The Office of Personnel Management issued interim rules Monday that will benefit federal employees who were victims of retirement coverage mistakes. Most employees and retirees affected by a retirement foul-up that has its roots in the mid-1980s can choose to switch into the retirement plan they should have been in, or they can stay in the plan their agencies erroneously put them in, under legislation
signed into law last fall. The rules apply to employees affected by a retirement coverage mistake that lasted for at least three years of federal service after Dec. 31, 1986. The error occurred during the transition from the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Confused agencies placed some employees in CSRS when they should have been in FERS, while some employees who should have been in FERS wound up in CSRS. Up to 18,000 federal workers may have been affected. In September, President Clinton signed a bill directing OPM to help the affected employees get their retirement situations fixed. Under the 2000 Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act, individuals who have recently discovered the error are not responsible for paying any additional money to correct the mistake. OPM can also reimburse certain expenses related to retirement coverage errors. Employees who must be moved into FERS from CSRS face severely reduced retirement benefits because they did not put money into the Thrift Savings Plan throughout their federal careers. To get retirement income under FERS that is comparable to that from CSRS, employees need to save for retirement in the TSP or elsewhere. In most cases, survivors of employees and retirees affected by the retirement coverage error will also be able to decide which retirement plan best meets their needs. If you think you were placed in the wrong retirement system, go to www.opm.gov/benefits/correction
and enter your information into the Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act database. OPM will use the information to track down your personnel records and to provide you with retirement coverage options. The interim rules took effect March 19. The comment period for final rules ends April 18. Written comments should be sent to: Mary Ellen Wilson
Director, Retirement Policy Center
Office of Personnel Management
1900 E Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20415-3200