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Investors describe the problems with the new Thrift Savings Plan system

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Three weeks after the retirement savings program for millions of federal workers moved to a new operating platform, lawmakers are demanding answers as investors report widespread problems.

Complaints flooded social media and messages poured into Congressional offices from investors describing unable to log into their accounts, long waits and dropped calls from customer service lines, missing information and problems with transactions such as loan underwriting.

“It’s a mess,” said Stacey Peckins, a Department of Agriculture retiree who said she was locked out of her account and then locked out for four hours with customer service to be cut off. “The lack of professionalism, the lack of access and the lack of information are not reassuring. As a retiree, this is a vote to withdraw my money from TSP.

Federal Retirement Savings Program to Broadly Expand Investment Options

Of the. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DD.C.) raised many of these questions in a letter last week to the board of directors of the Thrift Savings Plan, called the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, or FRTIB.

“Voters reported that they attempted to contact the TSP ‘ThriftLine’ for assistance, only to be put on hold for several hours and then disconnected before speaking to anyone,” he said. she writes. In some cases, account holders now have to wait for a security code to be delivered by mail, “delaying account access for weeks,” she added.

The board apologized for the problems, blaming logistical difficulties and understaffed customer service centers. It says successful logins for new accounts have increased in recent weeks and wait times for customer service calls have decreased.

“We anticipated that the transition, like most are, would be bumpy,” the board wrote to Norton on Friday. “We sincerely apologize for the frustration and inconvenience experienced by some of our attendees. We are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible so that we can help those in need. »

The system, which launched on June 1 after years of development, added functionality to the TSP, including allowing investors who meet certain conditions to transfer a portion of their money into external mutual funds. The TSP, a 401(k)-style program for current and former federal and military personnel, had 6.6 million account holders with $734 billion in investment as of the end of May, making it the largest such program in the country.

The switch has forced investors to update the online accounts used to manage their money by switching between funds, changing ongoing investments or making withdrawals.

Federal workers and retirees have described an epidemic of malfunctions with the platform, and alarmed lawmakers are pushing for rapid improvement.

“I think the worst part is that my experience with TSP before was great,” Peckins said. “It was easy, reliable and accessible.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wrote to the board last week that many of his “voters have been unable to complete the connection setup process, and when they attempt to call the ThriftLine, they’re put on hold for at least an hour.” He asked for an explanation of what the TSP provides and whether there is a “workaround that allows TSP participants to access their accounts while these login configuration issues persist.”

The TSP board says the data shows improvements. Since June 1, new successful connections have increased from 75% to 90%, he said, and the addition of customer service representatives has reduced call wait times, although the board admitted that wait “stay too long”.

Norton, however, said in a statement Tuesday that the council’s response does not “resolve the issues my constituents are having accessing their TSP accounts.” Furthermore, the response does not provide information on what the FRTIB plans to do to correct the problems. I will continue to search for answers, fixes and responsibilities.

Another federal retiree, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the nature of his former job, said he waited until last weekend to try to log on “hoping they would sort out some bugs” but the system didn’t recognize the credentials it had been using for years. “Trying to scan and upload my driver’s license and passport were also failures. I am now awaiting a login code via US Mail,” he wrote in an email.

The TSP has published a list of “Known issues” stemming from the reinstatement of online accounts, including suggestions for account holders to try a different browser and to disable auto-complete features.

This page also notes that person accounts now show balances and messages going back only to the June 1 switchover; investors requiring information before this date should call customer service. The message also urges account holders to ensure that their beneficiary designations in the event of death are up to date.

A federal employee who asked not to be identified because of the agency’s policy restricting public comment said he found both policies inconvenient. In an email, he stated that he was able to reinstate his personal account quite easily, but that it did not show the beneficiary choice he had previously made and that he lacked information about the beneficiary. account he wanted to see.

“I expect more from an organization that manages and protects my retirement,” he said. “These two small issues cast doubt on the ability of the entire organization to accomplish its mission.”

TSP spokeswoman Kim Weaver said more than 800,000 investors have made new connections. The most recent success rate of 90% for new logins “is not, in our view, poor customer service. This is really to make sure that we protect the accounts of our participants. … There are bots trying to do that,” she said in a phone interview.

She said that since June 1 – when the hotline received 130,000 calls, 2.5 times the previous daily record – call center staff have grown from 485 to 805 employees. During this period, the call abandonment rate fell from 90% to 66%. The average wait time on the call line has now fallen from two hours to 49 minutes on June 6, TSP said.

“While our call center service level needs improvement, it is moving in the right direction and we will continue to add call center representatives to handle the increased volume,” he said. she declared.

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