Sunday, March 27, 2011

USPS Retirement Mess: A Major Barrier To Downsizing

Here's one way labor unions are hindering staff reductions at the U.S. Postal Service -- telling their members the truth about the challenges of retiring from USPS.

Consider this statement from a recent article for members of the National Association of Letter Carriers:

"The Office of Personnel Management continues to struggle with timely completion of new retirees’ annuities," writes Ernest Kirkland, NALC Director of Retired Members. "Again, each member who is considering retirement should try to have a five-month reserve of his or her anticipated retirement income available prior to retiring. Saving 440 hours of annual leave for payment at retirement will be a great start toward that goal."

Kirkland also told Federal Times a few days ago week that the union is getting an increasing number of calls from recently retired members who are getting lower pension payments than they should while the Office of Personnel Management calculates their correct payments. The interim payments are sometimes half of what the retirees are supposed to be paid, according to the Federal Times' Stephen Losey.

The cash-strapped Postal Service hopes to reduce employment by 30,000 people this year, mostly through retirement, helped in some cases by early-retirement incentives. But how many more would retire if the process were smoother -- for example, as straightforward as it usually is for large private employers? (After all, influential Congressman Darrell Issa, R-CA, says USPS could stand to lose 200,000 employees.)

NALC has filed a grievance against the Postal Service for failing to provide retirement counseling to employees as required by law. And officials of the American Postal Workers Union have warned about USPS providing pension estimates to employees that were too low or just plain wrong.

The irony here is that union officials have a vested interest in discouraging retirements to prevent reductions in the number of active, dues-paying members, and yet they are trying to smooth the retirement process for employees. Meanwhile, the politicians and postal executives who are so eager to cut the Postal Service's workforce seem to have been silent on these hurdles in the retirement process.

Fortunately, the OPM is battling the backlog of retirement applications from federal and USPS employees by hiring new claims processors and having them work overtime. Let's hope it can clean up the process before the Postal Service runs out of money.

Update: This article wasn't as clear as it could have been, which caused some people to misinterpret my view and think that I am blaming the unions. I was being sarcastic; I certainly don't blame the postal unions for telling the truth. I was trying to point out that the unions are addressing a problem that management should be eager to solve.

Other articles on the Postal Service's problems with retirement benefits include:

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe OPM should hire some of the downsized USPS managers!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when this issue would come up. My husband retired in August 2010 and is still waiting for his retirement to be finalized. Normal retirements have been taking 8 months. Those who are considering retirement should be made aware of this problem.

Anonymous said...

OPM must be the most under manned Gov't agency. The back log is ridiculous. Iv'e been waiting since last July just to find out how much I owe on my Civilian Buy Back. I keep calling them and all they say is they are behind, check back in another two months!! I'm not making this up. All the fraud and waste in government and they can't properly staff this important agency that deal with peoples retirements. If the politicians don't fix this-vote them out!!!

Anonymous said...

Hire downsized USPS management? They'd take longer than the current processing time, just to be contentious to craft employees, as they spent most of their work-life.

Anonymous said...

I know this sounds really logical and so they will not do it, but how about develpoing software that will do the figures in a second or so? Or, maybe OPM could anticipate who is about to retire by age and years and go ahead and prefigure a couple years before the retiree is ready, and then keep it ready and current as they approach? Also, who keeps the interest on the money that the retiree is underpaid while awaiting the normal pay?

dryMAILman said...

No such problems are occurring with the push to downsize casing equipment. Nevermind that postal FSS doesn't work and that my mail will have to be sorted on the floor. It's all part of new PMG Pat Donahoe's total misunderstanding and misapplication of Lean Six Sigma.

Anonymous said...

I retired in 2006.My annuity is $300 less per mo.now What happenned to fixed incomes?? I would never have retired if I could have talked to a real person face to face.I had to retire on the telephone

Doninwny said...

Could this article be any MORE biased? It begins by blaming the unions for retirement (downsizing) delays, then cites ONE union's attempt to dissuade it's members; only THEN does it mention the real problem, the ineptness of OPM to assist in the retirement process, quickly and accurately! Also, why is it a MAJOR barrier, sounds to me like it can be fixed.

Anonymous said...

The unions are not at fault here in any way, shape or form. The erroneous statement that the unions want to retain dues-paying members is disingenuous at best. Hey pal, unless you're a 50-year member of the union, RETIREES PAY DUES.
The problem here, pure and simple is the screw-ups at OPM. They certainly seem to need some downsizing there!

D. Eadward Tree said...

Just to be clear: I'm not blaming the unions for these problems. How can I fault them for telling the truth? I was pointing out the irony of the unions trying to get these problems addressed when management should be more than eager to solve them.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I both retired Jan 2010and it was a very smooth transition. On the third month, our pay was correct as promised we had two interim payments with explanstions with each. I was once a member of APWU, of all of my 33 year postal career, being a member in this unorganized union was my biggest mistake. If you are eligible...retire, or at least TALK to someone who is and get the real story.

