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Friday, January 19, 2007

Soul Suckers

I've been hearing from a lot of people who've been invoiced by PERS for alleged overpayments resulting from the 1999 earnings recrediting. A number of readers have shared their invoices with me and it is fairly clear to me that PERS has to do a better job of explaining how they arrived at the numbers. If it is bewildering to me from their explanation, I can't imagine how challenging these invoices must be for people who aren't numerically inclined. Some invoices have been fairly straightforward, but for people who had a complex scenario that involved a portion of the account in variable, who left money with PERS to withdraw a lump sum settlement on the installment plan, had account balances tied up with divorce decrees, the documentation PERS provides just suck the soul out of you. To even replicate the calculations requires that you dig back through a lot of paperwork, which you hope you've saved. Then you have to tediously re-enter data into a spreadsheet and perform some magical transformations and incantations in the hopes you come up with a matching amount to PERS' calculations. These are some seriously complicated calculations when these factors are involved. I don't envy PERS having to do them, but they are absolutely paralyzing for many receiving them. They don't have a clue what to do. My mailbox is overrun with cries for help. PERS' answers to questions about these invoices is, in many cases, less than helpful or instructive. Since PERS promised that ALL numbers needed to replicate the calculations would be provided, PERS should be held to its promise with easy to follow flowcharts that take the individual through EVERY step of the calculation, filling in all the intermediate amounts along the way. Failing that, PERS should hold weekly meetings around the state where people can go and get specific questions answered about their circumstances in real time. If this is going to suck the soul out of unwitting recipients, the least it can do is suck some life out of the people who brought this disaster to you. Perhaps we can ask a few legislators, the Governor, and some attorneys to join in these Saturday sessions. Maybe then would they understand why so many people are complaining that whatever "soul" PERS once had, it left the building about 2003 and it ain't coming back.

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