ATLANTA – More than 6,000,000 Americans, including tens and thousands here in Georgia, save for retirement in the federal Thrift Savings Plan.
It’s basically the 401K plan for federal employees.
Many plan participants have been having trouble accessing their account for months. They may even have had money incorrectly deducted or transferred.
Channel 2’s consumer investigator Justin Gray discovered that this is all related to problems with an IT transition.
These are serious problems, from retirees who cannot access their savings to federal employees whose wages were garnished to pay for loans that they never received.
When people tried to contact TSP for assistance, they often could not get through to anyone.
Michael Pointer was one of them. He retired in 2014, after 30 years as a letter carrier.
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He had a simple legal request for his family: a letter stating that he had zero dollars in Thrift Savings Plan.
Pointer told Gray that he had called the company 18 times. They said that they couldn’t give you any information because they couldn’t locate your account.
Pointer is among the thousands of federal workers and retirees who are unable to transfer money from their thrift saving accounts or have difficulty doing so.
The problems are so serious that Congress has ordered the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s internal auditing agency, to get involved.
Jennifer Franks, with the GAO, said that there were a lot of complaints.
The GAO doesn’t normally speak publicly about its investigations until after they’re completed. But GAO’s Jennifer Franks said to Gray that, in this case they took the unusual step of issuing a warning about TSP issues tied to a brand new online portal and computer systems TSP launched in 2022.
“A year is long.” Franks said, “A month is a long time when it’s all your money.”
It’s unbelievable what they did and how they refused even to lift a hand to correct their mistake. Steven Karsh’s brother died in September of 2021.
Karsh, the only beneficiary of the TSP account, tried for months to transfer the retirement savings from the TSP into an IRA.
Karsh stated, “I received different answers each time I called – all incorrect and misleading.”
TSP eventually cut a check to the estate and not Karsh. Taxes were deducted instead of the IRA being rolled over.
“I cannot even cash the check, because it is not written to the legal beneficiaries.” Karsha said, “It’s written to estate.”
TSP tells Channel 2 Action News now that their customer service staff misled Karsh, and that the account was not eligible for rollover.
You will see that there are many people with similar complaints if you search on Reddit.
One person wrote: “I lost over $4k on my hardcopy statement that was mailed out to me.”
GAO found that some federal employees had their wages garnished even for loans which were never disbursed.
Franks said that although they receive notifications that their money has been transferred, it never actually occurs.
A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf federal employees and retired federal employees about the TSP issues.
“I’ve been on hold for 45 minutes, an hr and 15 minutes, or 20 minutes.” Pointer said that the situation was a constant one, which created chaos.
Gray asked Pointer, “And no one can help you?”
“Nobody can help. “No,” Pointer replied.
TSP acknowledged that their phone lines had been overloaded for months, but told Channel 2 Action News they now answer calls in less than 20 seconds.
In a press release, a spokesperson stated:
“TSP strives for excellent customer service. We constantly evaluate participant feedback and make adjustments to better meet participants’ needs.
“Mr. Pointer closed his TSP in 2014. The TSP does NOT maintain information about zero balance accounts in its customer service application. Maintaining ‘live’ account information is expensive and would be borne primarily by TSP participants. On June 30, TSP informed Mr. Pointer we had located his 9-year-old statement indicating his loan closure and withdrawal in full. This information will be given to Mr. Pointer .”
Karsh said, “They don’t even know what they are doing.”
“It’s a mess.” Pointer said, “It’s a mess.”
TSP says that they do not keep any information about former plan participants. It would be very expensive.
Pointer had been calling TSP for nearly a year. On the day Gray responded to our questions, TSP also sent Pointer that basic information, a letter confirming he has no balance.
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