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Monday, March 29, 2010

Sleight of Hand

The PERS Board and PERS Staff continue to fall all over themselves trying to weasel their way out of implementing SB 897, which was enacted during last month's special legislative session. This bill requires PERS to verify all information within 2 years of retirement if a member requests it. A member would be absolutely foolish to NOT request this verification. At today's PERB meeting, my reliable informants reported that the PERB voted to request that the 2011 Legislature reconsider this bill because it would enshine potential errors permanently in the process. My response is that if PERS wants to avoid this, they will take the time and apply the effort to making sure they don't make mistakes such as those that affected Kay Bell and others over the past 10 or so years. God knows how many others have been ensnared by PERS' laxity in preparing estimates and Notices of Entitlement. I'm sick and tired of PERS complaining that we are responsible for their errors but that they ARE NOT responsible for their errors. I'm really sorry but the volume of errors PERS makes is simply unacceptable. The only thing that will force them to clean up their act is the point of a very loaded gun.

Of course, the next step in the process is for PERS to complain of staff shortages and computer problems that make it hard for them to meet the deadline. This has been a recurrent theme of every piece of legislation implemented over the past decade. PERS simply does not want to take ownership of the system it is responsible for administering. It wants to have it both ways - it gets to make all the rules and it wants no responsibility for any mistakes that arise from its making the rules. Tough shit. PERS complains that it will need 13 additional FTE to handle these "verification" requests, on the assumption that 25% of potential PERS retirees will request them; if more than 25% request verification then more than 13 FTE will be required.

In typical PERS fashion, they allow that "estimates are not legally required", and that they might suspend formal written estimates if they have to make choices about what to do with limited resources. People will then be expected to rely on the, thusfar, almost worthless online calculator available on the PERS website. Of course, PERS promises to make it more accurate, if they have staff time and money to do it.

I am so sick and tired of this pile of horseshit from PERS. They have only one reason to exist - to manage OUR money, and to compute and pay our retirement benefits to us. They continue to act like retirees are inconveniences that they have to put up with and that their only responsibility is to try to KEEP retirees money, rather than pay it to them. It is long past due when PERS members can get a reliable and accurate benefit verification before making that life-changing decision to retire. We're awfully sorry that this troubles you PERS, but frankly we don't give a damn about your inability to do the work you're paid to do. This is just another attempt at sleight of hand - now you see it, now you don't.

My advice to members planning to retire within the next four years. As soon as PERS implements the verification method, apply for a verification. This will be the ONLY way you can be assured of getting something close to being accurate before you retire. Request it early because PERS will be swamped.


MollyNCharlie said...

Is it time to sponsor a bill in the 2011 legislature to 'require' that PERS send "timely written benefit estimates based on verified information" to any requesting member within 2 years of retiring? Such a proposal could specify that first a 'verification' be requested, reviewed by all parties (PERS, Employers and Employee) then calculate the estimated benefit. Think PERS could do all that in, say, 92 days?

mrfearless47 said...

This bill would have as much chance of passing as the proverbial snowball in hell.