Roanoke Fire Fighters Association President Rodney Jordan brought up an interesting issue today in the Captains meeting. Apparently there is some discrepancy of who is and who is not included in the recent ICMA match suspension.

Roanoke City Council voted to suspend the ICMA match for employees to cope with the current fiscal year budget shortfalls. Yesterday, Cheif Hoback advised the A-Shift Captains that the ICMA would not be reinstated for the FY 2009-2010 year either. Roanoke City employees have had the benefit of receiving a City paid maximum $25 match in their 457k funds. This match has been in place for over a decade. The match went from $15 to $25 in 1999-2000.

The benefit is clearly defined in a .pdf found on the Roanoke City website detailing the benefits, work schedule, and career opportunities for firefighters. (roanokefireemsbenefits)

This benefit was one that firefighters and other City employees feel is part of their salary.

However, Roanoke City Council voted to suspend the match. Not everyone will see that match disappear though. Apparently,

Council appointed individuals, where as part of their respective base compensation package receive ICMA funding will not be affected.

That is what was stated in an email received by the Captains who attended today’s B-Shift meeting. The email was sent out to answer questions raised by Jordan.

Now, some firefighters feel as though this is reminiscent of the AIG scandal following the recent stimulus funds they received from the federal government.

There is speculation that one or more Council appointed members receives in excess of $13,000 in ICMA that is City paid, although that has not been confirmed.

Roanoke City has approximately 1200 employees. If all of the employees take advantage of the match it costs the City approximately $780,000 each year. Roanoke City has 26 pay periods, equating to $650 each year per person maximum.

We have not yet clarified who will still be getting the match once the suspension sets in on April 1st.

The Budget is on the forefront of news this week. City Council is trying to hone in on what will be the cuts for the future year. I am sure many of you remember we lost 6 or 9 positions last year (still unclear on the number). This year we already stand to lose 6 according to the Roanoke Times. Those 6 were once told they were going to take from Clearbrook and move to Station 8 to put Medic 8 in service. It will be interesting to see what happens. You can read the Roanoke Times article here.

Nine firefighters will retire this year from the Roanoke Fire EMS Department. The retirements stem from an incentive to leave before December 1st after giving notice by March 16th. The incentive comes just in time to beat the increase in health care next year which ranges from $100 to $200 per month depending on the health care plan. Forty-Six Roanoke City employees took advantage of the retirement incentive. Read more abou the retirements here. Congratulations to those who will be retiring. Estimates are that the guys leaving have around 230-250 years of service. I look forward to attending some of the retirement parties!

The City Council voted to suspend the 457 contribution paid by the City effective April 1st. The contribution was a match up to $25 per paycheck. I am not sure how many employees Roanoke City has, but based on 1200 if everyone took advantage of the match, Roanoke City will save 780k each year or 30k per period the match is suspended. The suspension was put in place to help Roanoke City cover a budget deficit this fiscal year. Hopefully, they will add it into the budget for next year. The news of the suspension was emailed out via City email.

The new Gold’s Gym at Crossroads (old New Fitness building) has partnered with the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department to offer 12 open memberships in exchange for CPR classes taught by our members. What does this mean for you? Well it means that at any given time, 12 of our members may be working out at Gold’s Gym for free, all you have to do is show your City ID. In exchange, our CPR instructors will teach the employees of Gold’s. The memberships are not valid at the South Gold’s Gym.

This is a pretty good deal set up by the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. I know that David Bocock had a lot to do with this. Thank him when you get a chance.

Here is the link to the new Gold’s Gym

Here is some info about the Gold’s Gym:

The Crossroads Gold’s will be one-third larger at 45,000 square feet, compared with the 31,000 square feet of Roanoke County’s.

Tripp Martin, who lives in Blacksburg, is the primary owner and operator of the new Gold’s. And he’s planning to open a Blacksburg Gold’s next year.

At Crossroads, the former New Fitness space is being doubled and renovated to accommodate the new business.

This new space also will house two pools, one for adults and one for children. And it will have a cardio theater, which shows PG-13 movies continuously on a 20-inch screen while people exercise on bikes and other cardiovascular equipment set up in front of it.

Some traditional features include four rooms for group exercise classes, a women’s area with cardio and weight equipment, and a children’s playroom.

