SRS retirees fear medical benefits overhaul; meeting scheduled

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, April 5, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Years ago, Andy Cwalina worked on Savannah River Site in the reactor areas, along with thousands of others.

"They were, in fact, warriors. They did, in fact, contribute to winning the Cold War. Without these people, we might still be in a situation with the Soviet Union," said Cwalina.

These days, Cwalina, the Vice Chair of the SRS Retiree Association, works to maintain pensions and benefits for SRS retirees. They're two things former workers like these were promised.

"But it appears to me that that promise -- that implied promise -- is now being forgotten by the Department of Energy," he told News 12.

The DOE has proposed some extensive healthcare changes for retirees. For those 65 or older, Cwalina says they'll be dropped from the site healthcare plan. Then they'll be provided a stipend to purchase commercial healthcare.

"The big question is, will that stipend be enough to provide the same healthcare," he said.

He also wants to know if the stipends will be the same amount for retirees of all ages.

Also, for retirees under 65, he says they'll be moved in a separate group from active employees.

"We anticipate their premiums skyrocketing as a result of this change. Probably at least doubling, if not higher," he said. "There's a big issue now whether retirees are going to have to make a decision between their next meal or their next prescription."

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions sent this letter out last year with the proposed changes. They say they proposed the change because the benefit plan at SRS was too generous under DOE guidelines. Cwalina says that's totally false, and the study they determined that from was flawed.

The changes are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013.

We'll have much more on the debate next week.

Next week, the SRS Retiree Association will also be hosting an annual meeting where the changes will be a major topic. That meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 10th at 1:30 PM. Doors will open at noon. It will be held at St. Angela's Hall of St. Mary's Church at 118 York St. in downtown Aiken.


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