The Associated Press
CORVALLIS - The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System is looking to recoup its recent overpayments to some retirees, while making some long-delayed payments to others.
At the center of any changes are retirees who left their jobs between April 2000 and April 2004.
The PERS plan calls for recovering $75 million in "excessive" payments made to retirement accounts in 1999, when workers enrolled in some PERS plans got a 20 percent investment return. A judge has since ruled the payout should have been 11.33 percent, and overpaid workers will get a bill from PERS next year for the difference.
But thanks to a separate court decision, a handful of workers will now get previously withheld 8 percent returns for 2003 and 2004, and suspended cost-of-living adjustments will be restored.
David Crosley, a spokesman for PERS, said that process will begin in April.
"Because there are thousands of accounts to calculate, it won't happen for every member in April," Crosley said.
Retirees who receive a bill for excess benefits will have several repayment options, ranging from writing a check for the full amount to getting a reduced monthly pension check calculated to recover the full amount by the time they die.
No matter which they choose, however, retirees see some reduction in monthly payments because their account base will be lowered to reflect the corrected 1999 earnings credit.
At the same time, Crosley said, restoring the frozen cost-of-living adjustments will lessen the blow. The PERS board has estimated that retirees who were overpaid in 1999 will wind up losing $800 million in pension benefits over their lifetimes.
Some retirees had been thinking of returning to work for a period of time with an eye to rebuilding their depleted PERS accounts, but that might not be a complete solution.
There are strict limits on how much they can work without having their benefits suspended until they retire again.
PERS retirees getting monthly benefits can only go back to work in the public sector for up to 1,039 hours a year (just under six months at full time) without losing benefits.
"There's no way to go back and try to regain some of that lost footing. The system disallows that," said Irma Delson, who worked at Oregon State University for 20 years and now faces a cut in her monthly pension check. "We thought that might have been an option."