Shrinking Supplemental Annuity Payments: Response from OPM

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By on February 13, 2018 in Q&A, Retirement with 0 Comments

Drawing of a question mark on a chalkboard

On February 11, 2018, FedSmith published an article entitled A Shrinking Annuity Payment for Some Former Feds. A few readers asked questions about the current OPM policy and how they would be impacted.

Questions from Readers

FedSmith asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) several questions to clarify the OPM policy regarding allocating supplemental annuity payments to a former spouse for retired federal law enforcement officers (LEOs). OPM responded quickly but did not provide much additional information.

Here are the questions that we asked OPM:

Could you provide us with the following information so that we reliably inform our readers on the OPM position regarding the issues raised in the recent OIG report on Retroactively Re-Apportioning Annuity Supplements?

  • With regard to federal law enforcement officers (LEOs), has OPM rescinded its policy with regard to treating supplemental annuity payments the same as basic annuity payments when computing an annuity payment for a retired and divorced federal employee?
  • Was (or is) the OPM policy with regard to splitting supplemental annuity payments between a retired federal employee and a former spouse limited to LEO’s or did it cover other positions in addition to LEO’s (such as Air Traffic Controllers or Firefighters)?
  • Has OPM advised the MSPB that the issue is now moot as OPM has rescinded its policy regarding the retroactive re-apportioning of annuity supplements?
  • Will OPM be issuing policy guidance on how supplemental annuity payments will be handled in the future and clarifying the confusion that now exists on this issue?

These questions were primarily based on questions from readers.

Response from Office of Personnel Management

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide a definitive answer to most of these questions.

An OPM spokesman provided the following information:

Because litigation before the MSPB on this issue is on-going, it is inappropriate for OPM to comment at this time.  However, as you are aware, the OIG issued a Final Management Alert that includes at Attachment A, OPM’s management response as of March 28, 2017.

The management response that is referenced in the OPM note is included in the Management Advisory from the Office of Inspector General as an appendix beginning on page 18 of the original OIG report. The response is from OPM’s Associate Director of Retirement Services, Kenneth J. Zawodny, Jr. and Acting General Counsel Kathie Whipple. The OIG report also contains a response to OPM’s comments on the recommendations.

We do know from the OPM response that there are still cases before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on this issue. We do not know if OPM has rescinded its policy. In the OIG report, the OIG commented:

In any event, we are advised that the previously pending MSPB appeals have been dismissed as a result of OPM’s issuing of a “rescindment” of OPM’s decisions on reconsideration.

Perhaps they have rescinded their decisions on reconsideration and are just not providing additional information as more cases are still before the MSPB.

In any event, for federal employees are are recently retired or about to retire and are receiving a supplemental annuity, we are not sure of the following:

  • Whether the policy on apportioning the supplemental annuity to former spouses of retired LEO’s is still is effect
  • Whether the OPM policy with regard to splitting supplemental annuity payments between a retired federal employee and a former spouse is limited to LEO’s or whether it will (or did) cover other positions in addition to LEO’s (such as Air Traffic Controllers or Firefighters).
  • Whether OPM has advised the MSPB that the issue is now moot as OPM has rescinded its policy regarding the retroactive re-apportioning of annuity supplements.
  • Whether or when OPM will be issuing policy guidance on how supplemental annuity payments will be handled in the future and clarifying the confusion that now exists on this issue.

Readers have advised us that they have had their supplemental annuity apportioned to a former spouse and that the money is still being withheld from their annuity checks. One reader indicated the money has been withheld for more than a year. He was advised by OPM months ago that they would not be withholding the money any longer but, as of his last check, the money was still being withheld.

Some readers have indicated they were told by OPM they would be receiving more information but that has not been received. One reader indicated that until he read the FedSmith article, he did not know what was going on with his annuity payment despite the large reduction.

When any more information becomes available, we will pass it along to readers in a published article.

© 2018 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47

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