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News of interest to ARCRA members

  • 05/11/2020 2:59 PM | Anonymous

    This Intercross Podcast for May 8 talks about the Convalescent Plasma and COVID-19 and the work of the American Red Cross in this effort.

    More than 175,000 people in the U.S. have recovered from COVID-19.  Once a person recovers, his or her blood contains antibodies in its plasma that can possibly fight the virus.  Those antibodies can be obtained from a donor’s blood and given to a severely ill patient via transfusion.  The hope is that these antibodies can help patients recover.  The use of convalescent plasma or plasma extracted from those recovering from a certain illness has a long history, dating back even to the Spanish Flu of 1918 and used more recently in patients with polio, measles, and SARS. 

    You can sign in and listen to the Podcast from Intercross at:


  • 04/29/2020 10:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How did the CARES Act (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act [the Act], passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020), impact Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRA’s, 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) and other defined contribution accounts?
    by Jack Campbell, ARCRA Treasurer

    The nearly 900-page law provided relief to individuals and businesses in various forms but there were some provisions focused on retirees and specifically on RMDs.  Recall that we provided some guidance on RMDs in December 2019 and January 2020 for tax planning purposes as retirees hit the age thresholds where distributions are required.  However, due to the unprecedented impact on the economy of the shutdown of large segments of businesses, and related stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 virus, specific relief was granted by the Act regarding RMDs in 2020.  Tax and legal professionals are offering guidance based on the Act but detailed rules from the IRS and Federal government may still be forthcoming.  Here is what they are saying now in terms of tax planning in 2020:-

    What is the 2020 RMD relief?

    Defined contribution plans like those noted in the headline can waive/suspend required minimum distributions in 2020 with no penalties imposed.  The waiver is for everyone, not just those who may be directly affected by COVID-19.  This provides flexibility in 2020 due to financial strains caused by the pandemic.

    • For 2019 RMDs.  If a person turned 70 ½ in 2019, they had to take their RMD either in 2019 or before April 1, 2020.  If they took the distribution in 2019, they can’t undo that action and it is taxable in 2019.  If they waited until 2020 up to April 1, there is an existing 60-day rollover provision that can be employed to allow all or some of a distribution already taken to be rolled back into an IRA or other qualified plan.  However, the IRS recently issued Notice 2020-23 which extended the 60-day rule until July 15, 2020 for anyone who took a now unwanted RMD.  This applies for those who received a payment between Feb 1 - May 15, 2020.  So, if their 2019 distribution was taken on March 15, 2020, they have until July 15, 2020 to execute a rollover.  Otherwise, it will be taxable in 2020.  Note that there is only one 60-day rollover to an IRA allowed in a 12-month period.  Also, although permitted by law, some qualified savings plans do not allow rollovers to non-IRA plans.
    • For 2020 RMDs.  If a person has not yet taken their 2020 RMD, they can suspend taking it in 2020 with no penalty and avoid the taxes in 2020.  Statistics say that about 20% of people who take a distribution take the minimum.  That means that about 80% take more than the minimum, suggesting that they need it for their livelihood or a large purchase, down payment, etc.  If someone takes their 2020 distribution in any amount without rolling it over, it will be taxable income.  However, if they can suspend some or all of the RMD in 2020, they can avoid taxation and penalties in 2020 and allow more time for their portfolio to recover from the current market downturn.  Keep in mind that the age to start RMDs was changed to 72 starting in 2020 so if a person did not turn 72 in 2020, there is no RMD requirement until the year they turn 72.  For those that turned 70½ in 2019 or prior, they can suspend all or a part of their RMD in 2020.  The rollover extension mentioned earlier applies to 2020 RMDs as well.
    • If you received an RMD from a non-IRA employer plan in 2020 (prior to the CARES act), you should check with your plan administrator to see if the plan will allow you to return these funds into the plan.  If not, you may be able to rollover to an IRA within 60 days.  Rollovers can get complicated so the IRS link below may be helpful.