The existing Gold’s does not have a pool or a cardio theater.

Next Union Meeting is Wednesday April 23rd at 7pm. The Budget Proposal Memo is online at (click here)

Update: There will be a story on WSLS Channel 10 at 5, 5:30, or 6pm tonight April 23rd. There will also be a story on Channel 7 at the same time.

The meeting on May 1st will be at 7pm in Council Chambers. The meeting is a public hearing on the budget.

Well, the news is out. Chief Hoback has been given the ultimatum to make budget cuts within the Fire Department. The plan he has proposed to Roanoke City Council is the following from what I understand (although I may have misunderstood some of it):

  1. Engine 13 will be taken out of service. -6 FF’s, 3 1st Lt.’s, 3 Lt.’s.
  2. Ladder 7 will lose the 4th firefighter minimum and be reduced to three. -3 firefighters
  3. The power medic truck will go to the Northside (most likely 13 or 14). 0 change
  4. A medic truck will be placed into service at Station 8. +6 firefighters
  5. Mary Thompson’s position will be terminated. (I believe she will still have job somewhere else in the City). -1 civilian position
  6. We will get a 2% raise in July and possibly another 2% in January.
With this proposal, we will lose 3 1st Lt.’s, 3 Lt.’s, 3 Firefighters and 1 civilian position. However, it was my understanding that we would only lose 7 positions. All I can imagine is that they are only counting losing 9 positions on Engine 13 (minimum staffing) even though we have 12 positions on the apparatus.

This proposal is similar to several years ago when they tried to remove positions on Ladder 1. Much like that time, our response needs to be the same. We need to fill the Council Forum on the budget which will be on May 1st at 7pm.

Another firefighter mentioned the fact that when we merged the Fire Department with the EMS Department in 1995, the departments were 272 and 40 members strong respectively. Now we are down to less than 272 members.

It amazes me to sit here and witness more potential cuts to an already skeleton crew. What amazes me is that the 6 positions we have given the County weren’t the first to go, or the new position down in Administration (nothing personal against BC Dave Bishop). If you look at it close, Administration is adding personnel and Operations is losing personnel. That recommendation is only if we really had to cut personnel. Why don’t we start with the frivolous spending by Roanoke City Council for starters. Maybe if we hadn’t have given away $888,000.00 to millionaires we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

To say that the firefighters in Roanoke City are outraged would be an understatement. I have had more than one rookie ask me if they could lose their job. The answer is no.

It is almost like Roanoke is reinventing the wheel. We are using a little bit of the Quint concept and now we are creating the ambulance concept where everything is ambulances.

The sad truth is that someone will pay for all of these cuts we have seen in the past and will see in the future. That someone will more than likely not be a member of Council or a Department head, that person will be a civilian and/or a firefighter trying to save that civilian because we didn’t have enough people on scene quick enough to make an effective rescue.

This information and more can be found here on the IAFF website

Each year, more than 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty, and additional tens of thousands are injured. While it will never be possible to eliminate every death, many could be avoided if industry consensus standards for safe fire fighting were followed consistently.

Developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other standards-making bodies, industry consensus standards address a wide range of issues, including requirements for protective equipment, safe staffing and fireground operations, training, fitness and incident command. Developed by all facets of the fire service, government agencies and interested private sector parties, these standards are widely respected as the gold standard for safe fire fighting practices and fire department operations.

To better promote compliance with such standards among local fire departments, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have introduced legislation to study the current extent of such compliance and establish a task force to make recommendations to ensure their broad adoption. The Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act, H.R. 5686 in the House and S. 2887 in the Senate, are currently pending consideration by the Congress.

Fire Fighter Safety Standards

• The failure to follow industry consensus standards puts both the public and fire fighters at risk. An independent analysis conducted by the Boston Globe found that response time to emergencies in fire departments throughout the nation rose significantly over the past two decades due to a failure to abide by industry consensus standards.

• Fire fighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health often cite the failure to follow specific consensus standards as contributing factors to a fire fighter’s death. Providing adequate training and proper equipment, establishing safe staffing levels, following safe operating procedures and ensuring the physical and mental health of fire fighters can help reduce fire fighter fatalities.

• Using an open, consensus-based development process, standards-making bodies such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develop fire fighter safety standards in concert with members of the fire service as well as industry and government agencies. As a result, fire fighter safety standards are widely respected throughout the fire service, government and private sector.

