Answers to member questions

This month, learn about counseling, the HRA and Social Security provisions

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Jan. 18, 2024 – Members and retirees often ask us questions through our social media channels that others could benefit from. Periodically we post these questions and answers in our PERSpective blog.

This month we’re addressing questions about the COLA process, how to secure your OPERS ID and how to schedule a counseling session.

Q: I’m getting close to retirement, and I’ve already attended a Ready to Retire presentation. I still have some questions. What would you suggest?

A: We would suggest making use of the OPERS in-house counselors. Members at any stage of their career can choose to schedule a personal appointment with a counselor to review their questions and receive guidance with a form, application, or process. You also have the option to speak to a representative in our Member Service Center by calling 1-800-222-7377 or use the Message Center in your online account to send a question and receive a response within one business day.

We offer three types of counseling:

  • Phone counseling. This 30-minute service is perfect for those who just have a few questions or need some clarification about their accounts.
  • Virtual counseling, which we schedule via Zoom. It offers a face-to-face appointment without the need to travel. During this appointment, screen-sharing allows our counselors to navigate our website, assist with online forms, help with the retirement application and more. You’ll need a computer with Internet access and a working camera.
  • In-house counseling, held at OPERS’ Columbus office. It’s for those who appreciate in-person support or are technologically limited.

Members can schedule any type of individual counseling appointment under the “Tools and Resources” section of their online accounts.

Q: When an HRA is on hold and the medical debt is growing, how does a person get this debt caught up and paid down?

A: First let’s clarify what “on hold” means. When you submit an expense for reimbursement that you have already paid, it can be paid only if you have the funds available in your HRA. If your HRA balance is not enough to pay the reimbursement request, that request is placed “on hold” until more funds are placed in the HRA.

Deposits are made to the HRA on a monthly basis in the amount of your monthly allowance. Just because you have an eligible expense for reimbursement does not mean that you will be paid the full amount when you request the reimbursement. Any eligible expenses that are not paid because HRA funds are not available are placed “on hold” and will be reimbursed once more funds are available.

To put it another way, unless you have a balance in your HRA from previous months you will never be reimbursed more than the amount of your monthly HRA allowance on a monthly basis.

Q: If Social Security gave a cost-of-living adjustment of 3.2 percent for 2024, why is OPERS’ raise only 2.3 percent?

A: OPERS retirees who have a benefit effective date prior to Jan. 7, 2013, automatically receive a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment. Those with an effective date after that date have their COLAs based on the Consumer Price Index-W, the government’s inflation index for urban wage earners and clerical workers.

According to state law, the annual COLA for those retirees is to be based on the change in the CPI-W over a 12-month period concluding at the end of June, with a maximum adjustment of 3 percent. For the 2024 COLA, that period was the end of June 2022 through the end of June 2023.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the CPI-W increased 2.3 percent over that period, so OPERS’ CPI-based COLA for 2024 is 2.3 percent. For reference, click on “CPI-W, June 2023” on this page of the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and refer to cell AD-7 in the spreadsheet.

OPERS’ inflation-based COLA uses the same index as Social Security. But the time period measured is different, so the adjustments might not always match up.

Q: We’ve misplaced our vision insurance ID cards. Do we have to replace them? If so, what do we need to do?

A: ID cards are not required for the OPERS vision and dental coverage. Providers can look up your MetLife vision and/or dental benefits with your information. Duplicate ID cards can be printed, however, by going to the “MyBenefits” section of the MetLife website.

Q: I understand that the Windfall Elimination Provision is a federal issue, but isn’t it adopted state by state? I have been told there are states that don’t adopt a WEP.

A: Individual states do not act to adopt or not adopt the Windfall Elimination Provision, or a similar provision called the Government Pension Offset. Social Security applies the provisions to those workers who have earned Social Security retirement credit yet worked a significant portion of their careers in public service not paying into Social Security retirement.

The WEP and the Government Pension Offset apply to certain workers no matter where they live – there are workers in every state who are subject to the provisions.

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

10 thoughts on “Answers to member questions

  • January 23, 2024 at 7:43 am

    “The WEP and the Government Pension Offset apply to certain workers no matter where they live – there are workers in every state who are subject to the provisions.”

    Is there a “rule of thumb” on these two provisions, in terms of just how much (% wise) they would reduce your SS benefit? The scenario is: spouse is retired (from private sector employment) and receiving her “full” SS benefit. I am retired as well from public service and am receiving my PERS pension, but not currently qualified at this time to receive a SS benefit. I need just a few more SS “credits” to quality (have 34 but need 40), and have considered returning to work in the private sector to earn these additional credits. But I wonder if it would be worthwhile for me to do so, assuming one or both of these provisions (the WEP and GPO) would probably significantly reduce any SS benefit. Even worse, if I DO earn the additional credits, and quality for a SS benefit, could this possibly affect my SPOUSE’S benefit as well? Any comments on this would be appreciated. I can’t be the only PERS retiree in this position.

    • January 25, 2024 at 9:29 am


      There is a maximum amount that Social Security may reduce its benefit to those covered by the Windfall Elimination Provision. That amount for 2023 was reported as $558. To answer your specific questions, you must contact the Social Security Administration. Social Security offers a WEP calculator, but we would recommend talking with someone there or setting up an appointment at your local office.

  • January 23, 2024 at 12:13 pm


  • February 1, 2024 at 1:33 pm

    I have a question about my retirement benefit.
    I am currently in “ interim status” for my monthly benefit amount. How long does it take to get my final benefit?
    I am also able to receive a small amount from social security, however the amount from social security cannot be accurately calculated without my letter from OPERS with my final benefit.
    Thank you

    • February 16, 2024 at 12:41 pm

      Amy, For members receiving a Service Retirement benefit and being paid on an interim benefit status, it could take up to approximately 3 to 6 months from the retirement effective date before the benefit is finalized.

  • February 2, 2024 at 2:30 pm

    I’m having a problem with my spam blocker accepting your return phone calls! My 1099 has my Winter address not my home address! Help!!

    • February 14, 2024 at 8:07 am


      You can print out your 1099 yourself through your OPERS online account. If you don’t have the account set up, it’s easy to do so. Just click on “Need an Account?” here and follow the prompts.

  • February 20, 2024 at 8:35 am

    Re: statement to transfer from Member Directed to Traditional

    If Member Directed years is from 1/1/12-12/31/20 and Traditional is from 1/1/21 to present, is the cost determined only on the average salary from the Member Directed time period? Not time worked while under Traditional?
    If the plan change cost says $100,000, is that amount reduced by the balance in the Member Directed plan?
    (example: cost of $100,000 – $50,000 in member plan = have to pay the remaining $50,000)

    • February 22, 2024 at 8:14 am


      Please contact our Member Services department with personalized questions about your OPERS account. The number is 800-222-7377.


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