Apportionment of the FERS Special Annuity Supplement

In Federal Retirement by Debbie Hatch4 Comments

 

Pinnacle Personnel Services, LLC  |  Debbie Hatch

 

 

I want to talk for a moment about divorce.  Specifically, if you’re a federal retiree.

 

 

In 2016, without any type of public notice, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) decided that a divorce decree apportioning a FERS retiree’s benefits to a former spouse should also automatically apply to the FERS Annuity Supplement (aka Special Retirement Supplement). Not only that, but they made the change retroactive which means annuitants started having larger sums of money deducted from their monthly retirement checks.

Prior to 2016, the supplement was not included unless specifically identified in the divorce decree. At that time, my business partner and I contacted OPM and asked for any written documentation of the “fact” that this was going to be the new procedure. It’s easier to tell people what the process is if you can give them something in writing. At that time, OPM could not provide anything. They said merely, “This is how it’s going to be done. It’s an internal policy.”

I’m glad the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association didn’t merely accept that answer. They complained to both the OPM Director, at the time, and the Acting Inspector General. The IG felt the complaint warranted investigation and ultimately decided, “OPM failed to meet its obligation to go through formal rule-making before carrying out the change, and OPM had no authority to apply its new policy retroactively.”

OPM management disagreed on both points; the IG in turn stuck to its position, leaving the two sides deadlocked and the revised policies still in place.

A court challenge is pending.

 

I’d love to hear about your challenges, concerns, and/or experiences with this.

Comments

  1. I’m a retired air traffic controller at Chicago center. My annuity was reduced in July 2016 by over $900 per month. I called OPM numerous times and was told the decision was a court order and my annuity was being reduced to pay back my ex-spouse for the ss supplement that hadn’t been included since I retired. They gave me no details. I just received another letter dated May 31, 2018from OPM stating I owe my ex $43,172.42! It says ex- spouse didn’t receive her portion of ss supplement and she was paying for for a survivor annuity benefit she was not eligible for because she remarried. I found this article and a few others from February. Hoping there is some legal action I can take. This has caused a financial hardship and looks like it’s getting worse! Hope to here from you. Thanks, Brett Pattermann

    1. Author

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. Yes, it’s a major issue. OPM changed the rules without telling anyone they were going to do so. Right now several employee unions and organizations have filed complaints. The OIG has even weighed in on it. The IG agrees with you and I that OPM did not have the authority to implement new rules. BUT OPM is disagreeing with them. The entire thing is a mess.

      Here’s a link to the IG’s report. https://www.opm.gov/our-inspector-general/management-advisory-reports/management-advisory-report-review-of-the-us-office-of-personnel-management%E2%80%99s-non-public-decision-to-prospectively-and-retroactively-re-apportion-annuity-supplements.pdf

      The only thing I can tell you to do is file a Congressional complaint. I’m not sure they will do anything since there is already an open case but you have to do something………

      As I hear of updates, I’ll let you know.

  2. I am also an Air Traffic Controller affected by the same OPM action. I did receive a package to contest the apportionment but I did not return it. In January 2017 OPM stopped my retroactive payments of $300 monthly for no obvious reason. They are still withholding the monthly amount on the supplement. I got a hold of someone in Legal OPM in DC and they told me I had contested the apportionment. I said no as I was holding the package in my hand. The lack of communication is mind blowing. My total retroactive amount was over $10000 and the amazing thing is that they paid my ex wife the entire amount in late 2016 as a lump sum.

    1. Author

      It’s absolutely maddening, Dana!! The original decision was issued against OPM. They filed an appeal and, to my knowledge, that’s as far as the issue has gone. I haven’t seen any more action. OPM must be held accountable! At this point, they’re reporting to Congress that annuities are being processed “on average 57 days” but I have spoken with a dozen employees who retired months ago, and who are still waiting to get full retirement payments too.

      Would filing a congressional complaint get you some answers?

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