteran’s Administration
  • Maine Department of Motor Vehicle
  • Local Town Office
  • Maine Public Employees Retirement System
  • Credit card companies
  • Banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions
  • Mortgage companies and Lenders
  • Stockbrokers
  • Utility companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Medical Coverage

Medical Coverage

State government retirees (including judicial, legislative, and ancillary groups) may contact the Office of Employee Health and Benefits at 207-624-7380 or go to www.maine.gov/bhr/oeh/benefits/health-prescriptions/medicare-advantage-plan.  You may also contact Aetna Medicare Advantage Customer Service at 1-888-267-2637. 

Retired educators may contact MEA Benefits Trust at 1-888-622-4418 or find more information at http://meabt.org/contact.  You may also contact Anthem First Impressions Customer Service at 1-844-951-0624.

Municipal retirees may contact Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust at 1-800-852-8300 or get further information at https://www.mmeht.org/medical-plans/retiree-group-companion-plan/

You may contact Anthem Customer Service at the number on the back of your medical ID card.

Medicare

Federal Medicare has four parts:

            Medicare Part A:       Hospitalization

            Medicare Part B:       Surgery, Physicians, etc.

            Medicare Part C:      Companion Plan or Advantage Plan

            Medicare Part D:      Prescription Drug Coverage

The majority of Public Service Retirees have to apply for Medicare Parts A & B at age 65.  There will be a monthly cost based on your individual circumstances.  In general, the cost for 2020 is $144.60 per month per person.

For the majority of Public Service Retirees, the State Employee Health Commission (SEHC), Maine Education Association (MEA) Benefits Trust, and the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) Employees Health Trust provide retirees with Medicare Part C.  Medicare Part C benefits includes prescription drug coverage. Therefore, there is NO need to purchase a separate Medicare Part D plan.

Specific information on the Medicare Part C plans can be provided by:

State RetireesEmployee Health and Benefits https://www.maine.gov/bhr/oeh/benefits (207) 624-7380
Retired EducatorsMaine Education Association Benefit Trust http://meabt.org/benefits (207) 622-4418 
Participating Local District RetireesMaine Municipal Association Employees Health Trust https://memun.org/Insurance-Services/Maine-Municipal-Employees-Health-Trust (207) 623-8428

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10530.pdf

NO.  Your Companion Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan includes prescription drug coverage.

https://www.medicare.gov/

https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-qa-tool/https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf

According to Medicare rules, retiree insurance pays secondary to Medicare. This means that Medicare pays first for your health care, and then your retiree coverage pays for some or all of the costs that Medicare did not cover. The secondary payer only pays if there are costs the primary insurer didn’t cover.

Neither Medicare or your retiree insurance will pay for nursing home care.  MaineCare (Medicaid) may pay for nursing home care if a person meets MaineCare’s financial eligibility requirements and other  eligibility conditions. 

For additional information on MaineCare nursing home requirements, contact:

                                    Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS)                         

                                    Department of Health & Human Services
11 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 287-9200
Website: www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/

               

https://longtermcare.acl.gov/index.html

https://www.familyassets.com/nursing-homes/resources/skilled-nursing-vs-nursing-home

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/paying-care

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-long-term-care

https://www.maineombudsman.org/

https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx

Retirement

What the impact of your retirement on your spouse depends on many factors.  Some of the factors to evaluate are:

  • Does your spouse have their own employer sponsored pension?
  • Is your spouse eligible or in receipt of federal Social Security Retirement Benefits? Federal Social Security Disability Benefits?
  • Is your spouse eligible or will be eligible for Medicare based on their own employment history?

The answer to each of these questions will lead you into a different direction.

For example:  Your spouse is also a public service retire with a MainePERS pension, eligible for employer sponsored Medicare Advantage program and are not eligible for federal Social Security benefits, your retirement will have little financial impact on your spouse.

Another example:  Your spouse has had very little employment history, a very small federal Social Security benefit (under $100 per month), and is not, on their own, eligible for Medicare.  Their eligibility for Medicare is tied to your work history and their financial security is based on your MainePERS pension.

In a case such as above, choosing a MainePERS pension option which distributes a larger portion to your spouse on your passing may be a valid option.  Evaluating the cost of dependent care through your employer’s Medicare Advantage program may be necessary to determine is the cost is doable with your pension benefit.

Each situation has to be individually evaluated depending of your circumstance. There is NO one answer.

Deciding when to retire is a life altering decision with many items to consider.

