Feds as preppers

Thursday - 6/7/2012, 2:00am EDT

Preppers are individuals or families who are stockpiling beans, bullets, seeds , kerosene and trade goods — from gold bars to silver quarters and half-pints of whiskey — to see them through a possible coming disaster: War, anarchy, economic collapse, an asteroid strike or the election of Mitt Romney or the reelection of President Obama. Choose one.

Preppers even have their own TV show.

Some people think the preppers are very smart. People who think outside the box and aren't afraid to be different. Others consider them whack jobs. Whatever.

But for federal and postal workers who plan — someday — to retire, being a prepper isn't an option. You need to have a cash reserve, and to get with the program. Or else.

Because...

When people retire — whether from government or the private sector — they often have many different goals or plans. They range from high-minded goals, maybe saving wildlife in Borneo or cleaning up the Potomac or, the more personal: Sleeping late and avoiding rush hour traffic. But nearly all share a couple of things in common.

Like eating.

Every day. Preferably several times.

Then repeat as necessary.

Which is why some feds, who are planning to pull the plug this year, are nervous because they read and hear about the backlog in processing retirement claims. When they retire from government, most workers get interim payments (anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of their estimated actual annuity) for awhile. Depending on lots of things that process can take awhile. It can be anywhere from four months to more than a year before an individual gets his or her first full annuity check.

The Office of Personnel Management has long had a problem in getting retirement claims processed. Despite the computer age, much of the process (if done correctly) is paperwork which must be read, verified and compared with other paperwork. It takes time, skill and experience to do it right. OPM has made speeding up the process a top priority, and it seems to be working. That said, there are still people who say they've been waiting a year or more for their first full check. We hear from them all the time. On yesterday's Your Turn radio show, NARFE president Joseph A. Beaudoin talked about the problem.

Here's an email we got on Monday:

I retired on July 2 last year with 37 years of service. Like many others, I am still in a temporary pay status.

I've become a bit concerned of late because of what might appear to be a bit of inconsistency. I have a full detailed timeline, but the below exec summary timeline (all calendar year 2012) captures my concern:

    4/16 - Ms. X calls me; says she has my case; asks me to fax QDRO papers

    4/17 - Faxed all related paperwork

    5/08 - Called Ms. X to check status; she says my case is in Court Ordered branch; gives me their number

    5/08 - Called Court ordered branch; no answer; left voicemail

    5/14 - Still not heard from C.O. branch; called them again: We don't have your case, Ms. X does

    5/14 - Emailed Ms. X; asked if she had all necessary paperwork; and status

    5/14 - Ms. X emailed me saying: Your case was assigned to me today

    5/23 - Emailed & called/left voicemail for Ms. X; trying to check status

    6/04 - Still nothing heard; called Ms. X, no answer, did not leave voicemail

    So, my logical concern is that on two separate dates, nearly a month apart, the OPM rep handling my annuity paperwork/determination is saying she just received my case." Rick In Waiting.

David Snell, of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, said, " Rick's experience is not unlike many other retirees who, due to a divorce, must wait an additional amount of time for OPM to complete his case. Court-ordered retirement benefits awarded to a former spouse are time consuming for OPM to process. In these situations OPM is not just dealing with one individual, the retiree, but also with the former spouse and in many instances the attorneys for both. In direct answer to Mr. Long's question, no, it would not be counter-productive to contact any Retirement Services official at OPM. Everyone at OPM is aware of the priority being placed by Director John Berry on completing retirement claims. The question then is would contact at these levels be productive."