Legislation that would restore health care benefits to Delphi salaried and hourly retirees has been introduced in the Senate and the House, Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office said Friday, Sept. 11.

Brown’s legislation is a companion bill to one introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles. Both bills would create a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, to provide health coverage to salaried retirees and hourly retirees represented by the IUE-CWA, the United Steelworkers and other unions.

This year, Delphi ended health and life insurance coverage for salaried retirees. While hourly retirees younger than 65 have retained health coverage after recent negotiations with General Motors and Delphi, it is with higher costs. Retirees 65 and older will be forced to rely on Medicare as of Jan. 1, 2010, according to the latest agreements.

Retirees for the United Steelworkers and the IUE-CWA find themselves with identical health care options.

A VEBA is a trust fund that is meant to provide for future insurance coverage, under a union’s stewardship and usually with a company’s investment. An announcement from Brown’s office said a VEBA would “provide health benefits similar to those Delphi retirees received prior to Delphi’s bankruptcy.”

Kettering resident Tom Rose, a 63-year-old salaried Delphi retiree, said he has a “mixed reaction” to the idea of a new VEBA. Brown and Ryan’s legislation would allocate $3 billion to create the VEBA.

“It would probably help some,” Rose said. He said members of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association already have a VEBA and a health care tax credit (for retirees ages 55 to 65), which covers 80 percent of their health care premiums.

Rose said he and those in his situation are more concerned about “pension loss.”

Delphi is surrendering salaried and hourly pensions to the federally backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a move that usually results in lower pension payments once the PBGC calculates what it will pay. GM has offered to make hourly pensions whole, but salaried retirees have received no such assurance.

James Winship, president of IUE-CWA Local 755, welcomed the news. He said his local alone serves some 8,000 to 10,000 retirees.

“That would be great, really. It would be fill the hole that is left by this new deal,” Winship said of the House and Senate legislation.