The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

State & National News

March 27, 2014

Retirees' paperwork, stuck in a mine, points to government's balky IT problems

(Continued)

Thursday, March 27, 2014 —

In many places, however, these federal systems still don't work well. Some of the explanation can be found here, in this baroque underground bureaucracy.

Over the past 30 years, administrations have spent more than $100 million trying to automate the old-fashioned process in the mine and make it run at the speed of computers.

They couldn't.

So now the mine continues to run at the speed of human fingers and feet. That failure imposes costs on federal retirees, who have to wait months for their full benefit checks. And it has imposed costs on the taxpayer: The Obama administration has now made the mine run faster, but mainly by paying for more fingers and feet.

The staff working in the mine has increased by at least 200 people in the past five years. And the cost of processing each claim has increased from $82 to $108, as total spending on the retirement system reached $55.8 million.

In a statement issued Saturday, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said: "I do not believe that the current level of service is acceptable." She added that modernizing the system is a priority for her.

In an interview inside the mine this month, another federal official called the operation "very successful."

But that official balked when asked if it was modern. "What does 'modern' mean?" the official said. The OPM allowed a reporter in the mine on the condition that interviews with some officials there would not be conducted on the record.

This is how the mine works:

Step 1 begins when a federal employee submits retirement paperwork to his or her own agency. That happens at least 100,000 times a year. Within a few days, the government starts sending "interim payments" to the retirees — checks worth about 80 percent of their full pensions. This is meant to tide them over while the mine works on the case.

Text Only
State & National News
  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brother sues W.Va. senator over business loan

    FAIRMONT, W. Va. - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's brother claims he's owed $1.7 million that he loaned to keep a family carpet out of bankruptcy in the 1980s.

    July 28, 2014

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • WORLD NEWS: Fast food comes to standstill in China

    BEIJING - The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    WASHINGTON - Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 25, 2014

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    NEW YORK - Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.

    July 25, 2014

  • N.C. Energy Policy Council Long Range Energy Generation and Renewable Energy Committee to meet

    RALEIGH – The North Carolina Energy Policy Council’s Long Range Energy Generation and Renewable Energy Committee will meet via conference call at 9 a.m. July 31.

    July 24, 2014

  • N.C. State University Turfgrass Field Day set for Aug. 13

    N.C. State University’s annual Turfgrass Field Day will be held in Raleigh at the Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Research Lab, Aug. 13, 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. One of the largest events of its kind in the country, the field day offers the industry and general public a chance to view the Turfgrass Program’s ongoing research trials and speak directly with N.C. State faculty and staff.

    July 24, 2014

  • NCSU Study: Urban Heat Boosts Some Pest Populations 200-Fold, Killing Red Maples

                New research from North Carolina State University shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing red maples in the southeastern United States. One factor is that researchers have found warmer temperatures increase the number of young produced by the gloomy scale insect – a significant tree pest – by 300 percent, which in turn leads to 200 times more adult gloomy scales on urban trees.

    July 23, 2014

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content