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Interagency Memorandum of Understanding: Retiree Insurance Benefits

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Class Action Against State of Michigan: Taxation of State Pensions (Okrie vs State of Michigan)

See all updates and background.

Latest Update: July 9, 2017
Four years ago, on July 9, 2013, I commenced this class-action lawsuit by filing a complaint in the Court of Claims in Ingham Circuit Court, claiming that the State of Michigan could not apply 2011 PA 38 eliminating the tax exemptions for Mr. Thomas R. Okrie and other similarly situated retired state and public school employees born after 1945 and who retired before the effective date of the Act on January 1, 2012 ("Mr. Okrie, et al.")   Despite the unprecedented removal of the Court of Claims to the Court of Appeals (which I challenged as unconstitutional under the 1963 Michigan Constitution) and other unnecessary delays, I am happy to report that this case is still alive, thanks to the valiant efforts of Mr. Okrie on behalf of everyone else who has stake in this matter.   For if it were not for Tom, this case not only would never have been started, it would have ceased to exist long ago.  Because of Tom's unflagging persistence to see this matter through to the very end, with the belief and expectation that justice be done, he again reached into his own pocket to provide the initial funding and was able to solicit more financial support to enable me, with the hope of further funding, to prepare and pay for the filing of a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2017. Quite frankly, it is people like Tom Okrie who keep what's left of our democracy alive.  But we cannot depend upon such singular individuals alone to fight for what is right and just for all of us; for we all have our part to play, especially for those whose retirement benefits have been unfairly and unlawfully taken away from them.  Thus, your contributions, however small, will make a difference and back up what Tom has done for all of you and pay me for my work.

As you may well know, filing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was hardly a certainty after the Michigan Supreme Court denied my Motion for Reconsideration on April 4, 2017 from its order denying my Application for Leave to Appeal from the Court of Appeals' opinion affirming the dismissal of the Okrie class-action lawsuit.  At that point, there was only one available option:  filing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court by July 3, 2017, seeking review by the highest court in the land or let the case come to an end. As I previously stated, "[t]his will require funding from you and anybody else that believes that a great injustice has been done in this matter.  Otherwise, the case will end here." As it turned out, Mr. Thomas R. Okrie refused to let this case die and began a fund-raising campaign seeking matching funding for his own personal contribution in order to pay me to do the work, as well as the costs of the filing (it isn't cheap going to the U.S. Supreme Court).  Given his efforts, I agreed to go forward with the work on the Petition so that it could be filed before the deadline date.  The work on the Petition was completed at the end of June and submitted to the editor, Supreme Court Press in Boston, for ediiting and publication.   On June 28, 2017, the Petition was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have posted the Petition that I submitted to the editor.  Essentially, it poses one question, with two parts: Does the application of 2011 PA 38 to Mr. Okrie, et al. violate the principles of retroactivity stated in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Landgraf v USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244 (1994) and the principles underlying the rule of law?  The question itself is quite simple.  When Mr. Okrie and other members of the class-action lawsuit made irrevocable retirement decisions and calculated their total retirement benefits, they acted on the legal basis that their pensions were exempt from state and local taxation.  That is what the statute said at the time of their retirement.  That was what the Court of Appeals held in Davis v. Dep't of Treasury, 178 Mich. App. 683 (1989) after remand from the U.S. Supreme Court in Davis v. Michigan Dep't of Treasury, 489 U.S. 803 (1989).  And that was what the Attorney General for the State of Michigan essentially confirmed in a formal opinion in 1991, binding upon the Office of Retirement Services, when asked whether the Michigan Legislature could eliminate the tax exemptions for retired state employees. This legal basis was left undisturbed for 20 years during which time Mr. Okrie and many others retired, with the full legal expectation that their vested rights to pension benefits were exempt from state and local taxation.  Well, you all found out otherwise when the Michigan Legislature enacted 2011 PA 38, signed by Governor Snyder, and started to tax your pension benefits on January 1, 2012, with the approval of the Michigan courts.  The question, however, is which law should apply?  The "old law" under which Mr. Okrie and others retired, or the "new law" that did not take effect until January 1, 2012.  For reasons that I outline in the Petition, it is clear to me that the new law cannot be applied retroactively to Mr. Okrie, et al. without offending the principles against retroactivity and the law of rule itself.

The lawsuit is now docketed with the U.S. Supreme Court as Case No. 17-34.  The Court has asked the State of Michigan for a Response by August 5, 2017.  We shall see if the State deigns to reply.  In the meantime, I shall keep up the postings about the lawsuit until the U.S. Supreme Court's decides whether to grant or deny the Petiton.  As always, I reiterate my appreciation for any monetary contributions to this cause.

