Benefit check delays continue to frustrate new retirees

Boston Statehouse

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BOSTON (SHNS) – The “number-one problem” that Mass Retirees President Frank Valeri hears from his members is that it takes too long for newly retired public employees to collect their first monthly benefit check.

Warning that the sizable gaps between a retirement date and a payment date put undue financial strain on workers at the end of their careers, Valeri urged lawmakers Tuesday to adopt reforms that guarantee delivery of at least partial checks by the due date. “These are the things that bother me,” Valeri told the Public Service Committee. “You contribute for your entire career, nine, 10 percent of your gross pay, and at the end of it, you’re having to find a way to retire. That’s not right.”

Valeri is not alone in flagging the lack of timely action: in January, Auditor Suzanne Bump reported that only about 3 percent of new retirees receive their first Massachusetts State Retirement Board payment on time. Depending on a retirement’s effective date, the State Retirement Board is supposed to make the initial benefit payment within 28 to 62 days. Bump’s office found the average span was 115 days.

Several bills before the committee aim to support retirees by requiring that the state make at least an estimated payment by the first check’s due date if it cannot make the full amount available (H 2748) or pay 90 percent of the estimated value until extenuating circumstances are resolved (H 2792). The latter bill, filed by Rep. Tommy Vitolo of Brookline, would also require the Retirement Board to submit annual reports to lawmakers about its progress meeting the deadlines.

“We recognize that there’s a lot of moving parts and levers that have to get done before a calculation can be certified and payments able to be sent out,” said Patrick Russell, a board member at the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists. “We feel like 90 percent is a good target to hit.” The State Retirement Board, which falls under Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office, is scheduled to hold its next meeting on Thursday morning. 

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