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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Waking Up

Every morning exploring USA Today for the big story I was interviewed for (yeah, I know about that dangling preposition). Still can't find it. Some editor must be sitting on it, waiting for a large enough space in which to fit it and all the great pictures. I'll keep looking and when (if?) I find it, I'll be happy to post a link.

In the meantime, another PERS-related case is scheduled for its first hearing in the Marion County Circuit Court. This is the case captioned "Kay Bell" in the Hartman archives. This lawsuit tests the proposition that PERS should be held accountable for its information as employees relied on PERS' representations to make retirement decisions. The case is scheduled for July 15th. While it would be nice to get a definitive ruling on this, it seems to me that both the Strunk hearings and the Arken hearings touched on this issue. Each time it gets brought up, some judge or Justices swat it down. I'd like to think that Kay Bell will get a fairer view, but I'm not encouraged by the previous rulings. What those rulings say to me is that if you depend on PERS, you do so at your own peril. PERS can lie to you either explicitly (Notice of Entitlement) or implicitly (by failing to tell you some crucial piece of information, such as that the earnings for one critical year in your retirement account may not be the same as what you've been led to believe). This has always seemed to me to be the Achilles heel of the PERS system, and the courts haven't been very sympathetic to retirees on this one. We exchange our jobs for a promised retirement benefit. Our jobs are filled and no longer available even if we wanted them back. Then PERS gets to turn around and say, "whoopsie. We boo booed and you get to suffer the consequences." This has never struck me as fair. The analogy is always drawn to a bank error, but the difference to me is that banks don't wait four or five years or more to tell you and then go to great lengths to recover the money. There, at least, ought to be some statute of limitations at play here. Six years is way too long in a retirement setting. The banks usually find the error in a matter of days, if not weeks. I know of no example where a bank has come back on an error years after it occurs.

What do you think about this? Fair or unfair?


gary said...

The same thing as a bank error-hmm? Let me see-I've had bank errors where they erroneously credited me maybe $50 and then corrected their error the same day or the next at the latest. I guess that's roughly the same thing as giving up your job after doing months of planning and budgeting to make sure you could live on PERS, and then finding out you're not going to have the planned amount of income to live on the rest of your life. Or so say the judges? The law is truly a thing of wonderment to me.

akubra91 said...

Sure it is unfair. I don't remember seeing anything on my Notice of Entitlement warning me that my benefit could change because of pending litigation, or for any other reason. The NOE isn't worth the paper on which it is written if PERS can go back 5 or 6 years later and change it. Is PERS going to let us "unretire" and return to are old jobs?

MollyNCharlie said...

I've *never* had a bank error that cost me over $1000 per month for life -- which apparently was the size of the PERS 'error' in the Kay Bell case! If this is the legal logic for why PERS does not get held responsible for their misinformation, bad advice and lies, I'm more upset than ever.

I am planning to attend the hearing/trial for Kay Bell. I've come to appreciate the entertainment value of listening to the fancy PERS Lawyers. I have also come to appreciate the education value of attending these trials and hearings; the point being don't ever trust what they tell you (ouch!).