PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Shock, anger and dismay describe the feelings of Singing River Health System retirees.
Four days ago, their pension benefits were cut by 25% by a special chancery court judge. In his ruling, Judge James Bell said the reduction was needed to save the pension system from going bankrupt.
The retirees packed the Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting room. Some were simply fed up with the situation, including Wanda Street. "I'm moving. I'm just one person, but I'm getting out of this town," she declared.
Before any cuts happened, there was supposed to be a 60 day notice under a court settlement. When that didn't happen, anger reached a boiling point.
Irby Tillman is a retiree. "They cheated us out of our money and now they are going to cheat us out of our right to have 60 days to get out house in order, so I'm kind of disturbed by it. What's right is right," Tillman said.
Some retirees, like Homa Moradmand, were emotional. She stated, "I've been crying for the last few days, since I heard this. I live by my myself. You think our social security is going to pay our expenses?"
Others still point fingers of blame for allowing a pension system to financially collapse almost four years ago. That's the opinion of retiree Kitty Aguilar. "Somebody did something wrong, and nobody is paying for that. At the end of the day, it's the retirees that are going to pay back our own losses," she noted.
Members of the Board of Supervisors say they simply cannot control what happens in a judge's courtroom, but they also add they hope this 25% immediate reduction might not be permanent.
That's what supervisor Troy Ross wants to see. "I don't believe that just because they reduced it now that it doesn't mean it doesn't have the potential of going back up at some point. My hope is that after a year or so or some time, they will realize that they cut it too much and they'll add some more back to it," Ross said.
The retirees can only hope that will happen. As Ann Brumfield laid out, "I need my money. I worked for Singing River for 31 years, and I deserve every penny that I get. It's not right whey they did. It's wrong."
Meanwhile, the appeal of the pension settlement is still before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. No word tonight on when a ruling might be handed down.