FLEOA Supports the RAS Clarity Act

December 9, 2020

The Honorable James Lankford
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Krysten Sinema
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senators Lankford and Sinema:

I am writing on behalf of the more than 29,000 members of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association to offer our strong support for S. 4977, the "Retirement Annuity Supplement Clarity Act.” This important legislation will address OPM’s four-year assault on the retirement security of thousands of former federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and other federal retirees who are recipients of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) Retirement Annuity Supplement (RAS).Passage of S. 4977 is of the highest priority to our organization, and we are grateful for your leadership and commitment to this important issue.

Since 2016, OPM has carried out an extralegal and unconscionable assault on those federal retirees whose FERS benefits were divisible between the retiree and his or her former spouse in cases of divorce, annulment, or legal separation. For the first 30 years of the FERS statute, OPM interpreted the requirement to divide retirement benefits between a retiree and a former spouse under a state court order as excluding the RAS unless the RAS was expressly cited in the plain text of the order. That all changed in July 2016 when OPM secretly implemented a fundamental reinterpretation of the law and began applying the state court-ordered share to both the basic annuity and the RAS even where the order was silent on the RAS. Over the past four years, OPM has applied its reinterpretation retroactively and with little to no regard for the financial harm it has inflicted on retirees.It has created individual retiree debts due to the federal government of as much as $30,000—debts for which OPM has sought repayment in the form of both retroactive and prospective assessments from annuitants’ retirement benefits.

OPM’s 2016 policy change was implemented without notification to impacted retirees, the general public, or the Congress, and without regard for the court-ordered and previously-litigated provisions of the specific divorce settlements of the affected retirees. Instead, retirees and their former spouses only learned of OPM’s actions when their annuity payments changed, in some cases years after the parties had divorced and a state court had ordered a former spouse’s marital share. In fact, it is not clear that OPM has ever made publicly available any guidance or instructions to even current employees planning for retirement that their benefits are subject to reduction under this revised policy. Even the OPM Office of Inspector General and the Merit Systems Protection Board have found that the agency acted improperly in this matter, noting that OPM’s actions constituted a reinterpretation of current law that was outside of the agency’s authority and was done absent a specific grant of authority from Congress.

To this day little is known about how or why OPM determined to launch its sneak attack on federal retirees, but we do know that the agency’s reinterpretation of law has cost our members dearly. That is why we are proud to support this important legislation. S. 4977 will clarify current law on the standards for dividing a RAS between a retiree and a former spouse, put an immediate stop to OPM’s collection efforts against retirees, and require the agency to repay every dollar it has improperly seized. Most importantly, S. 4977 will help to restore the sense of financial security in retirement that OPM has sought to strip away over the past four years through its actions.

On behalf of the membership of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, thank you again for your leadership on this important matter. We look forward to continuing to work with you both to see it swiftly enacted into law.


Larry Cosme
National President