Lingering complaints include everything from problems commencing simple withdrawals to never receiving funds months after accounts are debited.

Lingering complaints include everything from problems commencing simple withdrawals to never receiving funds months after accounts are debited. Esra Sen Kula/Getty Images

TSP website problems drag and Defense firefighters raise lag

Pay and benefits updates you may have missed.

Updated at 12:48 p.m. ET on July 19

Problems with various basic user functions on the federal Thrift Savings Plan website continue to vex some users, as evidenced by online comments and reports filed to attorneys in a class-action suit launched last month over the glitches. 

“On a daily basis, we continue to be contacted by TSP participants who have problems accessing their funds,” Joseph Sauder, of plaintiffs’ law firm of Sauder Schelkopf, told GovExec this week. 

The firm—one of four leads in the case—characterized the client class in a Government Executive story last month as all “current or former military members or federal employees,” who have been hit with “significant hardship” in the wake of a rocky rollout of the revamped website and its backend components a year ago. 

The slew of complaints—which include everything from problems commencing simple withdrawals to never receiving funds months after accounts are debited—began with a multi-billion dollar, highly anticipated relaunch, managed by contractors Accenture and Alight. They continue to mar the once-sterling reputation of the approximately $750 billion 401(k)-style fund for federal retirees. 

“I am extremely frustrated with the new web site, and the [TSP’s] failure to respond or find solutions to their ongoing issues,” one plan participant wrote GovExec in an email. “My entire life’s savings are in the fund and I have received absolutely no help in accessing my accounts. They should be ashamed of the situation they put their investors in.”

Management behind the federal Thrift Savings Plan, meanwhile, in official reports filed by its current recordkeeper—the private-sector contractors that took on the task from the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board in June 2022—paints a sunnier picture, identifying some improvements. 

“Over the past year, we have managed record-breaking volumes, as participants continue to take advantage of new TSP features,” states the most recent recordkeeper report, filed June 27. The report further states that participant satisfaction stands at 89%—"up from 82% in February.” 

Complaints, presumably from the less satisfied clients, continue to come in. TSP’s spokeswoman, Kim Weaver—who declined our request for comment when the suit was filed, citing agency policy against speaking on pending litigation—did the same with regard to this update.  

Union: Give DOD firefighters and law enforcement their promised raise

The Defense Department, in defiance of standing White House orders and policy, so far has failed to implement promised improvements in pay and benefits to the department’s far-flung structural firefighters and law enforcement personnel, according to the union that represents them. 

“DOD has been dragging its feet for too long on a number of changes meant to improve working conditions for law enforcement officers and other first responders on military bases across the country,” Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said on July 18. “These reforms already have been passed by Congress or ordered by the White House. It’s long past time for DOD to put these changes into effect.”  

One major sore spot is long-legislated permission for DOD firefighters to finally trade shifts—something the union states is clearly codified in Sec. 1110 of the National Defense Authorization Act passed in December 2021, and since spelled out in an OPM memo, yet not available on the ground. 

“With the situation as it is, we cannot effectively recruit new firefighters,” Brandon Hartzog, the vice chair of the AFGE Defense Conference’s Navy Caucus with 15 years of federal service with DOD, told GovExec. “Not only are these improvements not implemented, but we start with other disadvantages—like having to work with literally a 72-hour workweek while other firefighting jobs—municipal fire departments—generally require 60 hours.” 

“And our pay remains much less than other firefighters—not just other non-federal firefighters, but less than the wildland firefighters, who got the promised increase—to make sure everyone is getting at least $15 per hour,” he said. “We—and our law enforcement people—were supposed to get that, too. That’s what we have to push for, and make clear.” 

“Our starting firefighters still can come in at $12.30 per hour,” he added. “It’s nowhere near enough.”

Former fed sentenced for benefits scam

A former employee of the Social Security Administration was sentenced last week for scamming his employer for hundreds of thousands of dollars in ill-gotten benefits.

The erstwhile employee, SSA Claims Specialist Justin Skiff of Castle Pines, Colo., invented 10 totally fictitious children by name and age, as purported survivors of a real deceased individual. Skiff took the government for $324,201.44—using SSA benefit debit cards mailed to a P.O. Box—before getting caught in September 2021 and having his grift shut down.

Skiff took the sentence as part of a plea agreement in the case, where he faced charges of wire fraud, social security fraud, and money laundering.

“We take every violation of the public trust very seriously, and we will continue to work with SSA to identify and root out suspected employee fraud,” said Christian Assad, Special Agent in Charge, Denver Field Division of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the person quoted at the law firm of Sauder Schelkopf.