Financial security is a large part of the decision. 

Are you Social Security eligible? 

  • Under the federal Social Security System, you can retire at age 62, however, there are financial reductions if you retire before your specific “age of retirement.”  The “age of retirement” for federal Social Security is based on your birthdate.
  • If you retire before your “age of retirement” there is an amount of earnings you are allowed before it impacts your Social Security.
  • The federal Social Security Administration can provide you with the information specific to you.

Are you Medicare eligible?

  • Most individuals are required to enroll in Medicare at age 65.
  • If you are receiving Social Security benefits, the cost of Medicare Part B will be deducted from your Social Security benefit.
  • If you do not receive Social Security or you do not receive enough Social Security benefit to cover the cost of Medicare, you will be billed for Medicare Part B.  Some retirees are bills quarterly and some monthly.
  • If you are not Medicare eligible or not of age to receive Medicare, what is the cost of health care coverage?  Your health care coverage may be through your former employer or you may need to enroll in a health care plan through the market.

What will be your MainePERS pension?

  • Your MainePERS pension is determined by your years of service, the average of your highest three years of earnings and your age.
  • MainePERS has different percentage reductions in your benefit if you have not reached the retirement age of your plan.
  • You can contact MainePERS for your specific information and estimated benefit amounts.

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10377.pdf

https://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire

https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/otherthings.html

https://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf

https://www.merrilledge.com/article/ready-set-retire-8-deadlines-you-need-to-know

https://www.aarp.org/retirement/planning-for-retirement/

Social Security

In 1983, the Maine Legislature and Administration choose not to participate in the federal Social Security System for Public Service Employees (Legislators, Judges, Troopers, State Employees, Educators and some Municipal Employees) and choose to participate in the Maine Public Service Retirement System (MainePERS).  This decision impacts the method the federal Social Security System uses to determine the Social Security retirement benefits for MainePERS retirees.

Federal Social Security benefits are calculated based on the average monthly earnings over thirty-five years (AIME).  Once the AIME is determined, a three tiered formula is used to calculate the monthly Social Security retirement benefit.  The first $826 of the AIME provides 90% of the AIME as part of the Social Security benefit; the AIME amount between $827 and $4,980 provides 32% of the AIME as part of the Social Security benefit; and the AIME over $4,980 provides 15% of the Social Security benefit.

SOCIAL SECURITY CALCULATION WITHOUT THE WINDFALL PROVISION

AIMEPercentageSS Benefit Amount
Up to $82690%$  743.40 Maximum
$827 to $4,98032%$1,593.60 Maximum
$4,980 and up15%$   747.00 Maximum
Total $3,083.00

The WINDFALL ELIMINATION PROVISION (WEP) changes the formula for determining the Social Security benefit with the intent to take into account the years someone was not paying Social Security because of another public pension versus no Social Security due to no employment.  For MainePERS retirees, the formula changes the percentage in the first tier of the formula from 90% to 40%.  The remaining two tiers are unchanged.

SOCIAL SECURITY CALCULATION WITH WINDFALL ELIMINATION PROVISION

AIMEPercentageSS Benefit Amount
Up to $82640%$  330.40 Maximum
$827 to $4,98032%    $1,593.60 Maximum
$4,980 and up15% $   747.00 Maximum
Total $2,670.40

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf

https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/wep.html

When determining the impact of the WEP, the number of years a MainePERS retiree participated in the federal Social Security System with substantial earnings impacts the percentage formula in the first tier of the calculation.

When a MainePERS retiree has between 20 and 30 years of participation in the federal Social Security System, the percentage in the first tier of the calculation is as follows:

SS Years2021222324252627282930
Percentage0.40.450.50.550.60.650.70.750.80.850.9
$826$330.40$371.70$413$454.30$495.60$536.90$578.20$619.50$660.80$702.10$743.40

If a MainePERS retiree has 30 + years substantial participation in the federal Social Security System, there is no WEP.

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf

https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/wep.html

The federal Social Security Government Pension Offset (GPO) is the method Social Security uses to determine the level of Social Security survivors benefits for retirees who receive a pension from an entity which did not participate in the Social Security System.

http://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/gpo.html

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf

https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/gpo-calc.html

MainePERS retirees are impacted by the GPO due to the fact that the State of Maine does not participate in the federal Social Security System.

The GPO impacts spouses, widowers, and widowers who receive monthly MainePERS pensions they have earned.  If the person is a beneficiary, the GPO does not apply to them.