    What about those who have elected to take distributions automatically?

    If you want to cease or change distributions already underway, you will have to contact your administrator or custodian to review what contractual arrangements exist to make changes.

    Finally, there are more provisions that involve inherited IRAs and the application of the Act on those as well.  Please contact your financial or tax advisors to get the best advice that fits your particular situation before you take any action.

    Read more the CARES Act and RMD here.

    Review Your Athene Account

    Many Red Cross retirees are receiving all or a portion of their retirement benefit from Athene. It just makes good sense to log on to your account at https://www.lifeatworkportal.com/Athene from time to time to review your information and familiarize yourself with the benefit info available to you. On the site, you can easily:

    • Review Your Annuity Info
    • Request annuity verification
    • Review your communication preferences
    • Review/update your tax withholding preferences
    • Review/update your direct deposit preferences

    Recently, Athene CEO Grant Kvalheim wrote to all annuitants conveying, in part: “At Athene, your financial security is our top priority, and we are here to serve you whatever the coming weeks and months may bring. We maintain "A" ratings from A.M. Best, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Rating Services, and ended last year in the strongest financial position in our history.” The full letter is posted on your Athene accounts home page.

    Some retirees are receiving all or a portion of their retirement benefit from John Hancock which does not offer online access to annuity accounts. Call a Client Services Representative at 800-624-5155 for any issues or requests related to your account.

    A small number of retirees who began drawing benefits before June 1989 are receiving all or a portion of their benefit from Aetna. If you are in this category and would be willing to help us understand how annuitants can gain access to their account and receive customer service, get in touch at Admin@arcretireeassoc.org and we’ll share info with our members.

  • 04/29/2020 1:28 PM | Anonymous

    Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus and lack of conformity in state mandated regulations, ARCOA has cencelled the Annual Meeting/Convention in Salt Lake City, UT June 11-14, 2020.  Health and safety of the members was the primary concern.  The meeting will NOT be rescheduled in 2020.  While the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek says it will cancel all hotel rooms ARCOA recommends you double check your own reservation in about a week to confirm cancellation.  ARCOA is investigating a 2021 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City.

    Please consider attending the ARCOA events in November 2020 combining the Fall Memorial and celebration of the 25th anniversary dedication of the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.  More information will follow soon, as the Board and Council decide how to proceed with ARCOA business and the November events in these unusual circumstances. Questions and concerns arcoainfo@gmail.com

  • 04/17/2020 10:21 AM | Anonymous
    While Census Day was April 1st...YOU still have time to get counted!

    For those who haven't completed it yet, the Census Bureau is mailing paper forms now and should hit mailboxes soon. You should fill out the Census.  An accurate count is essential to properly funding health care, education, and public programs including food assistance and support for people out of work in your community. Additionally, an inaccurate census count could decrease the number of congressional representatives from your state and decrease funding for your essential services..

    Filling out the census is a key way to be proactive about building and protecting your community in the wake of coronavirus. Don't wait to fill out your form -- whether it's by paper form, online, or on the phone -- and get counted for your community!

  • 04/13/2020 3:42 PM | Anonymous

    Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to the cancellation of blood drives at alarming rates due to the coronavirus.  Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood.  The general public is responding to blood appeals, however more donors are needed to meet the demand for blood for patients.

    While everyone is being asked to avoid mass gatherings, it is very important to note that blood drives are not considered “mass gatherings.”  Blood drives are controlled events with trained staff and appropriate safety measures to protect donors and recipients.  Like a hospital, grocery store, or pharmacy, a blood drive is essential to ensuring the health of the community. 

    In fact, the U.S. surgeon general has said,”You can still go out and give blood.  We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future.  Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.” Find a blood drive near you.

  • 04/12/2020 3:44 PM | Anonymous

    The American RedCross@Work website (at http://digital.alight.com/redcross) is the one-stop hub with info on your Red Cross benefits including the Red Cross Savings Plan (401k), the Retirement SystemHealth Care, and includes other valuable info. The site also hosts a Message Center which should be monitored for important communications from the Red Cross.

