Military Service Members Overlooking Key Step While Enrolling In Blended Retirement System

It appears that more military service members are choosing the blended retirement system but overlooking an important step. That’s the word coming from the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.

According to the Director of the FRTIB’s Participant’s Services Tee Ramos, approximately, 20,000 people have chosen the blended retirement system (BRS) the TSP offers, and they’ll get an automatic one percent contribution from their branch of service. However, the step they’re overlooking is how much of their pay they will contribute to the plan.

BRS participant contributions are not automatic unless designated by service members to be that way.

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So, when uniformed service members don’t indicate how much contribution they’ll make each pay period, they are missing out on the full potential the TSP has to offer. With the blended retirement, members automatically get one percent from their armed service, but when they decide how much of their own money to put forth toward their paychecks, they can receive up to five percent.

The TSP is turning to social media – Facebook and Twitter – posting multiple reminders regarding the opt-in process. Federal employees already in the BRS can get more information about the program in the mail.

Newly enrolled uniformed service members have been automatically enrolled in the TSP since the start of 2018 when the board officially made the BRS public. However, any service member with 12 or fewer years in the military could opt-in if they wanted to.

According to the FRTIB, it’s the 12 years or fewer service members that are not taking advantage of all the benefits the TSP has to offer. For its part, the FRTIB has created an instructional video telling them about the process to opt-in for the BRS. They have until Dec. 31, 2018, to elect which retirement option to go with – either the current retirement system or the blended retirement system.

Over 50 percent of the uniformed service members are enrolled in the TSP in some form or fashion, with 162,000 service members in the BRS.

FRTIB Customer Service Sees Some Improvement

It appears that customer service is finally improving at TSP contact centers. In times’ past, there were very long wait times. In the first week of April, Thriftline customer service representations took about 14 seconds to answer phone calls. In mid-February, that number was 761 seconds with only 5.6 percent of calls being answered within 20 seconds.

Today, the agency’s goal is 20 seconds for all calls, and 87 percent of the calls are being answered in that timeframe.

While the agency still has some work to do, it is doing everything it can do to finalize the details and ensure they are back on the right path.

In January, more than 120,000 callers were on the phone waiting on a Thriftline representative for over five minutes. The TSP’s own customer service goal is to answer 90 percent of people’s calls inside of 20 seconds.

In mid-February, the agency saw hang-ups hovering around 35 percent; in April, the percentage dropped to just one percent.

More staff members were added to the roles, and a new training pilot was launched to help the new employees. TSP contact centers are not getting as many phone calls as they did in January, February, and March, as that’s the peak season for the TSP.

The FRTIB is also creating new queue messages that it will use when customers are facing long wait times. The message will talks about the wait times, information about the TSP website and information about frequently asked questions regarding various topics such as withdrawals requests and loans.

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