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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Life Is Hard

The news just keeps coming. The latest is the story of the fellow who retired some years back as a municipal police officer. Seems he went to complain to PERS that his PERS-offered health premiums were too high and wanted to know why. PERS told him that they had gone up because they had audited his account and discovered he was receiving a RHIPA supplement that he wasn't entitled to. For those who don't know, the RHIPA supplement is an agreed-upon health care supplement supplied to retired State of Oregon workers. It isn't much, but every bit helps. In this fellow's case, not only didn't he apply for the RHIPA supplement, he knew he wasn't eligible for one. Therefore, he had no reason to believe or expect he was getting one. And you guessed the punch line in this story. The folks at PERS want him to repay all $9000+ of his supplement he didn't know he was getting, never applied for, and knew he was ineligible for.

You'd think that we members and retirees would have some protection against this kind of gross negligence on PERS' part. You cannot ever sleep comfortably knowing that PERS may eventually uncover some silly mistake it made years ago about which you had no knowledge. This is the inverse of the Kay Bell case. It also makes you concerned that the Legislature is not holding PERS' feet closer to the fire about the accuracy of their calculations and their estimates.

Let the people who make these mistakes pay for them. Why should innocent retirees be body-slammed for something they played no part in? This just sucks.


5 comments:

MollyNCharlie said...

In both the Bell and Lenon cases PERS made significant mistakes in estimating benefits and in original benefit payments. In this most resent situation PERS mistakenly applied an insurance benefit. In all 3 situations PERS is being help harmless and the retirees are expected to re-pay the benefits PERS mistakenly paid! The sums of money are major. This impact on people's lives is devastating. And PERS gets off with saying 'sorry for any inconvenience.' The laws shielding PERS' incompetence are intolerable.
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mrfearless47 said...

I had hoped the Bell verdict would make PERS more wary of their own estimates and would institute major QA changes at the PERS end. All it seems to have done is to make PERS audit more accounts for accuracy. It makes me afraid, very afraid that more and more of these FUBARs will turn up and retirees can never rest easily when they should be able to finally relax after putting in a lifetime's work. If I were Mr. Lenon I'd go to my Legislator about this.

TruthSeeker said...

And then there is the "mistake" PERS made in crediting Windowites with 21% earnings(which I didn't even know had happened...let alone asked for), and we retirees are being invoiced for the alledged "over payment".

MollyNCharlie said...

At least 21% crediting reduction isn't all on PERS' head. There is the law suite brought by the City of Eugene and others. We can't over look Judge Lipbscomb's part. And there is our Gov (who promised to reform PERS without harming retirees!) who appointed an all new PERS Board to protect the interests of employers. I agree that this impact of the crediting reversal and the years of delay in making it have had a devastating effect on the Window Retirees. I just don't see how this one transgression can be blamed just on PERS. After picking that little bone, I'm in full agreement with you TruthSeeker!

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mrfearless47 said...

I happen to disagree with the 20% in 1999 as being a "mistake". Recall that PERS argued that this was the "correct" crediting in the City of Eugene case. It was only after the Legislature forced the issue in 2003 and required PERS to hire outside counsel did PERS switch sides and moved to join with the employers. The 1999 "overcredit" is a case of judicial interference. It is completely different than the Bell case, the Lenon case, and the most recent case involving the RHIPA supplement. These latter cases involve frankly bad estimates or actual benefit calculations on PERS' part. The first two cases involved retiree intervention; the third case appeared out of nowhere.

Regardless, the laws holding PERS "harmless" are the laws that need changing. Retirees should be able to retire and rest easy that their retirement benefits are secure, calculated correctly, and they should be able to enjoy the remainder of their lives without the added worry of a "mistake" ruining their days, weeks, or lives.