• The federal government already places minimum requirements on fire departments through NIMS, OSHA and the EPA, but many of these requirements are outdated and are not fully consistent with modern fire fighting practices, placing fire fighters and the public at risk.

• The federal government relies on local fire departments to properly implement the National Response Framework in response to any large-scale disaster. Fire departments and fire fighters must possess certain minimum capabilities to ensure an efficient and effective response.

• Insurance companies use standards compliance data to price homeowner and commercial property insurance. Widespread standards compliance would result in significantly lower insurance costs for both consumers and businesses.

• Recent surveys by the U.S. Fire Administration have found that a significant percentage of fire departments were unable to effectively respond to many common emergency situations. A more thorough analysis on the status of compliance with consensus standards would assist policy makers in seeking to address these threats to public safety.

• The bill does not require municipalities, fire departments or fire fighters to comply with consensus standards, and would place no cost requirement upon such entities. The bill simply tasks the federal government with collecting data on standards compliance among local fire departments and studying ways to increase such compliance.

For more information go to the Local 1132 website. Link here.

It is time for evaluations once again. I am already hearing the rumblings of how one Captain does things and how another does something totally different. That is expected due to how subjective the criteria are for each area of the evaluation are. For those of you who don’t know, if you get above a 91 then you get an extra percentage raise for the year.

The biggest problem with the evaluations is that it is perfectly acceptable for a Captain to grade an employee between the ranges of 80-90.99 (forgive me if my figures are a little off), but if it is lower or higher then the BC on up have to sign off on it. That is where it starts getting weird.

Let us just say that Firefighter A gets an 85 and Firefighter B gets a 92 from the same Captain. The Captain has Firefighter A sign off on the evaluation and sends it to the BC. However, Firefighter B’s evaluation has to be sent up the flagpole for approval before the firefighter ever sees it.

The Captain has to prove that the firefighter deserves the high score. Even after careful and detailed justification for the high marks a firefighter receives, the Captain might still have to plead the case for the favorable evaluation several times. Some Captains are able to stand their ground, yet others cave in under the pressure stripping the firefighter of the extra raise. I am not making this stuff up.

This is what I think. I think that it is a bunch of b#$&!hit. I think that firefighters (and others like Cops and Teachers) should get the extra amount of raise just for what we do. After all, the stations are clean, the public is happy, and we are always one of the most favored departments by the citizens. Plus there aren’t any fires still burning, people still trapped in cars, or 911 calls unanswered. For as much as we give to our City, to our customers (citizens and visitors), and that we are willing to risk our lives for them, this extra percentage (or sometimes fraction of a percentage) should not be so hard to obtain.

This is yet another morale suppressing agent that breeds mediocrity. Once word gets out of who got what on the evaluation, some will realize that working a little extra harder might not be worth it.

For instance: Firefighter A and Firefighter B might be the exact same types of personnel in that any Captain would grade them the same. They both are hard working individuals and do extra work that isn’t required of them. However, if they have different Captains who grade them differently and Firefighter A gets the extra raise while Firefighter B doesn’t this might make Firefighter B realize that his extra work is not worth it.

I say “might” because most of us are not driven by the potential of a .5% extra raise. Although that .5% should not be shrugged of as not a big deal. The Chart below shows how .5% more can make a huge difference after 25 years. The column on the left shows a 2.5% increase compounded each year for 25 years, and the right hand column shows a 3% increase compounded each year.


$ 30,000.00


$ 30,900.00


$ 31,827.00


$ 32,781.81


$ 33,765.26


$ 34,778.22


$ 35,821.57


$ 36,896.22


$ 38,003.10


$ 39,143.20


$ 40,317.49


$ 41,527.02


$ 42,772.83


$ 44,056.01


$ 45,377.69


$ 46,739.02


$ 48,141.19


$ 49,585.43


$ 51,072.99


$ 52,605.18


$ 54,183.34


$ 55,808.84


$ 57,483.10


$ 59,207.60


$ 60,983.82

That is a significant difference. Therefore, the .5% or whatever the additional percentage raise offered for higher marks on your evaluation is well worth some extra effort. Just the same it is worth the credo to stand up for your evaluation should it be rejected by Administration.