    Red Cross Retirees enrolled in any of these benefit programs should log on to this site periodically to review benefits and ensure that your address and other contact information, like your email address and phone number, are current. If you don’t know your User ID and Password, use the Forgot User ID or Password link to provide information and gain access to your account.  You can also contact the RedCross@Work Service Center toll-free at 1-877-860-7526 (Outside the United States, use +1-212-444-0993.)   Red Cross representatives are available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

  • 03/31/2020 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Annually, the ARCRA Board meets with Red Cross leadership to discuss issues of importance to retirees.  Due to the COVID-19 crisis we made some last-minute changes to our meeting, including changing from a face-to-face format to a video conference format.  Red Cross leadership was immersed in dealing with the COVID-19 situation both internally and how to serve the nation.  We truly appreciated their commitment to making it all work and participating with us.

    1.    Human Resources:
    We met with Human Resources leadership to discuss a variety of topics including the Retiree Medical Program, Pension System, Participant Satisfaction and their partnership with ARCRA.  In addition to the history and current status of these programs, we also discussed future possibilities.  As we have noted in past publications, pensions/annuities are backed up by federal or state pension guarantees that address stability in times of economic stress.  That is comforting when we see swings in the global economy.  The Red Cross has also taken actions over the past two years to ensure stability in the Red Cross pension system as noted in the Finance report below. 
    Other programs like the Red Cross Retiree Medical Program are more discretionary.  The good news is that there are no plans for significant changes in the near term.  Medical insurance carrier and plan designs have not changed for 2020.  Likewise, the dental and life insurance will remain the same.  We know that this can evolve in a changing economic environment, and the ARCRA Board will continue to engage with Red Cross leadership regarding these benefits.
    The Participant Satisfaction with Red Cross@Work Service Center remains high (most recent around 91%).  However, there are going to be exceptions and ARCRA does assist people that cannot seem to work through the system.  Retirees can contact the Red Cross service center at:
    Red Cross@Work Service Center
    Representatives are available Monday-Friday, 9 am - 5 pm Eastern Time
    2.    Finance:
    Brian Rhoa, ARC CFO gave a brief summary of overall financial trends at Red Cross as well as some comments about fiscal year 2020 which will end June 30.  He also updated us on pension plan funding and the related investment strategy.  Regarding Red Cross operations, he is projecting a net operating margin for FY 2020 of between $45 million to $65 million.  He defines this as "normal" operations which excludes the peaks and valleys of disaster contributions and expenses and other extraordinary items or circumstances.  Of course, that brings us to the potential impact of the coronavirus on Red Cross operations.  You have likely heard that blood donations have plummeted for all blood banks including the largest collector, Red Cross.  Brian had no projections through year end since the situation is still evolving and Red Cross management is determining how they can bring their resources to bear to alleviate suffering country wide.  Clearly, the economic impact of actions taken to control the virus are negatively impacting a huge proportion of our populations.  In addition to blood donations, the impact on financial support to the Red Cross is unknown at this time.

    Regarding the Red Cross pension plan, for the portion of annuity payments not funded by Athene, Hancock or Aetna, (the monthly amount you receive from State Street Bank) the Red Cross has been taking actions for at least two years to aggressively fund the plan with contributions that exceed the annual minimum funding requirement.  This has resulted in the build up of a prefunding balance or credit that can be used to keep the funding percentage at 80% or above.  The last funding notice dated October 2019 showed an 80.01% funding percentage.  Management expressed confidence that the percentage would remain above 80% when we receive our next funding notice.

