Federal Law Enforcement Organization Sues OPM Over Retirement Changes

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) has filed suit against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for their 2016 reinterpretation of federal retirement calculations. FLEOA alleges that the changes caused members of the association to lose significant retirement benefits and, in some cases, be required to back pay the OPM thousands of dollars.

Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, federal employees who retire before age 62 receive a supplement until they are eligible for Social Security. This is particularly pertinent to federal law enforcement who are often required at retire at age 57.

Previously, the supplement was treated like Social Security and thus not split with ex-spouses. In 2016, OPM decided to change this policy to grant a “marital share” of the supplement be given to a divorced retiree’s ex-spouse.

According to the FLEOA press release on the lawsuit, the organization attempted to work with OPM to change their interpretation to no avail. The OPM Office of Inspector General also critiqued the agency for a lack of transparency in implementing the change.

FLEOA also took a case to the Merit Systems Protection Board where an Administrative Judge ruled against the agency for charging a retiree nearly $30,000 in retroactive marital share charges.

FLEOA President Nathan Catura said, “OPM has worked in the shadows of the executive, making it impossible to say with any degree of certainty just how many federal retirees have been harmed by OPM’s abrupt and unwarranted decision. Both the OPM-OIG and the MSPB critiqued this lack of transparency in their respective reviews of the agency’s action. Anecdotally, however, we've heard everything from 600 to 4,000 retired law enforcement officers and other federal employees have been attacked.”

The lawsuit alleges that the “sudden and retroactive” implementation of the policy “unfairly blindsided affected retirees.”

The lawsuit notes that even if this were the correct interpretation of the statute (while FLEOA maintains it is not), the retroactive implementation results in the punishing of federal employees for a mistake not made by them, but by the agency.

Catura notes, “As each month goes by, OPM continues to take from dedicated federal law enforcement officers and public servants who have committed their life to serving this country…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.”

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