Retirement & Financial Planning Report

The inspector general of OPM has said that federal retirees are being victimized by various forms of fraud including “forged documents, identity theft, and other schemes” that “may stop federal retirees or rightful annuitants from receiving their deserved benefits.”

A report on recent investigations, dated in July but only recently released, cited one case in which an annuitant complained that he was not receiving his direct deposits; the investigation showed the money had been “directly deposited into a bank account for an individual the annuitant claimed he did not know.”

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In addition, “someone attempting to change details related to the annuitant’s account also contacted the OPM Retirement Services program office.”

“We issued a subpoena to the telecommunications providers for information about the numbers that had called the Retirement Services office, but the information did not generate sufficient leads and we closed our complaint. The annuitant now receives a hardcopy check,” it said.

In another case, “A nursing home provider contacted OPM over a retired annuitant’s failure to pay for care and alleged that the annuitant’s brother diverted the OPM annuity for his own use. OPM records showed that the brother was the annuitant’s representative payee . . . because the Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act of 2019 was not law during the timeframe when the misuse of the annuity was allowed to occur, we were unable to pursue further investigation,” it said.

The report further estimated that in fiscal 2019 OPM paid nearly $285 million improperly to retirees, survivors, representative payees, and families. “One of the most common causes of improper payments is failure to verify the deaths of annuitants, which sometimes allows improper payments to continue for years and costs tens of thousands of dollars,” it said.

It said that one such case involved nearly $131,000, of which the government was able to recover about $109,000. However, in another, involving about $72,000, the government was able to recover only about $5,000.

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