The other unfortunate casualty in this whole process is the loss of power by Company Officers. They are the only ones who could possibly give a proper evaluation of their employees.

Amendment of the contract between the Sheriff and the City of Roanoke to permit her employees a paid holiday on the day of their birthday for fiscal year 2006-07, retroactive to July 1,2006. (Read More)

In light of the Roanoke City Police Department protesting their Pay and Benefits, the City Council will make a ruling on an Amendment to the contract with Sheriff Octavia Johnson to give her Sheriff Deputies their Birthday off. Actually, the Amendment gives 59 remaining Deputies their Birthday off and makes the previous 200, give or take a few, legitimate.

So, if it goes through, I will imagine we will see our memo come out next week telling us we get our Birthday off.

Note: We aren’t talking about paid leave, or holiday time, or sick leave. We are talking about getting your Birthday off with pay at no cost to yourself.

Let me be the first to say that I really appreciate the extra free day off to all those involved. I mean you don’t like the Sheriff’s Deputies more than Roanoke’s Finest or Roanoke’s Bravest or the rest of the City of Roanoke’s workforce do you?

Sign me up!!!

This is an important article for you all to read about pay and benefits in another department in Virginia. Manassas Park is a city with a population around 12000. The Manassas Park Fire Department has one station, two engines, two ambulances, and one quint.

Manassas Park senior firefighter Roland Hackney likes his job, in part, because it reminds him of the camaraderie he felt while playing football for Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria in the 1980s.
“It’s like your second family,” said Hackney, an 18-year veteran of the Manassas Park Fire Department.
That second family has had its share of divorces lately, though, as the department has lost nine shift firefighters and EMS technicians in the last nine months, including four in the last three months. While all have left on amicable terms, said fire chief John O’Neal, it’s a problem that needs fixing as soon as possible.

Read the whole article, see what the Manassas Park Fire Chief is doing about their turnover rate.
Bear with me here. I need to weight in on some recent news.

Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham has acknowledged that compensation for city employees lags behind comparable cities in Virginia. But she has cited lower costs of living in the Roanoke region and previous efforts to recruit and retain police officers as factors influencing the pay and benefits offered by the city to law enforcement officers.

Taken from 404 Not Found Blog on The Roanoke Times website (includes a video).

I see one major problem with the statement mentioned in the above blog by the City Manager. “compensation for city employees lags behind comparable cities in Virginia. But she has cited lower costs of living” I thought that the cost of living index was used to compare cities. Therefore if the compensation lags comparable cities in Virginia, the lower costs of living would have already been factored in. We still lag behind.

Now on to the issue of Pay Parity among Roanoke’s Public Safety

“The starting salary for a city police officer is $31,213, which is less than that of some smaller departments in the area, such as the Roanoke County Police Department, where officers start at $31,825. But ever since December 2004, city officers have been getting bumped up to $34,802 after their first 18 months.”

Taken from Police stage protest over pay on the Roanoke Times.

The Police Department is already above the Fire Department. Our Firefighters don’t get that bump in pay grade after the 18 months. On top of that, the Officers receive the coveted career enhancement pay that the Firefighters have sought for many years. This means that Officers who are FTO’s, K-9, Tactical Team Members, College Graduates, etc. receive an extra percentage on top of their base pay, compounded during raises.

We have guys hired by the Fire Department made to be EMT’s over 15 years ago and they only get $100 a month, not compounded, not factored on any raise, never been reassessed in 15+ years.

Is there pay parity? There has certainly been give and take as far as various public safety departments receiving raises and other departments piggy backing on each other. This process has worked out pretty good in the past considering the pay and benefit obstacles we face in Roanoke.

I have no issue with the Roanoke Police staging a “protest” to wake the city up to the issues facing their department. I think that they got the attention they were looking for.

However, I am not so sure I would have jumped so quick to picket as they did, which has only occurred a handful of times in the last 50 years between the Police and Fire Departments. Actually, I would have gone straight to City Council to sell my ideals and have them force the City Managers hand to prioritize. I like using the analogy of the trash cans downtown. Have you ever looked at those things, man they are nice. I bet the City spent a small fortune on them, only to come back and install custom cut logos on them made only by “Twists and Turns”, not the cheapest place in town. Prioritize I tell you. You could have stuck a $2 sticker on those damn things, they weren’t going anywhere.