Thank you.
Thomas R. Okrie


In November state retirees were mailed a Retiree Benefits Bulletin that explained the Prescription Drug Manager change for retirees enrolled in the State’s Health Plan PPO. Retirees should read that bulletin that explains the Prescription Drug Manager change.

A recent letter (dated 11/30/16) from GenerationRx has caused a lot of confusion among our Medicare retirees. The first paragraph of the letter states this letter is to confirm your disenrollment from Medicare GenerationRx effective January 1, 2017. This statement has caused a lot of confusion among retirees because they think they will no longer have prescription drug coverage after the first of the year. The confusion is further exacerbated by the rest of the letter that tells the retiree that they must enroll in another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

Medicare-eligible State Retirees are already enrolled in the OptumRx Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. The enrollment in the Optum Rx plan is automatic if the retiree was already enrolled in the State’s Health Plan PPO. The new prescription plan is effective January 1, 2017. Retirees should be receiving a welcome packet and new ID cards from OptumRx in the middle of December. If you do not receive the packet/ID cards prior to December 31, please call OptumRx at 866-635-5941 to assist you.

After talking to Lauri Schmidt (Employee Benefits Director), Michigan SERA Council Chair Bob Kopaz learned that this disenrollment letter is required by Medicare rules and is pretty confident that if Lauri had had any input into the information in the letter it would not have caused this much confusion.


SERA Plus

Hantz Financial Consultant Chris Kemp (far right) at the Coldwater/Branch County Senior Health Fair with Goldwater Chapter Board members (left to right) Jackie Russell (chapter secretary), Bing Johnson (chapter president), Patricia Cox (chapter board member), Gordon Gentry (chapter vice president) and Mary Jensen (chapter board member) board member.

SERA is committed to providing exceptional value to its members by delivering quality financial products and services to our members through our SERA Plus program. Consistent with our philosophy, we are pleased to announce that financial planning, investment, insurance (including auto, home and liability), tax planning, estate planning advice, and banking services will soon be offered exclusively through our relationship with Hantz Group, Inc., and its affiliates (together, “Hantz”), headquartered at 26200 American Drive, Southfield, Michigan 48034.

Our decision to offer financial planning, investment, insurance, tax planning, estate planning advice, and banking services through Hantz allows us to provide you with a variety of financial services under one roof. Hantz Group, along with its affiliates, Hantz Tax & Business, LLC, Hantz Agency LLC and Hantz Bank, to name a few, provides a comprehensive approach to your specific financial service and banking needs. Hantz will offer and provide its services through its 21 locations conveniently located near most of our chapters throughout Michigan.

For more information on Hantz, including locations, please visit www.hantzgroup.com or contact our SERA Plus program administrator, Cheryl Streberger at 517-515-9815, or your SERA Chapter Liason.


About Michigan SERA

SERA is an non-profit organization devoted exclusively to issues and concerns of all current and future retirees of the State of Michigan.

SERA works to:

  • keep Michigan state employee pension and insurance benefits secure.
  • assure pension and insurance benefits are improved and keep up with inflation.
  • monitor and take action on important developments affecting state pension and retiree health care benefits.
  • inform its members about proposed federal and state legislation that will affect State of Michigan retirement systems and retiree health care.
  • stay in touch with old friends and make new friends with a common background.
  • monitor the State Employees Retirement Systems Board, the Investment Advisory Committee (which makes recommendations to the State Treasurer on investments in the State Employees Retirement System pension fund), and the 401K and 457 programs provided through Voya.
  • work with the Office of Retirement Services and Civil Service Benefits Division to help retirees and near retirees with their pension and benefits issues.
  • provide SERA PLUS, great discounts and services in many areas of retirement living such as first-year free tax preparation, estate planning, tax planning, home and auto insurance, financial services, mortgage services, estate transfer strategies, final settlement planning, and much more through SERA’s association with Hantz Group, Inc..

SERA works through its members, leaders, and committees to promote the best interests of state employee retirees and future retirees. At least eight times since 1974, SERA was a moving force in pension increases or benefit improvements. In 2011, we opposed the pension tax and helped eliminate it for 70% of retirees; we opposed the remaining tax on public pensions for those born after 1945 in the Michigan Supreme Court. We opposed the recent state employee retirement system changes. That work continues.

SERA has 21 local chapters statewide that are linked through the Coordinating Council of the State Employee Retirees Associations of Michigan (the SERA Coordinating Council). SERA chapters have periodic meetings with guest speakers, opportunities for networking, newsletters, and other activities.

SERA welcomes the new ideas and energy of new members! To join, contact Cheryl Streberger at 517-515-9815 or cstreberger@yahoo.com.