Anonymous said...

The problem with OPM is that it is staffed with incompetents. The problem is compounded by the fact that they are lazy with no sense of urgency.

Anonymous said...

My retirement counseling consisted of a 25 min phone call of which I understood every 3rd word. She talked so fast I had to shout at her to stop and repeat. She just read from the book they sent me. This was 2007 and later they went to conference calls with a dozen applicants on the line. Don't blame the unions for this mess. This one's all management. You should leave your obvious bias at the door or turn this over to a non-idealogue.

Anonymous said...

I was rejected for retirement conseling. But retired anyway.

Anonymous said...

The phone session sent well, although the gentlemman I spoke with did tell me the OPM is approimately 6 months behind in processing claims and only a partial annunity would be forth coming until processed. Now it's wait and hope. So I would reccomend having additional funds on hand.

Anonymous said...

Here's one way labor unions are hindering staff reductions at the U.S. Postal Service -- telling their members the truth


What a biased crock of sh*t. I guess you think the unions should step out of the way, or lie to their members.

Put the ENTIRE blame on the OPM where it belongs. Unions are getting way too much unjustified negative press.

Anonymous said...

Although my retirement at 3 years ago went very easy with no problems ....Don't trust OPM ...read on:
The Government screws one of their own .... that's right, The OPM overcharged the U.S. Postal Service...one government agency screwed the other ..read on:
Should the $75 billion be returned to the Postal Service, (which is rightfully theirs) it will be used to help cover current fiscal year deficit and beyond ...... I would like to blame this fiasco on the Post Office, but they did nothing wrong. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) actually manages the federal government and civil service. It (OPM) is another branch of the US Government . They (OPM) are responsible for the Postal Service retirement funds. OPM tells the Postal Service what amount is necessary for this funding and the Postal service pays it... which they did. Eventually, they (Post Office) ran an audit which discovered OPM overinflated the payments using the wrong calculations based on projected pay & future inflation. The audit was presented to the Postal Service, Management, OPM & Congress and all agreed the $75 billion was overpayment. It's hard to believe that one branch of the Government could do this to the other, but that's exactly what took place. Now it will take Congress to return the money. If they don't, all taxpayers will in some form or another have to cover the Post Office current shortfall. most likely by raising postage rates again & cutting services. If or when that happens, at least we will know why. Raising rates is bad, it has a big trickle effect, a chain reaction... Post Office charges more- customer pays more-advertisers pay more- so stores charge more for product , the trucker's delivery charges increase on & on..you get the picture ...in the end we all pay. Now I understand the postage rate increases for the past few years, I often wondered why they needed to do it. That $75 billion would have had the Postal Service in the black every year. The reality here is that there never should have been increases over the past few years, and probably wouldn't have if OPM calculated things right... looks like Government bites themselves in the _ _ _ on this one! Silly me to think that Social Security would do the Government in, their doing it to themselves! now..are you surprised OPM is having troubles with current retirement issues..enough said!

Anonymous said...

Maybe OPM should hire some of the downsized USPS managers!

There will be no downsized managers-none will lose there jobs. Anyone who believes they will has never worked at the Postal Service!

tdgovols said...

We aren't told of this problem until the application process has started. I retired at the end of Nov. 2010 and as of last month my application is still in the first stage. Who knows how much longer it will take. If i owed the govenment money, i couldn't wait this long to pay them and if i did they would charge interest. We should be paid interest on our retirement for taking so long.

Anonymous said...

theres nothing wrong with the union telling the truth about retirement the usps should be doing the same thing. does anyone want to retire and find out they won't be getting a check for 6 months and not be prepared for it this article is suggesting employees retire and don't worry about a pension just get out.no way I want to know what I need to survive untill that first check comes,ask for the telephone retirement bs get a professional retirement person who handles federal retirements to do the paperwork they will tell you things about it you didn't even know most of the usps people who did know anything are gone it was the best money I ever spent usps former employee 31years

Mcnic said...

The major problem is the outdated and antiquated system of the OPM. They are still doing your Retirement by "hand". All retirees go to the same place and everything is still done by hand. The chance of error is outrageous. I can't for the life me understand how the Government has allowed this procedure to go on for as long as it has. It is a downright shame that people are being forced to dip into their Thrift plan to survive while waiting to get the money that they worked for and deserve. I doubt that any government official has to sit around and wait for months and months to get a paycheck. The retirement process is a complete joke! You need a face to face discussion with a knowledgeable HR employee to avoid any confusion, understand your insurance and your taxes, not a phone consultation. I would be hounding my Congressman, Senator, and all elected officials in my voting zone until I had my paycheck. This has got to stop.

