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Double-Dipping Likely to Persist

October 10, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

"Double-dipping" - that is, retiring, then going back to work and collecting both a full pension and a full government paycheck - is supposed to be prohibited for state employees in West Virginia. Yet at least 35 managed to get away with it last year, according to a legislative investigation.

Thousands of retired government employees, including teachers, may be angry about that. After all, some of them might like to bolster their bank accounts through double-dipping - but they have been told they can't get away with it.

State rules specify retirees who go back to work for the government can earn no more than $15,000 a year before having their pension benefits reduced.

Of the 35 retirees who got around the rule last year, 31 did so by being paid as outside contractors, not state employees.

Still, outrage over the practice prompted legislators to take another look at the double-dipping ban.

This week, during interim meetings in Charleston, lawmakers were told eliminating the ban would cost the state millions of dollars a year. One problem, Consolidated Public Retirement Board actuary Harry Mandel explained, is that removing the ban would encourage some employees to take early retirement, collect partial pensions, then return to their old jobs with full paychecks.

It is unlikely legislators will do anything about the concern, even though many of their retired constituents would like them to eliminate the ban. Doing so would simply be too expensive.

What about the matter of fairness, with a few dozen retirees using the outside contractor ruse to get around the double-dipping ban? There, too, legislative action is unlikely because some agencies are willing to use contracts to obtain the expertise and experience of retired state employees.

In the end, those upset that a few get away with double-dipping may have to just shake their heads, mutter that "life is not fair," and admit this is a problem without an appealing solution.

 
 

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