Delays at the Office of Personnel Management are forcing ex-federal workers to wait for retirement benefits for too long after their job income ends, two U.S. senators charged Thursday.
“We have federal workers shifting into retirement who take three to four to five months to get their checks,” said Oklahoma Republican James Lankford. “They’re very vulnerable. They’re not getting their pay. They’re not getting their retirement benefits. It shouldn’t be that way.”
The gap is much shorter in the private sector, pointed out another Republican, Ohio’s Rob Portman.
He mentioned the shorter gap for McKinsey & Co., where the OPM’s acting director, Beth Cobert, spent nearly three decades before joining the agency.
Cobert, still acting director, was selected by President Obama for the permanent position last July after the departure of head Katherine Archuleta, who left amid a furor over massive cyber-attacks on the agency.
Even though 22.1 million Social Security numbers were exposed in the attacks, it is widely believed the hackers were more interested in national security information than stealing money from federal workers, said Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Cobert’s nomination as permanent director. Allegations have been made that the hackers worked for the Chinese government.
Cobert was praised by Chairman Johnson as a “first class individual” while the lead Democrat on the committee, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, labeled her as “excellent.”
However, committee members were very critical of the agency she heads.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, claimed the agency wasted hundreds of millions on IT.
Johnson said the agency’s plan is, in essence, to spend $93 million to lock the IT barn door after the horse has already been stolen—in order to hold and protect background checks on prospective federal employees. However, the responsibility to house that information has been transferred to the Defense Department.