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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We're No Here

No, there isn't a typo in the title. My mailbox runneth over with people getting estimates from PERS that contain one or more inconsistency or plain error. I've gotten emails this week (and today's only Weds) from five different readers, each of whom had requested estimates for a December 1, 2009 date (significant because that is the last retirement date before the revised method of mortality factors goes into effect on January 1, 2010). The errors I'm seeing are in erroneous entries for the 2008 ending balance, mismatches between Option 1 estimates in multiple places on the same page, variable costs for purchasing waiting time, and a new "error" of having the online calculator refuse to estimate benefits beyond two years away from retirement, even for inactive members. This kind of sclerosis is the sort of thing that drives members stark, raving, bonkers. And it is especially aggravating because PERS accepts no responsibility for these errors. What is to assure us that these kind of inept errors won't occur in one's notice of entitlement. We've already learned that from a legal point of view, the NOE isn't worth the paper it is printed on. If PERS makes a mistake and later catches it, you (the retiree) get to pay for it regardless of whether you could have identified it when you retired or not. Some people just aren't "numbers" people, and PERS doesn't do much beyond the online calculator to provide an individual with guidance. Have you ever tried to find out the method used to calculate buyback costs? Obviously it is individual, but the method of calculation should be the same for each member, especially for the 6 month waiting time. But how do you check that?

I hate to keep harping on this point, but SB 897 was supposed to force PERS to "clean up its act." Now that our feckless Governor has vetoed a unanimously passed bill, PERS' accuracy has declined dramatically in my opinion. I haven't received this many incorrect estimates (plus those from previous weeks) in all of the 6+ years I've been writing this blog. So, it leads me to wonder whether PERS even cares whether its estimates are accurate. Do they have ANY QA supervising the drones doing the estimates?

Please, please, please. If you find an error or anything that doesn't make sense to you please do the following: 1) bring it to PERS' attention and ask for a replacement estimate that isn't charged against your yearly limit; 2) send a copy of the complaint to Paul Cleary (paul.cleary@state.or.us); 3) send a copy to the Legislative leaders (I'll post email addresses in a comment to this post); 4) send a copy to your local Representative and State Senator; 5) send a copy to Governor Kulongoski. Finally, in each of the latter 4 copies, remind all of them that SB 897 was designed to make PERS accountable for these kinds of errors and that the error rate is increasing rather than decreasing since the Governor's veto. It can't hurt to remind all the Legislators as the Legislature will be in Special Session in early 2010 and we can possibly assert the need for an override of the Governor's veto. The excuse that there is pending litigation is true, but entirely irrelevant since this is the subject of a civil suit brought by a single individual with a jury trial. There is no way the outcome of that case can possibly force PERS to change its ways. Only Legislative action or an Administrative law case can do that.


MollyNCharlie said...

Anyone following your suggestion of writing about errors in PERS estimates might want to include the 'reminder' that PERS claimed in legislative testimony that their error rate is less than 2%! I find it interesting that, after arguing that SB897 wasn't necessary because they are *so* accurate, we see this outbreak of errionious estimates from PERS.

Thanks for continuing to press this issue, Marc.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Would it be undue paranoia to think that the unanimous passage of a bill was designed to give the Legislature some sort of "cover" on this issue and that the last day possible Veto was prearranged and known to all?

It sure bought some time for PERS to keep screwing around, didn't it?

mrfearless47 said...

I think it would require too much organization and capacity to suspect a cabal to cover for the Gov. The Gov was merely arguing that it wasn't the "right time" for such legislation, ignoring the testimony of dozens of witnesses who've been harmed by PERS' inaccurate estimates and post hoc corrections. The Governor may be diabolical, but that requires too many ducks in a row to make the paranoia you describe work.