EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- A Eugene woman is voicing her frustration with Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) as she is one of thousands of people the state is now trying to collect money for an error the PERS Board made more than a decade ago.
For the last two months, Oregon’s PERS has been sending letters out to thousands of retirees or their beneficiaries in the process of recovering $156 million in overpaid retirement benefits.
A few days ago, Barbie Walker got a letter from the state, asking her for $1,467.76. Walker is one of 29,000 people that PERS is pursuing.
Walker isn’t currently a part of PERS and never has been. However, she did receive money from the system as a beneficiary of her father back in 2002, when her father passed away.
No matter that it has been ten years, Walker is being asked to pay the amount that PERS overpaid to her father. If she doesn’t, the account will be sent to a collection agency.
Walker says she's upset about the process since she hasn't received any money from her father's account in a decade and that the overpayment was the fault of the State of Oregon.
“It makes you think, are they going to knock on my grandmother's door twenty years later and say, 'we did your grandmother's wrong, come pay for that'? I know that this is going to affect several hundred people that are part of the PERS, Public Employees Retirement System, and it’s kind of a shame that they are going after people's kids that, you know, these people have passed away,” says Walker.
The error that lead to the PERS overpayment happened in 1999 when the PERS Board credited earnings at twenty percent.
A group of state-associated employers, who pay matching earnings for their employees in the PERS system, sued the state in response as they believe the earnings credit was incorrect. Oregon courts ruled in their favor, changing the earnings credit from twenty percent to 11.33 percent.
PERS says the Oregon Supreme Court is now forcing it to collect the overpayment.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility to the PERS fund,” says David Crosley, a spokesman for Oregon PERS.
Crosley says PERS is trying to work with people who have to pay back the overpaid funds.
“We realize that some -68% of our members have a benefit of $3000 or less - and some have a large benefit, so we'll work with people on an individual basis if there's a hardship involved,” says Crosley.
Over the next ten years, PERS is aiming to recover $156-million that it overpaid.
People who don’t currently receive money from PERS can either do a lump sum payment or set up a payment plan. Beneficiaries who are still receiving money have a choice to repay PERS over a course of their remaining benefit disbursement.
For more information on the repayment effort, click the following link: http://oregon.gov/PERS/RET/section/general_info/overpayment_recovery.html