This week the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs awarded additional money to the Prior Service Trust Fund Administration to enact and fully fund an increased cost of living adjustment for all existing PSTF beneficiaries. This is in addition to the annual funds received from OIA earlier this year to maintain existing payments to PSTF beneficiaries for the immediate future as well. With the additional funds provided this week, PSTF can immediately raise the minimum benefit payment to $50, retroactively award a 20 percent COLA to those above the new minimum, and provide a 3 percent annual COLA moving forward.
Jerry Facey, an advisor to PSTF, has been leading an annual delegation visit to Washington, D.C. to address this very issue. Upon receiving the announcement from OIA, Facey shared, “This is the most significant Prior Service achievement in many years and will impact the lives of close to 1,000 Micronesian families. While I regret that we were not able to accomplish this long overdue adjustment years ago, I find great joy in knowing we finally succeeded in a reasonable COLA.”
Facey was also very grateful to OIA Assistant Secretary Esther P. Kia’aina for her understanding and granting of this COLA request.
Brendan McCann, who recently joined the D.C. visit effort said, “We are very grateful and appreciative that OIA has recognized and funded the previous mishap of not providing enough funding that more appropriately reflected the needs of the beneficiaries. With these additional funds the COLA issue has been rectified. This is a major win for a very much deserving group.”
PSTF recognizes the service of Micronesians who worked as Marine Scouts, Department of the Navy workers, or official Trust Territory employees from 1944-1968. These former U.S. employees worked at low wages, often less than $1/hour, without retirement, survivorship, or disability benefits. Beneficiaries have not received an increased COLA since 1995, while Social Security rose over 40 percent in this time period.
Beneficiaries of PSTF total about one thousand and live in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.