Anonymous said...

Two comments. First, there is no standardized method for keeping personnel records - every agency has their own system. The obvious step of standard record keeping would greatly make OPM's job easier and faster.

Second, with baby boomers approaching retirement, there will be an increase in the number of new retirees each year. Does anybody know how the number of new retirees has changed from year to year?

Yuri said...

I have 35 years and will retire in about 2. I will simply hire a proficient and high-powered employment lawyer to handle everything for me. If there is unreasonable delay resulting in hardship or stress, I will sue for additional damages and my attorney will see them in court. It's too bad this has to happen, but the way things are, it looks like I will have to go that route. After 35 years of hell in the Post Office, there's no way I'm going through hell again just to get my earned retirement CS annuity. OPM can go to hell....if they can't do their critical job, they will come to court and PAY for it, big -time. Perhaps a class-action suit? Why hasn't anyone thought of this? Nothing will be accomplished by complaining on a blog....meanwhile your savings are being depleted! Take em to court...they CANNOT refuse a subpeana!

Yuri said...

This is more than ridiculous...it is criminal. I have 35 years and will retire in two. When I am ready to go, I will simply hire a proficient and high-powered employment attorney and let him handle everything. If the annuity is unreasonable delayed or incorrect, we will take punitive and corrective LEGAL action. Nothing will be accomplished by complaining on a blog. But when they receive a subpeana, they CANNOT refuse and must provide an explanation. Backlogged? Wouldn't cut it in court. Make em' pay with interest and additional punitive damages for stress, etc. In court,
OPM wouldn't have a leg to stand on and could not bullshit anyone.I've had enough bull in the 35 yrs of my life I've given to the Post Office, and I'll be darned if I have to go through hell again just to get my legal and earned annuity in a timely manner and in the correct amount. Sounds like the OPM needs a court-ordered house cleaning here! Perhaps a class-action suit? Why hasn't anyone thought of this?

Anonymous said...

I retired under the VERA in 2009. It was a good thing that I got the $10,000 payment in December, 2009, because it took OPM until November, 2010, to pay me the back pay for the Social Security Supplement under FERS, even though I received the information in April, 2010, that it would be in my May check. When you call OPM, the employees on the phone can be rude and in one instance the woman re-routed me back to another person. I had to hold for over 1 hour and 45 minutes and then was told the office I needed to talk with was closed for the day. No one would return my calls, but I finally got in touch with a woman that cared, who put me in touch with someone who continued talking with supervisor, and their supervisor and I finally got my back pay of 7 months. It is frustrating that it takes months to get your correct amount in your check. I really think OPM has already hired past USPS management and that is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I retired 4 years ago and I can honestly say that everything went smoothly when dealing with the in-office Human Resources person. Nothing was gained by eliminating this job. Now more employees have to be hired to do the exact same job, except that our local Human Resources person was expert.

Marty Mark said...

Now in Texas,
I took the V.E.R. in the end of 2005.
I met with Ms. Joni Montroy in personnel. She was very accurate to the numbers I was entitled to. Everything worked out great until the health care premium hit my pension.Each year my health premium has jumped to the point where I changed plans and now have a $3600.00 annual deductible for my family before they will pay a penny the flip side was a plan costing $410 per month instead of $180 per month.The years in between each time we got a COLA the health premium ate it up and now for 3 years we have had no COLA but try to tell the gas station or grocery taxes etc.
We left our house as we could no longer afford the payments, taxes etc. and moved to Texas and now rent on a ranch. I have gone back to work full time here as a county corrections officer and will plan on working 8 more years at wages far below what I left the PO at. Had I known no COLA and increased health premiums each year along with inflation would cause me to move out of the Rochester, NY area and give up my dream home in the country, I would never had retired.
Make sure you pay off your house and have plenty of money put away before you jump. If you think there is work out there good luck try to get a job before you leave. having time on your hands is not so great with out extra money. Anyone needs retirement counseling call the local apwu office in Rochester NY and ask for Ms. Joni Montroy's number she has a private company now and no longer works with the personnel Office in Rochester, NY she was cut with one of the axes, of the pencil pushers. or contact me and I will find a number for you. Doktormark@netzero.net

Anonymous said...

"My husband retired in August 2010 and is still waiting for his retirement to be finalized. Normal retirements have been taking 8 months."...The paperwork must be in the mail. Don't worry, the USPS will get it there eventually.

Anonymous said...

As I stated back in March my husband retired in August 2010 and had not had his retirement finalized. Here it is mid-July and it is still not finalized. He was incorrectly placed into fers when he was rehired in 1984 and was notified in 2008 that he was in the wrong plan, should have been csrs. Another problem for OPM is the system is not on computer, they are working with a stack of papers for each retirement like as if it were 1959.

Anonymous said...

problems can be corrected. it is however easy to give out excuses.