For survivors who are MainePERS recipients based on their earnings (not a spouse) 2/3 of your MainePERS pension amount will be reduced from your Social Security survivor’s benefit.  Social Security survivor’s benefits are ½ of the Social Security worker’s benefit.

EXAMPLE 1:

  • Spouse receives $1,500 in Social Security benefit
  • Your MainePERS pension is $1,000 per month
  • Spouse passes away
    • Social Security survivor’s benefit would be $750 per month
    • Minus 2/3 of MainePERS pension ($1,000 x .67) = $660

                                    SS Survivors Benefit = $90

EXAMPLE 2:

  • Spouse receives $1,500 in Social Security benefit
  • Your MainePERS pension is $1,750 per month
  • Spouse passes away
    • Social Security benefit would be $750 per month
    • Minus 2/3 of MainePERS pension ($1,750 x .67) = $1,155

                                    SS Survivors Benefit = $0

If the MainePERS pension was “earned” by your spouse, the GPO does not affect your Social Security benefit.

http://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/gpo.html

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf

https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/gpo-calc.html

There is NO best age for everyone to take Social Security.  The most financially beneficial age to draw Social Security benefits is based on individual and family circumstances. 

Most individuals (if they have worked under Social Security for 40 quarters with substantial earnings) can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62.  However, your full benefit is dependent on your year of birth.  Your full retirement age can be found on https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/learn.html#h3.

Drawing Social Security benefits prior to reaching your full retirement age will result in a reduction of benefits, however you will be drawing the benefit for a longer period of time.  If you delay drawing Social Security to after your full retirement age, the benefit level will be larger however you will be drawing the benefit for less years.

Individuals can meet with their local Social Security Office to obtain specific information on their situation.

Individuals need to evaluate the following issues:

  • Current cash needs
  • Current health
  • Family longevity
  • Plan to work or not in retirement
  • Future financial needs
  • Future financial obligations

In addition to the impact on the amount of Social Security benefits, most individuals are required to enroll in Medicare at age 65.  If you are receiving Social Security benefit, under federal law, your Medicare Part B premium cannot increase more than the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment.  However, if you are not in receipt of Social Security Benefits, there is no protection for the potential increase in Medicare Part B premium.

https://www.investopedia.com/retirement/when-take-social-security-complete-guide/

If you are receiving Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS) pension, going to work at a position not covered by MainePERS, there is no impact on your MainePERS pension.

If you are in receipt of Social Security retirement benefits, going to work may impact your Social Security retirement benefits.  The federal Social Security Administration has an “official age of retirement” based on your birth date.  If you receive Social Security retirement benefits prior to reaching your “official age of retirement” according to the Social Security Administration, your earnings can impact your Social Security retirement benefits.

The first step when deciding if you want to return to work, you need to ask the Social Security Administration your personal “official age of retirement.”  The Social Security Administration can provide you the amount you can earn before your Social Security retirement benefit is impacted.

Once you reach your “official age of retirement,” there is NO offset to your Social Security retirement benefit due to earnings.

If you return to public service covered by MainePERS, the state law has changed.  There was a state law that limited state retirees and educators’ wages and benefits if they returned to employment covered by MainePERS.   Those limitations have been removed.  The one limit is employment time after retirement will not be added to your MainePERS calculation for pension purposes.

https://www.mainepers.org/Retired%20Members/Retired_Return_to_Work.htm

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/120715/how-does-my-parttime-job-affect-social-security.asp

https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/020215/can-i-collect-social-security-if-i-still-have-job.asp

Veterans

There are many different types of Veterans’ benefits from employment, finances, housing to memorialization.  To access benefits, different eligibility factors are considered such as service history, medical need, income level.

In order to determine the benefits you may be eligible for due to your military service gathering your DD 214, your military history with the branch of service you participate in, and any medical information related to your military service will be helpful.

In Maine, the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, Bureau of Veterans Affairs is a place to start.  You can contact the Bureau at 207-430-6035 or on-line at https://www.maine.gov/dvem/. or download the Welcome-kit at: https://www.va.gov/welcome-kit/.

.

Below are other on-line information sites:

https://www.va.gov/service-member-benefits/#time-sensitive-va-benefits-to-consider-when-separating-or-retiring

https://www.va.gov/service-member-benefits/#va-benefits-you-can-use-during-and-after-service

https://www.va.gov/opa/persona/dependent_survivor.asp

https://www.maine.gov/veterans/faq/index.html

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