    Finally, as we all see our current investment balances negatively impacted by the coronavirus response, the Red Cross began to hedge the pension plan portfolio near the end of calendar 2018, about 18 months ago.  What that means is that they progressively started to move money away from equities and into bonds to potentially blunt any significant downturn in the markets.  They didn't see the virus coming but this strategy was put in place to try to protect the underlying investments of our plan from this type of occurrence.  In the near term, this action should give us some comfort that plan assets will not be as negatively impacted as a more aggressive investment strategy.  However, there is no perfect investment strategy to address all contingencies so we will have to wait and see what happens when this crisis finally subsides.  The same is true for the three large insurance companies that fund portions of our retirement payments.

    While we do not have this kind of direct access to annuity providers, Athene recently sent a message to their annuitants clarifying their financial security.
    3.    Volunteers & Planned Giving:
    We get questions regarding retiree participation with the Red Cross, and one of the goals for this meeting was to discuss how/where retirees might remain involved.  We met with leadership from Volunteer Services and Planned Giving.
    Volunteer Services:  Matt Bertram, Vice President Volunteer Services. 
    Matt noted that the COVID-19 crisis has placed some strain on the system.  Disaster volunteers are currently working remotely due to COVID-19, making service delivery a challenge.  In addition, the nation, including the Red Cross, is facing problems getting enough blood donors.  Many blood drives have been cancelled.
    ARCRA will work with Volunteer Services to highlight specific opportunities in upcoming eNewsletters.  In the meantime, if you are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross, go to the Red Cross website or sign up in Volunteer Connection to find opportunities that match your interest.
    In our discussions, we identified areas of opportunity for volunteering.  Here are some of them:
    • Disaster Services-DAT member,
    • Community preparedness volunteers
    • Blood-donor ambassadors and transportation specialists
    • Care Network Caseworker - Services to Armed Forces
    • Sound the Alarm volunteers – this program is temporarily delayed due to COVID-19.  This program is also a fun opportunity for teams of volunteers.  Think about teaming up with your fellow retirees!
    • Administrative volunteers within NHQ departments such as Communications, Marketing, Technology
    • Volunteer Advisor - Vietnam Commercial First AID
    • Government Operations - National Exercise Coordinator
    • Government Operations-NRCC-DOCC liaison
    Rebecca Locke, Executive Director, Gift Planning:
    Rebecca provided clarity around Planned Giving and how retirees could continue to support the Red Cross mission.  We will be working with Rebecca in the future to see how ARCRA can help communicate more specifics on Planned Giving options.
    In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about planned gifts with the Red Cross, go to https://www.redcrosslegacy.org/.
    Some of the easiest planned gifts include:
    • Bequest in a will:  Additionally, the Red Cross has partnered with www.freewill.com/redcross.  The site will take you through the steps to make a will.  In some states like California, the system will recommend you get an attorney.  But for many states it will help you create a simple will.
    • Beneficiary designation:  Designating a charity for a percentage of an estate or simply a single investment is one of the easiest ways to do a planned gift.  There is no cost and it’s fairly easy to do. 

  • 03/31/2020 5:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hi Everyone,

    I know that this is a stressful time for everybody, and I’m so grateful for the way our Red Cross family has demonstrated dedication, professionalism, and compassion. During times of crisis, our country turns to the American Red Cross, and I’m so proud that we are continuing to fulfill our mission every day. Please know that I am profoundly thankful for your lifesaving work.

    We also need to ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of our employees and volunteers. The leadership team and I have been working hard to help keep you safe and ease the spread and impact of the coronavirus on your lives.

    As I mentioned in my message to you last week, we have been revising our policies regarding attendance and leave. You may have heard that Congress is working on a bill to help small business employees, but unfortunately that doesn’t apply to nonprofits,  Therefore, we are taking extraordinary measures to help our employees manage through these challenging times. We recently notified our national union Coalition partners of our desire as well, and we are working very collaboratively with them.

    Our plans include special provisions for people who either are diagnosed with COVID-19, have been quarantined or are caring for family members, are at high risk, or are caring for a child due to school or childcare closures.

    Employees Diagnosed with COVID-19
    Employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will be paid for two weeks’ leave.

