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Do state pension rules lead to double-dipping?

Legislative auditors told lawmakers in interim meetings this week that dozens of public employees in West Virginia have retired from state-

level agencies only to go back to work - thus collecting both a state pension and state pay.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Valuable people do not automatically become worthless when they reach the age at which they can retire and qualify for benefits.

When school systems need qualified substitutes, for example, retired teachers are often willing to fill in.

The state allows them to receive as much as $15,000 in pay without endangering their pension benefits.

It's hard to see the harm in that.

But the $15,000 rule does not apply to state retirees who go back to work as contractors for state agencies. Thus, they can pile up money at a lovely rate.

Again, that is not necessarily a bad thing. A valuable person who has earned a pension can still be valuable.

But the whole situation requires more study. How does Social Security treat post-retirement work? How do companies handle post-retirement work by their own retirees?

The auditors recommended the state look at three options - freeze the pensions of retiree-contractors, limit contractors' pay, or scrap efforts to deter double-dipping.

The Consolidated Public Retirement Board opposes removal of the cap on post-retirement earning because it "would create an environment that would promote retirement as early as possible so that a pension and a salary could be acquired."

That, said the board, "would have a very negative effect" on the Public Employees Retirement System.

The retirement board handles benefits for 652

government bodies, only 123 of which are at the state level. The state Auditor's office will look at the practices of the multiplicity of county and local government pension plans.

Good idea. Some valuable people work after they qualify for pension benefits, but obviously the potential for abuse by the well-connected exists as well.

One other note: Some state employees can retire and

collect both pensions and health benefits when they are only 55 - a full 10 years earlier than the full retirement age for Social Security.

To look at "double-dipping" without looking at that would be to refuse to get down to brass tacks.


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