2nd Quarter 2016 Benefits Corner


By Al Horan

Al Horan Captioned Q2 2015In this article, I would like to update you on my activities during the first quarter. I would also like to make available tips and helpful information that you may find useful.

First Quarter Activities

During this quarter, I attended the Mid-Year Meeting and The Plains Area Meeting, I was also the guest speaker at the Unocal Gulf Coast Alumni Club Meeting, and I met with Chevron. At the Mid-Year Meeting I reviewed the activities of the Benefits Committee, provided an update on the various Chevron and CRA Benefits Plans and Programs, and I shared with the attendees the future activities that will be undertaken for the benefit of CRA Members. The main activities that are pursued by the Committee are to keep Members informed about benefits and related topics, assist Members with problems or questions, oversee the CRA sponsored Programs, and to interact with Chevron on benefits related matters. In carrying out these responsibilities we aim to complement Chevron and we also strive to be “honest brokers.” Next, I provided updates on the following aspects of the Chevron and CRA Benefits Plans and Programs: participation levels; an overview of their benefits and costs; and any issues faced by Members, Chevron or CRA regarding their administration. I also offered the attendees insight into communications pieces that are being worked on by the Committee, i.e. Benefits Committee Booklet and an Estate Planning Guide. Following the Annual Meeting I hope to share with you specific data regarding the Plans and Programs.

At The Plains Area Meeting I was able to learn about the membership and other issues that are faced by the Chapters in this Area. I also learned about the activities that the Chapters offer to their Members. Finally, I shared with the Chapter Presidents some of the information that I presented at the Mid-Year Meeting. At the Unocal Gulf Coast Alumni Club Meeting I got to meet a great group of retirees. In addition to sharing our work experiences I was also fortunate to have a very tasty lunch. During my presentation I concentrated on the Benefits Committee activities and how we are there to help them. I also reviewed the Chevron and CRA Benefits Plans and Programs. Where possible, I tried to give them insight into how the Plans and Programs work and how to handle claims and administrative issues.

My meeting with Chevron was excellent. I got to meet the great people that work behind the scenes for the retirees in making available the world class Chevron Benefits Plans that are offered to eligible retirees and their families. It was also a good opportunity to discuss various issues that are important to many retirees. Here are some of the issues that were discussed/concluded: (1) ways of reducing retiree contributions for non-Medicare Medical Coverage (The average increase was approximately 20% per year over the past nine years.); (2) if discounted health club memberships can be made available through United Healthcare (Chevron is looking into this for us.); (3) some dentists are withdrawing from United Concordia’s Provider Network because they feel that the reimbursement allowances are out of date (Chevron will be looking at the dental plans.); (4) the income tax withholding requirement on lump sum death benefits payable from the Pension Plan to beneficiaries of Unocal retirees (Chevron is not in a position to make any change at this time. Note, this is most likely a timing issue for survivors since at least a portion of the tax will probably be refunded when the income tax return is filed.); (5) Chevron has received the feedback that retirees would like to send documents to the Chevron Human Resources Service Center via email (Because of HIPPAA requirements, Chevron is looking at ways to upload documents through the Benefits Connection website.); (6) Chevron concluded that self-directed Savings Plan withdrawals or transfers are not feasible (By “self-directed”, I’m referring to the ability to withdraw or transfer money from a specific investment/fund. Any retiree who still has their Savings Plan balance with Chevron and who is looking for the flexibility of self-directed withdrawals/transfers may wish to consider rolling over their account balance to an IRA.); and (7) Chevron will take under advisement our desire for Getty annuities to be included in the consideration of any potential pension supplementation. However, given the current operating environment of the oil industry, I would not hold out hope for any increase in the near future. I will try to keep you updated on these and any other issues that may arise. However, in the interim please remember to take the survey offered by the service providers for the Chevron Benefits Program. This allows Chevron to gauge how their agents are servicing the retirees.

Tips and Helpful Information

I would like to share with you the following tips and information.

Have You Filed Your Income Tax Return?

For anyone who has not filed their income tax return for 2015, Steve Vizner from the Texaco Retirees Club of Connecticut reminds us that it is possible to download medical expenses for 2015 from the United Healthcare website – www.myuhc.com. Once you are signed into the website just click on “Claims & Accounts” and then click on “Claims Summary”. Likewise, it is also possible to obtain prescription drug costs for 2015 from Express Scripts website – www.express-scripts.com. Just go to “Manage Prescriptions/View Rx History & Balances”. Since most taxpayers are on a cash basis of reporting income and expenses it may be necessary to adjust the aforementioned expenses to a cash basis.

