Pay & Benefits

Federal law enforcement association sues over benefits changes

Federal law enforcement officers are calling foul on an Office of Personnel Management policy change from 2016 that retroactively entitled ex-spouses of retired federal law enforcement officers to a portion of their annuity supplements.

The change resulted in many employees owing a debt to the agency, as the retroactive application meant that several annuity paychecks received by the retiree over the course of years could be considered overpaid.

That action, about which OPM failed to notify retirees at the time of the decision, is now the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association against the agency in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia.

“In mid-2016, OPM made the sudden and unilateral decision to reinterpret a 30-year-old provision of the Federal Employee Retirement System. This reinterpretation allowed the office to retroactively charge retirees for payments they were not required to make when the law was interpreted differently,” FLEOA President Nathan Catura said in a March 21 press release.

“FLEOA’s primary goal in filing suit is to force a stop to OPM's collection efforts, and to allow our retired members to keep all of the benefits they are entitled to receive.”

The OPM Office of Inspector General determined in February 2018 that OPM’s justification for the change — keeping pace with legal requirements — was not necessary under the language of the cited statute.

“This legal recourse against the agency was not FLEOA’s first course of action in working to resolve this issue. For more than two years we have attempted to work with the agency. Yet when their own Office of Inspector General said the office was acting improperly, OPM refused to alter their interpretation,” Catura said.

“Even when an administrative judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board ruled against OPM’s efforts to claw back nearly $30,000 from a retiree, OPM still refused to amend their interpretation. This type of callous disregard for the financial well-being of retirees should make everyone concerned with just who and what they’ll target next.”

The lawsuit asks that the court to reject OPM’s interpretation of the statute and stop the apportionment of retiree’s annuity supplements to ex-spouses unless expressly called for in divorce documents.

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