OPM Asked to Roll Back the 2016 Annuity Changes by Federal Officers Association

A federal law enforcement group of professionals wrote to the Office of Personnel management asking the Director to roll back on Obama’s administration policy which adversely affects the divorced retirees’ payment distribution and annuity supplements. This policy changes the way the funds are distributed to them and their former spouses. This group, which is represented by over 27,000 professionals across 65 agencies, blew up a decision by OPM to give a marital share of the Federal Employees Retirement System Retiree Annuity Supplement to the retired federal employee’s former spouse if s/he goes through a divorce decree.

Before that decision, the agency only granted the shares subject to the basic annuity. What is retiree annuity supplement you ask? This is the funds paid to retirees that are not eligible for Social Security. One qualifies for Social Security at the age of 62. Most law enforcement positions require officers to retire at 57 years. The supplement was not included in the marital share for decades as it was only considered as a Social Security-type benefit and therefore it was not part of the divorce agreement.

Nathan Catura, the association National President wrote that the changes in policy entailed an unwanted alteration on a 30-year old policy of the FERS statue. What’s more? It also led to financial harm to federal law enforcement and retirees for over two years.

Moreover, the association added that OPM applied the policy retrospectively which increased the number of officers owing money to the government to send to their former spouses. OPM applied reinterpretation of this policy retroactively and did not put to consideration the financial harm it would cause to the retiree. The decision led to the creation of retirees’ debts to the federal government of $28,389.96.

The idea of including marital share to the annuity supplement was disliked by both the agency representatives and the Congress. Sen. James Lankford, R- Okla stated that the changes in policy were a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The OPM Inspector questioned the way the system was changed outside the rule-making process.

According to IG, OPM did not offer any public notice regarding the allocation of annuity supplement, and consequently, OPM will be applying the state-ordered marital allocate to the annuity supplement even when the court order terms it as the basic annuity only. The new policy has led to financial disruption, and it has been improperly altering the previous final state orders without notifying the annuitants.

Unfortunately, OPM did not respond to the requests, and it disregarded the claims made by IG report suggesting that the claims could endanger the pending cases before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

A few months ago, the MSPB had disregarded a decision by OPM where it wanted to collect $24,000 from a retired air traffic controller as per the policy changes.

Both the MSPB and OIG came into conclusion that the policy changes were made in a secretive fashion without considering the court-order and the previous terms and conditions of divorce settlements, which profoundly affected the retirees adversely.  Catura wrote that it was unfortunate that the retirees and their ex-spouses only uncovered OPM’s action after realizing changes on their annuity payments, where to some, the changes came years after their divorce and after the court has already given orders on the marital share.