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WHAT IS A CERTIFIED RETIREE?

The Pension and Health Plans were designed with the unfortunate truth in mind that as a writer ages it often becomes more difficult to obtain work. The five years preceding Medicare eligibility (age 65) are often particularly difficult in the life of a writer and COBRA or ACA health coverage is growing ever more costly.

If you are sixty years old (or older) and you have 68 qualified quarters as a Participant in the Health Plan, you may want to consider opting for Certified Retiree Status.

As a Certified Retiree, in addition to a pension payment, a Writer can receive health insurance – the same plan they have always had – at no charge (other than for dependent premiums).

HOW DOES A WRITER ACCRUE QUALIFIED QUARTERS?

If a writer earns the equivalent of the price of a one-hour primetime story & teleplay ($39,072 as of May 2, 2018) during any consecutive four-quarter period, they qualify for a full year of health coverage and each quarter of health coverage counts toward the 68- quarter Certified Retiree threshold.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?

There is a downside: if you elect to retire at 60, you will receive less money than if you had waited until the full retirement threshold of 63. For each year you retire early (prorated monthly) there is a 4% reduction of benefits, but given the cost of health coverage in the open marketplace, opting to take retirement as Certified Retiree may make sense for you and your family.

It is also worth noting that if a Writer elects to take a pension as a Certified Retiree, any monies they earn working for a signatory employer after they elect retirement will count toward a second pension. A writer can take a second pension at 65 if they have retired early and continued to work. Also, every time a Writer works for a signatory employer – even after 65 – raises the amount of pension paid to the Writer (subject to pension plan maximums).

MORE DETAILS ABOUT CERTIFIED RETIREE STATUS

A Certified Retiree is a writer who is at least 60 years of age and has at least 68 qualified Health Fund Quarters. After January 1, 1987, the quarters need not be consecutive, and there is no penalty should the writer’s work history include periods of unemployment. There are a couple of caveats depending on what years a writer’s career spans.

If you retire on or after January 1, 1997, the following rules apply in determining whether you can be considered a Certified Retiree of the Writers’ Guild-Industry Health Fund (the “Fund”):

If you retired on or after January 1, 1997, you’re considered a Certified Retiree if you:

  • Are at least 60 years old;

  • Retired under the Producer-Writers Guild of America Pension Plan;

  • Accumulated at least 68 quarters of earned eligibility before your retirement, calculated as follows:

    • A Qualified Year under the Producer-Writers Guild of America Pension Plan for each year before 1988 equals four quarters of eligibility for each year before 1988, provided, however, that you shall not be entitled to earned eligibility quarters for any Qualified Year you earned prior to 1988 based on employment with an employer who did not make contributions on your behalf to the Writers’ Guild-Industry Health Fund and who appears on the following list of employers: American Broadcasting Corporation News, CBS TV Network News NY (Daily Temps), Metromedia Inc., RKO General Inc., United Stations Radio Network, WABC-AM Radio, Inc., WNYW-5 Fox TV, W.O.R. A.M. Radio, WWOR-TV Inc.; and

    • Each year of eligibility earned under the Writers’ Guild-Industry Health Fund during 1988 and every year thereafter equals four quarters of eligibility.

Please Note: Participation in the Fund’s Extended Coverage Program, the COBRA Continuation Coverage Program, or any period of extended coverage resulting from enrollment in the Industry Advantage/California Care HMO Plan is not considered “earned eligibility” for purposes of satisfying this requirement.

Certified Retiree health coverage will generally begin on the date of your retirement unless you are younger than age 60 when you retire. If you are younger than age 60 when you retire, the coverage will begin on the first day of the month after you turn 60. If you are still eligible for benefits as an “active” Participant when you retire, the Certified Retiree coverage will not begin until the employer paid eligibility has ended.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you are considering retiring as a Certified Retiree the best thing you can do is contact the PWGA Pension Department, set up an appointment, and we will sit down with you and help you examine your options, so you can make the best decision for you and your family.

The Pension Department can be reached at:

(818) 846-1015 / (800) 227-7863
(Press 1, then press 4)

Email: PensionBenefits@wgaplans.org

If you’re not certain how many qualified quarters you have, you can check on the PWGA
website: https://wgaplans.org/eligibility/

You can also contact the Eligibility Department at:
(818) 846-1015 / (800) 227-7863
(Press 1, then press 2)

Email: Eligibility@wgaplans.org