I have the utmost respect for Police Officers as I do for all of Public Safety, especially Roanoke’s Finest and Bravest. I have no doubt that the Police Officers deserve the same 9% the entire City is behind in pay including more, as do we.

Danville just had an independent study completed and found out that their employees were 8% behind. So their “Elected Council” decided to give them 4% for the next two years. Hell that equals 8% right. Wrong. When you are 8% behind, you have to give them the 8% and whatever the increase is for that year just to catch up. Every year you neglect proper pay, the farther the employees fall into the abyss.

What happens then? Employees leave for better pay, better benefits, different jobs to be treated properly, morale tanks, people begin to not care as much, etc.

I have news for you, these things are happening. Ever since I have been here in Roanoke I have witnessed an ever tightening collar put on the Firefighters. A once well oiled machine has become a feeding frenzy with an “every man for himself” mentality. The Good Ole’ Boy network of long ago has reemerged with a dangerous cut throat attitude which is a product of needless micro management. Those who refuse to get wrapped up in this tornado are the ones who will walk away with their dignity.

Most of us have stuck with it, some have jumped ship giving up the job they love for ethical reasons, others have left to take the free fire/EMS education to other departments to make more money, and yet there are many Firefighters hoping that they will not lose their jobs due to loosely written policies backing an agenda which was written on a restaurant napkin and put into place for lack of care for a real solution to problems most departments have long put behind them.

Why do you think every ten or so years we get a big raise. Because we aren’t getting the raises we deserve annually during those 10 years. Think about the money that the City saves doing business like that. Now think about how that effects retirees each year the City holds off correcting the pay issues. That could mean the difference in $100′s of dollars a month, which means a lot to a retiring Firefighter who walks with 50% of the average of the last 3 years only after 25 years and reaching the rule of 70 (age + years of service = 70).

OK, enough about that. Now onto another topic today. Sheriff Johnson has been giving her Deputies their birthday off for the past 9 months for free, at no expense to the Deputy. Today she asked permission to do it. In my department, for those of us on the new pay plan there are two types of time off (uninjured); Paid Leave and Holiday, everything else is Absent WithOut Pay (AWOP).


I was sitting there watching the City Council meeting waiting for the magic question “Why are you bringing this up now?” which Councilwoman Mason finally asked. Johnson’s answer was something about how Human Resources had called her about it asking questions.

I have witnessed a lot of issues which I felt that the City was taking liberties interpreting the laws, policies, and regulations on the Local, State, and Federal stage. It seems as though you have to dig deep in your pockets just to call them on the issues and get a straight forward answer from the Courts to rectify the situation. Yet we have an Elected Official handing out free days off.

The City Lawyer stated that the Deputies already get more Holidays than most City workers because they get the State Holidays which the City doesn’t recognize. When asked what the days off cost, Johnson didn’t have an answer. However, she did state that the estimated cost of the remaining 59 Deputies to receive the free day off at $10,000. Therefore, using Fleitz math and the fact that there are around 240 deputies I believe, the total cost is around $40,000. Take it out of her check, you would if it were me.

When asked, the City Manager stated that if they get it everyone will want it. CORRECT. Sign me up. Who the hell wouldn’t want it.

Now for the other side of the coin.

The reason why Sheriff Johnson sited for giving the birthday off was for the low morale in the department. Kudos to Sheriff Johnson for trying to make a difference.

Not that our Chief hasn’t tried get us some extra benefits we deserve to increase morale. Remember the Career Enhancement pay I was talking about earlier. Our Chief has put in for it for several years, only to see it removed from the budget each year. The cost estimated at a mere $128,000. I think nearly a third of that was without permission over at the Sheriff’s Department. Again, the Police Officers get it.

Maybe we should start asking for forgiveness as well, it seems to be easier than asking for permission.

Why is it that the Firefighters, Police Officers, and Teachers have to stand up nearly each year and fight for fair pay? I cannot speak on behalf of the PD or Teachers on the specifics, however I know that it seems all to often that we are fighting for proper pay, pay grades, benefits, and treatment.

The way it used to be…Back in the day, Roanoke City offered a cost of living raise as well as a merit raise. This has been replaced by one annual raise supplemented by a “merit raise” which is not easy to achieve for most of us, and too easy for others. This supplemental raise might reach 1% beyond the annual raise which is announced by the City Manager. This year it is rumored that we will receive 5%.

