‘Creative’ Double Dippers Contribute to GERS Decline

The GERS building on St. Croix.
The GERS building on St. Croix. (File photo)

When Austin Nibbs, administrator of the Government Employees’ Retirement Service, released information concerning government employees’ “double dipping” he said, “GERS has always monitored retirees returning to work. However, in the last four years, the process has become a challenge due to creative ways many retirees, managers within departments and agencies, and H.R. personnel have developed to circumvent the process to avoid being detected.”

Nibbs wrote in an email Thursday, the creative circumvention of the law by some employees has resulted “in their annuity payments continuing after the required period established by law.” Employees may have cheated GERS out of almost $2 million.

Double dipping becomes illegal when a retiree, without an exemption, receives both a GERS pension and a salary after 600 hours (15 forty-hour work weeks).

The troubled retirement system is expected to go broke by 2023 and over-payment of annuities may just be another nail in the coffin.

The information being released to the public this week included excerpts Nibbs took from a confidential report he made to the board. The information also included a three-page document describing the laws for employees who return to government service and how the administration monitors compliance.

According to the excerpts, 59 employees are double dipping, and GERS can only confirm 11 employees are doing it legally. Seven retirees have had their annuities suspended because of alleged noncompliance. Two of those employees are from the police department; the other employees are from the Bureau of Corrections, VITEMA, the Legislature, the Taxi Cab Commission and Government House; one employee from each of those agencies.

Five senators in the 32nd Legislature and two new senators are receiving or will be receiving both a GERS pension and a salary legally. They are allowed to double dip because they have not returned to the same branch of government from which they retired. They retired from the executive branch of the government and are now employed in the legislative branch.

GERS periodically requests a report from the Division of Personnel on returning retirees. The December 2018 report shows 59 retirees in this category.

The Department of Education employs the lion’s share of double dippers, numbered at 28. The police department has nine

GERS has requested and received the Notice of Personnel Actions (NOPAs) from the respective departments and agencies for the remaining forty-eight retirees and is reviewing their status.

According to excerpts, at present the total due to the GERS is $1,954,854.98. This includes missing employee and missing employer contributions. Tier II employees (those hired after Oct. 1, 2005) are not generally allowed to double dip but exceptions are made for teachers, nurses and police officers.

Anyone double dipping should not be making a salary above $55,000.

The document accompanying Nibbs excerpts outlined the consequences for not complying with the return-to-work law:

The retiree’s pension is stopped immediately.

The excess pension payments are calculated to include a six percent lost investment interest and a 1.5 percent delinquency penalty.

The retiree is afforded an installment repayment plan depending on his or her age.

The excess pension payments and interest and penalties must be repaid to GERS in full before the retiree can begin to receive any further annuity payments.

If the retiree does not repay, legal measures, including a lien on property,will be taken to recoup the money.