Retirement & Financial Planning Report

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OPM has promised its inspector general’s office that it will step up controls over federal annuity payments after an audit found continuing problems with overpayments, an issue the IG has raised repeatedly over the years.

The audit examined OPM’s use of resources under a series of laws aimed at combatting improper payments, which the GAO and others have cited as a long-standing weakness across the government in general. For retirement annuity payments, it said, OPM uses data from the Social Security Administration on deaths as well as the Treasury Department’s “do not pay” portal which has tools to help prevent improper payments, including to determine whether the deaths have been reported to OPM.

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However, in a sample of 200 records related to federal retirees from that database, the IG identified three annuitants who were deceases but whose annuity payments had not stopped—two for two years and the third for five years. OPM “should have been aware of the dates of deaths, should have adjudicated the cases, and stopped any potential improper payments,” the IG said.

It said that OPM has acted to begin collection of overpayments in those cases totaling some $420,000. OPM also told the IG that in response to the report’s recommendations, it has expanded its use of the “do not pay” portal and has begun explicitly requiring higher level approval that matches are being conducted and documented.

However, OPM disagreed with a related recommendation that it make more use of that portal in screening FEHB program carriers, citing a separate process involving much the same information.

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