5% is a decent raise, I am grateful for it, and I am sure the rest of my coworkers are as well.

However, due to the fact that the 5% is added to the base pay, we do not move very far from the entry level, or base of our grade level. The top end of the grade point continues to move further and further away.

Now let us talk about the cost of living. I have brought this up in the past. It seems as though we are always compared to areas in NOVA which most people believe have higher cost of living. We are told “How can you possibly expect to make all that money, it is sooooo much more expensive to live up there.” Well I have news for you, Roanoke isn’t the cheapest.

Let me throw some numbers out for you. Don’t quote me on them, but I believe these to be fairly accurate:

Starting pay for a Firefighter/EMT

Fairfax County – 46k
Fairfax City – 44k
Loudoun County – 38k
Prince William – 39k
Virginia Beach – 38k after recruit school
Henrico County – 37k
Richmond – 36.5k
Norfolk – 33k
Roanoke City – 31k
Lynchburg – 31k
Roanoke County – 30k
Danville – 30k

If you use this little tool online, you will see that Richmond, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Norfolk (including Virginia Beach and Newport), and Danville are all cheaper places to buy a house. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t list the Northern Virginia areas. But I think it is safe to say that those areas, at least some of them, might be higher.

So there we are on the bottom of the totum pole. It is no wonder that up to 3 more firefighters are rumored to be leaving the department shortly. I don’t mean retiring, I mean going to other departments. I have heard that one is going to the Atlanta area, another to Albemarle, and I have not heard a place for the third.

It is pretty bad when we have some seasoned officers who could go to other departments and get a raise.

This is just a taste of the issue with firefighters pay compared to other areas of the Commonwealth. We have a bigger problem with pay compression among the ranks. From Firefighter to Battalion Chief we have overlapping pay, some Firefighter Medics making more than their Captains. This is a real problem. I understand that the City is looking into the Battalion Chiefs pay, which will spread things out a little bit.

How many more will leave. 15k a pop out of recruit school, we are only getting a couple of years use out of many of them anymore. My recruit school from 1999 only has about half that have stood the test of time. I guess I either didn’t care enough to leave, or care too much and am still trying to fight for what we deserve.

A couple of announcements:

Firefighter of the Year award and Company Award Nominations are due by January 1st. Currently there have only been 3 nominations. The Company Awards are similar in nature to the Firefighter of the Year awards, however these are reserved for incidents and events where you cannot narrow the nomination to one or two firefighters. If you have any questions about the Firefighter of the Year award, and to submit a nomination, contact Tim Parry. If you have questions or would like to submit a nomination for a Company Award contact Teddy Adkins. Please submit a description of what the incident/event was and why you feel the firefighter(s) deserve the award. These are due by January 1st.

If you have not sent in your RSVP for the Banquet, the price goes up after tomorrow. Please be sure that we know you are planning on going. We need to have these numbers in order to get the best possible pricing at the Hotel. Rooms are available and we have blocked off 40 rooms, contact the Holiday Inn (formerly the Clarion) to reserve your room.

The “Firefighting in Roanoke” books have been selling great. We have about 100 of the 400 left on hand, contact me if you need to get one. Barnes and Noble has sold out, and is ordering more which should be in at the end of this week. If you would like a signed copy and are unable to catch up to me, there are signed copies at the Roanoke Antique Mall on 460 and at Rams Head Books at Towers Mall.

Now for the real issue for this post. Someone told me today that they were not going to participate in the flex spending offered by the City. For those of you who do not know, the City just revamped the flex spending accounts offered for health care and dependant care. There are a couple of perks, actually three that come to mind. The new benefits will be available through WageWorks.

  1. The money comes out of your paycheck pretax.
  2. The City matches the funds up to $130 a year for the health care account.
  3. This City match is in effect a $130 a year raise.

That is the way I see it. I know that I will spend $260 this year on co-pays, prescriptions, and over-the-counter drugs. The program also covers glasses, contacts, and Lasik surgery among others. View the complete list here. You can use this account on yourself, your spouse, and your children whether or not they are on your insurance. I think you would have to be crazy not to enroll in this benefit. The only downside to the program is that you have to make sure you spend every penny before the year is up.