OPM Faces Increased Backlash Against FERS Annuity Supplement Changes

Last week, the Office of Inspector General at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a report confirming assertions made by an organization representing law enforcement – the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association – that OPM had surreptitiously modified the 30-year-old rule governing retired federal law enforcement officers’ Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) Annuity Supplements, had done so without appropriate notice, had, according to the IG report, caused “significant and immediate financial hardship” to the retired federal law enforcement officers impacted by the ill-advised policy change, as well as having disturbed “previously litigated state court orders that effected a division of marital property.”

Following the IG investigation, OPM requested the report not be made public. The Inspector General responded that it “declines to accept OPM’s request that the OIG forego publication,” noting that OPM’s decision “is a highly significant change” to “a program that has particular significance for thousands of Federal law enforcement personnel.”

Nathan R. Catura, National President of FLEOA, was responsible for the letter prompting the investigation. He said the IG report “confirms that the Office of Personnel Management has, in effect, quietly inserted itself into federal retirees’ private divorce proceedings” and that “OPM has decided, as if by fiat, and without any judicial or Congressional input, that divorced federal retirees must part with a larger portion of their hard-earned retirement funds.”

As reported by the Washington Post, the change has had a dramatic impact on some retired federal employees, quoting Eric Simon, a former postmaster from Ohio, as saying, “Because of this, I have returned to work as a security guard earning $10 per hour working three days a week,” which once again allows him “to live day to day” after his retirement in 2012 and the subsequent OPM annuity change.

Particularly damaging appears to have been OPM’s decision to make the change retroactive, creating an immediate debt due on the part of some retirees. The IG’s report notes another employee who was forced to repay $28,389.96 to his former spouse as a result of the change.

OPM has maintained that the change is consistent with the law’s “express and unambiguous language,” rejecting each of the recommendations made by the IG report. In a follow-up letter sent yesterday to Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan, FLEOA notes that the acting director has refused a meeting with the organization to discuss the matter and asks that the agency “take immediate and public steps to implement the OIG’s recommendations.”

 

 

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