Jack Cohen

Yorktown Heights, NY

The choice was there:  Do I take Company A that’s going to provide me with a living wage, but no benefits?  Or do I take Company B that might not really match company A’s living wage, but I am going to have benefits. 

So then you reach the age where you’re getting closer to retirement, and you’re approached with another choice:  How about early retirement?  Early retirement.  Yeah, but what about my health benefits?  “Oh you’re going to have your health benefits.”  You’re being told this continuously from the time you came into a company until you’re ready for an early retirement.  “But I’m not yet ready for Medicare.”  But then:  “What are you worried about?  You’re going to get your pension, you’re going to get your health benefits.  Go ahead and retire.  What are you worried about?”

So you do retire.  You depend on what you have been told.  There’s nothing in writing that you sign, okay?  But throughout your career – whether it’s 20 years, 30 years, 40 years -- you’re being told that this is going to be with you pretty much until you die, all right?  So you depend on that, and you retire, okay?  And it’s early retirement – you’re not ready for Medicare yet – and then, after you retire, some things start happening, all right?  You start losing that health benefit.  Again, you made a choice at retirement.  You made a choice saying that “I’m going to retire, because I’m going to have this package that I’m going to have forever.”  Now, if you were told at time of retirement, “Well, we’re not sure you’re going to have it forever.  You may have it now, but you may lose it.”  Then you have to go back to the drawing board and figure other things out -- the plusses and minuses to see whether you can retire with the thing in doubt about your health benefits. 

That’s a choice you make, but you didn’t have to make that choice, because you were told, when you retired -- early though it may be – “You are going to have it.  What are you worried about?  You’re going to have it.”  And then you retire, and the roof starts caving in, and you have politician talking about things like “legacy costs” and “entitlements.”  These are not entitlements.  I earned that health benefit from the time I came into the company, because I made the choice of taking less money, all right, for that benefit.  I could have gone somewhere else, but I didn’t.  I was assured that I would have it, so I took less money. 

It’s not unreasonable to ask people or companies to live up to the commitments they make.  I know this provision in [H.R.] 1322, which is a hardship on the point of the company, they can have outlets for that.  But at the same time, a company may claim hardships and then give golden parachutes to chief executives.  You know, that just doesn’t seem right.