When preparing your income tax return don’t forget to include your Medicare premiums and your Chevron Medical Coverage contributions. Also, don’t forget that you should be able to deduct your mileage costs that were incurred to obtain medical care. IRS limits the mileage allowance to 14 cents per mile for 2015. In addition, you may be able to deduct the premiums you paid for Long Term Care Insurance. Be sure to review IRS Publication 502 since the deduction is limited.

Finally, if you are looking for a reliable computer program to help prepare your tax return, you may wish to consider using Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax is available on line and through various stores, including some large discount retailers like Sam’s Club. The cost of the program starts at approximately $40. The price varies based on the edition, i.e. Deluxe, Premier or Business.

Are You Looking for a Health Club?

If so, you may wish to consider the following points which have been prepared by Mark Engelbrecht (Member of the Benefits Committee). Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising!

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) points out that the number of health club members age 55 and older is the fastest growing segment of the health club population. The growth in memberships is a reflection, at least in part, of the emphasis that is being placed on preventive health care. Health club operators are realizing that seniors are a market that deserves attention.

Since health clubs vary in price and services, it’s important to consider what services you are looking for and how much you have to spend. The goal should be to have an effective, satisfying, safe, and cost-effective experience that will facilitate having a long-term and consistent fitness regimen that fits your lifestyle. So, it pays to do your homework. And, of course, be sure to have your doctor approve your health club activities. 

Here are some points to consider in assessing health clubs. You will need to decide what is important to you.

Health & Safety Related: Does the club have/offer: (1) exercise programs tailored to individual needs; (2) procedures to deal with medical emergencies, including certified administrators for CPR and AED; (3) cushioned floors to reduce shock or injury; (4) a clean, safe and well-lighted and maintained facility; (5) clean, safe and well maintained exercise equipment; and (5) special programs for people with arthritis, heart problems, etc.?

Quality Related: Does the club have/offer: (1) qualified staff who are certified instructors and who can answer questions; (2) membership in a professional association such as IHRSA – requires standards of conduct and management; (3) properly cooled/heated facility; (4) a congenial atmosphere where members are treated as individuals; (5) a membership group that welcomes seniors; (6) programs and classes that are geared to seniors; and (7) personal trainers?

Finance Related: Determine/ask for: (1) if the club offers discounts to seniors; (2) initiation fee and periodic fees; (3) if the fees are guaranteed and if so for how long; (4) the cancellation policy; (5) copy of any contract; (6) if a guest pass is available (allows you to check out the facility) or a tour of the facility; (7) the cost of personal trainers and classes; (8) if discounts are offered for family members; (9) if automatic payment of the periodic fee is possible; and (10) if the club carries liability insurance. 

Equipment Related: Does the club have/offer: (1) quality, quantity and a variety of equipment (weight machines, free weights, treadmills, cycles, etc.); (2) the types of equipment you prefer; (3) information readily available on how to properly use the equipment; and (4) a pool (some doctors will recommend swimming or water aerobics for seniors)?

Club Characteristics: Is/Does the club (1) close to home or work; (2) have convenient parking; (3) provide towels, lockers, change rooms, steam room/sauna, massage therapy, etc.; (4) congested, i.e. waiting for machines, finding a parking space, etc.; and (5) provide music/television (can be useful while using treadmill, cycle, etc.)? 

Finally, don’t forget to try to speak to existing members to learn about their experiences with the club.

Are You Having Trouble Losing Weight? Are You Having Trouble Losing Weight? If you find that you are eating correctly and you are exercising but you are not losing weight, the problem may be sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain. Sleep is the only time the body recovers and rebuilds.

Sleep consists of four stages: Stage 1 – near-awake, Stage 2 – onset of sleep, Stage 3 – deep and restorative sleep, and Stage 4 – deep REM or dream state. It’s during deep sleep that the body repairs itself. Accordingly, sleep needs to be made a priority.

How much sleep is necessary? The recommended minimum is 6 hours per night. But 6 hours would be equivalent to a D on a report card. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that about one-third of Americans get less than 7 hours sleep. To boost the D to an A it would be necessary to: work in a bright environment during the day; spend at least one hour outside each day; try to create stress free evenings; make your bedroom dark and cool; keep a pen and paper by your bedside to jot down important to-do’s; and don’t keep your phone by your bedside.
(Source: “Snooze Your Way to Weight Loss”, Healthy Living, Dallas Morning News, March 6, 2016)

If you have questions, my contact information can be found below.


Al Horan, Benefits Chair:
Phone: 972-964-1787
Email: awhoran@verizon.net