Tips for feds to speed up retirement checks

Thursday - 10/21/2010, 7:35am EDT

OPM Director John Berry and new Associate Director Bill Zielinski

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management Wednesday announced changes to deal with a mounting backlog of retirement benefit claims from federal workers. OPM Director John Berry said the agency has created a new office just to handle those claims, and has brought on associate director Bill Zielinski to oversee the work. He's also been asked to use agile software development to find an IT system to help resolve the problem.

During a press conference at OPM headquarters, Berry and Zielinski were asked what feds who are caught in the backlog, or who are about to retire, can do to help OPM process their claims.

Berry and Zielinski offered this advice:

  • "The most important thing they can do is to begin to work with their human resources departments to build a complete personnel file," Berry said. "And, where people know they have a complicated past, with different retirement rules and benefits, for example, military service, or service in a zone of armed conflict where Congress has awarded a pay differential. For all those situations, we need to track that paper down." Berry said going to the Pentagon or other offices to collect that paper work will speed a claim.

  • Zielinski added that federal employees "documenting their service history, especially as they've been moving in and between agencies, and their special circumstances," is another way to make sure that their paperwork trail is complete for pension claim purposes.

  • Finally, Berry said sometimes, retirees look at the "gross payment, the total payment, and they forget that they have tax deductions, health insurance deductions, survivors election deductions that take that gross number down to a net," which in most cases is much smaller than the retiree expects. Berry said that OPM can work with HR managers to give employees a more realistic view of what their net income in retirement will be.

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