Lately I see more and more evidence that the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) is softening it’s stance on the important matter of otherwise “perfect citizen” retirees losing a huge portion of their retirement annuity on their 62nd birthday … the much maligned, often misunderstood “Catch 62) law.
I have a case “simmering” here in my draft article files from a current reader here who won his own case on this. I’ll update you as soon as the details of his payback arrangements come through.
Meantime, I just received this case report on another CSRS annuitant who was improperly informed of his options when he retired, and then got “zapped” when he turned 62.
Notable here are several things.
The CSRS employee went all the way to the MSPB “pro se”, that is, acting as his own attorney. The MSPB cases are pretty heavily weighted “against” the employee anyway, and “Pro se” cases have an especially poor success rate, but with perseverance, it’s certainly possible.
In general I don’t believe in being your own attorney. Certainly not in something this complex. But, as a practical consideration, it you have been the victim od “Catch 62” administrative error and you’ve already lost a huge chunk of your retirement annuity, there’s little more bad that can happen to you by deciding to be your own attorney.
Again, not recommended here, but hats off to Mr. McDevitt for pushing through on this .. and inspiration to us all.
Second I’d like to comment a bit on the “administrative error” situation. From the facts in the McDevitt case, it does not appear that his retirement counselor was a bad person or one who didn’t want to do her job … but, as in so many of these cases that I have reviewed, the counselors are just not properly prepared on the subject.
I know at the time of my retirement (I had already been well-educated on Catch 62 by my attorney, had made my deposit, etc., but during my retirement counseling session, I found the counselor really had no clue as to what buying back 10 years of service meant to an employee. A well intentioned lady, but really out of her depth.
So if you received unclear or conflicting advice back when you retired, don’t just take the Catch 62 assault to your pocketbook lying down
Appellant: John W. McDevitt
Agency: Office of Personnel Management
Decision Number: 2012 MSPB 72
Docket Number: SF-0831-11-0480-I-1
Issuance Date: June 8, 2012
Action Type: Retirement/Benefit Matter
– Deposits – Post-1956 Military Service
– Administrative Error
At issue was whether the appellant could make a post-retirement deposit for his post-1956 military service so that credit for his military service would be reflected in his retirement annuity. When the appellant was filling out the paperwork for his retirement, he asked the agency’s retirement counselor whether he could make a deposit for his 4½ months of service in U.S. Army National Guard in 1969-70 so that such service would be reflected in his retirement annuity and he received a negative response. When he learned from OPM after his retirement that this information was incorrect, he sought to make a post-retirement deposit for the military service. OPM ruled that he could not do so, and that determination was affirmed in the administrative judge’s initial decision.
Holdings: The Board reversed the initial decision and ordered OPM to allow the appellant to make a deposit for his post-1956 military service…