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Friday, December 22, 2006

It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

David Crosley, PERS Director of Communications, kindly gave me permission to publish his entire email to me yesterday concerning my post of December 14 ("Money Made You Mean"). As I indicated yesterday, PERS pointed out some factual and potentially interpretive errors in my post and wanted to clarify for me. Since David's response is concise and clear, it seemed better to publish it unedited rather than try to summarize an already short email. I'll have comments on this post later (possibly today, possibly not), as we are leaving for our vacation later today, weather permitting. So for your (in)digestion, here is David's complete email:

"We want to let you know that your December 14, 2006 blog posting has inaccurate information. Benefit recipients who retired under the Full Formula method may be affected by the Strunk/Eugene recalculation and your direction to send a letter to certain PERS staff in and of itself may not preserve a member's right to appeal.

The amount of a Full Formula benefit payment may change with a change in account balance depending on whether the member chose to convert the normal Full Formula benefit (as you stated, Final Average Salary x Service Credit x Statutory Factor) to an optional form of benefit. ORS 238.300 directs that the member's retirement be comprised of an annuity funded by his/her account balance and a pension that "tops up" to the highest benefit form (Money Match, Full Formula, or Formula + Annuity, if eligible).

The normal Full Formula calculation initially yields a benefit payable on a Refund Annuity basis (the Refund Annuity Option). If the member instead elects Option 1, 2, 2A, 3, or 3A, the annuity component of the Full Formula benefit is then revised using the actuarial adjustment factors. The resulting difference from the Refund Annuity Option calculation is then applied to the member's payable benefit (higher if Option 1; lower if Options 2, 2A, 3, or 3A). So, changes in a member's account balance under the Strunk/Eugene recalculation would affect the amount of that annuity adjustment if the member had chosen to convert his/her Refund Annuity Full Formula to an optional form of benefit payment (as the majority of members do).

Also, you appear to assume that these benefit recipients can contest their benefit using the Notice of Contest procedure. In fact, depending on several factors (whether the member previously received a Notice of Entitlement, e.g.), their appeal rights may lay in a different direction. The appeal process is specified in each member's letter, particular to that member's status and issues that are subject to review. So, while the Notice of Contest may be appropriate for some members, it is not for others. Members who want to appeal their adjustment need to follow the appeal process specified in the information provided to them in their individual Strunk/Eugene recalculation letter. They can supplement that process with a letter to some or all of the people you mentioned, but those supplemental letters, in and of themselves, may not preserve their appeal rights.

Please let me know if you would like further information or clarification on these issues."

There you have it. My guess is that some Full Formula retirees "in the window" (not many actually), may see invoices they never expected to get.

P.S. I've just heard another rumor (not verified yet) that PERS is also dunning some members who retired in late 1999, BEFORE the *window* defined by the Legislature. It is unclear what statutory authority is involved here, as members who retired prior to January 1, 2000 wouldn't have been credited with 20% for 1999. One can only surmise that PERS may be taking its mandate further than that granted by the Legislature or by Judge Lipscomb in recalculating the benefit for *anyone* who was credited with more than 11.33% in 1999, regardless of when they retired. Perhaps they've decided that 11.33% is the base and retirements during 1999 must somehow be prorated to the final crediting. This would be a significant change in recent policy, as PERS has previously credited retirements during a calendar year with the greater of the 8% pro-rate or the actual earnings at the end of the month preceding the retirement month (e.g. October 31 for December 1 retirements). I understand that the ceiling is currently set at 8%, regardless of actual earnings, but it wasn't set in 1999, nor was 1999 revised to do anything other than credit 11.33% to Tier 1 regular accounts, not somehow change the way the monthly pro-rates work. So, while this is in rumor form, I regard the source as quite reliable and I will be looking into this further when I return from vacation. In the meantime, the fun never stops. Someday I hope to wake up from this nightmare and discover it was all just a bad dream. Unfortunately, sleeping is challenging these days as more of these cockroaches keep climbing out from under the rocks and interrupting sound sleep.

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