Recently, nearly 600 retired federal law enforcement officers received notification their Annuity Supplement was being reapportioned to provide a former spouse with extra income. So, why is that? Why did the Office of Personnel Management do this unexpectedly?
Let’s look and find out why.
Federal law enforcement officers have special provisions allowing them to retire earlier than other federal employees. That also allows them to receive the Annuity Supplement longer.
So, let’s say you retired as a FLEO at age 50 because you met the requirements to do so. You’ve been receiving the FERS Annuity Supplement for the last few years because you’re not eligible to receive Social Security yet.
Now, let’s say a few years before you retired, you and your spouse divorced, and you’ve been paying alimony ever since. Everything is going fine, then you receive a notification from OPM telling you they are reapportioning $10,000 from your Annuity Supplement to provide your former spouse with additional income. To make up for this, the government is reducing your monthly Annuity Supplement check by $250 for the next 40 months. This may cause you to be unable to pay bills.
This is the actual scenario for those 600 retired FLEO’s mentioned earlier. The notifications came without earning and the reductions in pay were almost immediate.
Some fought back by filing appeals with the Merit Systems Protection Board saying they didn’t think those supplements would be reapportioned to their former spouses aftertheir divorces had been finalized unless a court ordered it. After those appeals, OPM claimed they rescinded the retroactive payments, however, annuitants say their paychecks still reflect the deduction.
This highlights the importance of anyone receiving FERS benefits to speak up if you notice anything negative happening to your retirement checks. Regardless of how long you’ve been retired from federal service, you are afforded the right to appeal OPM decisions that adversely affect you and your annuity.
You should first file an appeal with OPM requesting a reconsideration of the initial decision if it states in writing there is a right to reconsideration (normally it will). Appeals to OPM for reconsideration must be made within 30 calendar days of receiving the initial decision in writing. If OPM takes up the recon, it must issue a final decision in writing to the retiree, competing claimants, and the retirees’ former agency.
In this case, OPM’s notifications were written as final decisions, meaning there no appeal right to them. When this is the case, you should appeal directly to MSPB. Appeals to MSPB are the same for retirees as active federal employees. These appeals need to be filed at the nearest regional or field MSPB office within 30 days of OPM issuing its final decision. If MSPB accepts the appeal, it will assign an administrative judge to hear the case and issue a ruling.
If either side is dissatisfied with the judge’s decision, the case can be appealed to the full MSPB Board (currently there isn’t one because of the lack of quorum) or to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Should the ruling be against you at the Full Board, you still have the option of filing an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The moral of this story is to know you have appeal rights and what they are. You don’t want to be paying into the retirement system all the years you worked just to have OPM decisions adversely affect your FERS benefits if they don’t have to.