    Asymptomatic Employees Quarantined for 14 Days Due to Travel or Close Contact Exposure to Someone Diagnosed with COVID-19 including Caring for a Family Member Who Has Been Diagnosed with COVID-19
    Employees with jobs where they can normally work from home should do so and they will receive their regular pay. Employees who cannot do their regular job from home will be given the option to do other work from their home. Employees who opt into this provision will be given work and we will pay these employees for two weeks, regardless of the actual hours worked.

    High Risk Status Employees Working in Yellow, Orange or Red Communities
    Employees who work in communities identified by the local public health officials as yellow, orange, or red communities, who meet the Red Cross definition of high risk, and who have been advised not to go to work due to the coronavirus outbreak will be eligible for this program. The Red Cross defines high risk (based on CDC guidance) as being 65 years old or older; having a serious health condition; or being pregnant.

    High risk employees will have the same options available to them as those who are asymptomatic and quarantined or caring for a family member (see above).

    Caring for a Child Due to School Closure or Childcare Closure
    For employees who have childcare issues due to school or childcare closures related to COVID-19 and are unable to do their regular job from home, they will be given up to one week of pay at two-thirds their straight time hourly rate of pay.

    There are also issues that are unique to our workforce who are well and able to work, but who cannot do their jobs because blood drives have been cancelled in the communities where they work. We understand the detrimental impact this loss of work has on our staff. For those employees, we will make every effort to reassign them to other drives or to other work, like we do in normal business circumstances. We are carefully monitoring the volume of drives that are being cancelled, and we will look for ways to mitigate the impact on our staff.

    Nothing is more important to me than our people. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this coronavirus and I encourage you to take appropriate precautions. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

      Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

      Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

      Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

      Stay home when you are sick.

      Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

      Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

    I know that there is a great deal of uncertainty right now – in our country and around the world. We have a beautiful and important mission at the American Red Cross, to alleviate suffering in the face of emergencies. We know and understand how to deal with crises. In fact, we excel at it. This crisis will test us, and I am confident that we will all do our best to fulfill our mission and at the same take care of one another by being especially kind to our fellow Red Crossers.

    I’m proud of you!

    With an abundance of gratitude,

  • 03/26/2020 4:54 PM | Anonymous

    The new deadline for REAL ID will be Oct. 1, 2021, a year from the current deadline.

    Without the change, many would not be allowed to board flights in the U.S. without one of the REAL ID cards starting Oct. 1, 2020, or other Real ID-compliant forms of identification.  Other REAL ID compliant forms include a passport,  a passport card, or  Global Entry cards for U.S. travelers returning from overseas.

    "The federal, state and local response to the spread of the coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security said. "Extending the deadline will also allow the Department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the current health crisis concludes."

    Read more here.

  • 03/20/2020 11:35 AM | Anonymous

    Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Now more than ever healthy Red Cross retirees, their family and friends are needed to roll up a sleeve and give to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Finding a nearby blood drive or donation center simply requires submitting your zip code here.

    Growing Pandemic Results in Fewer Blood Donations

    As the coronavirus pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have increased at an alarming rate. To date, nearly, 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses and schools. These cancellations have resulted in some 86,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80% of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at these locations.

    The Red Cross expects the number of cancellations to continue to rise, which is causing heightened concern for blood collection organizations and hospitals across the country. This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer.

    Safety Measures for Blood Donors and Staff

    While we know that coronavirus has caused concerns about whether it’s safe to go to blood drives and donation centers, the Red Cross has implemented thorough safety protocols to make the blood donation process even safer.

    The Red Cross has implemented new measures to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for our donors and staff, including:

    • Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy.
    • Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process.
    • Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.
    • Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

    At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection, including:

    • Wearing and changing gloves with each donor
    • Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas
    • Using sterile collection sets for every donation
    • Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub

    There is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide

    Submit your zip code here,   to find a nearby blood drive or donation center near you.  And bring a friend.

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