OPERS answers member questions

Pension payments must be made in the year they’re earned

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Jan. 10, 2018 – We receive a lot of good questions through our social media channels, but we can’t always post answers on those sites.

So from time to time we like to use our blog to answer a few questions we believe can benefit our members and retirees.

Q: I noticed that when you published the 2018 benefit payment schedule that the payment for January almost always comes after the first of the year. Why can’t you pay it at the end of December, rather than after the first of the year as you do in some other months?

A: OPERS makes benefit payments on the first day of each month. When that day falls on a weekend or holiday, our policy is to make the payment in the previous month if we can.

Except for the January payment. Here’s why:

Taxable income, as reported on IRS Form 1099-R, is computed on the gross income paid to an individual from Jan. 1-Dec. 31 of the tax year.

OPERS operates on a calendar tax year, and thus we report to the IRS income actually paid during the tax year. Paying benefits during one tax year and reporting them in another is not an accurate method of complying with IRS tax reporting statutes and regulations; therefore, we must pay January benefits in January, not in December of the previous year.

Q: Now that Congress has passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, will tax reform lead to any changes in my monthly pension benefit? When will it occur?

A: Once we receive tax table changes from the IRS, we’ll make those changes in your benefit and send you a Benefit Change Notice. We cannot estimate what those changes will be before that time, nor when we’ll receive updated tax tables.

Q: I’ve been hearing that OPERS has a certain amount of money invested in alternative investments. What is the truth behind the amount?

A: We always post our current asset allocations, and the amount of money we have invested in each asset, on our website. You can find this data in the investment information section of our website. There are market values and recent returns listed for a number of investments in our Defined Benefit and Health Care funds.

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

  • As it pertains to the OPERS retiree medical coverage, I have noticed that the Health Savings Account is not keeping pace with premiums and medical exprnses. Is OPERS considering providing annual adjustments to the HSA ?

    • Mr. Griss,

      The Board finalizes plan selection and pricing every year and those details will be communicated in your fall newsletter.

      Julie, OPERS

  • Once again you fail to address certain questions, specifically the last question about “alternative investments”. What we are really concerned about is that OPERS is putting billions of OUR money into hedge funds and derivatives and as usual you want to put off an answer to the issue.

    • Ken,

      Our answer here is designed to point observers to our investment information page, where they can find the most-current totals for that asset class and all others.

      A full breakdown of our investment allocations, including to alternative investments such as hedge funds, is in our comprehensive annual financial report, which is posted on our website. We also post our annual investment plan, which includes the outlook for all of our asset classes.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Even if we get a few dollars more in our pensions each month, that will not effect our total tax owed for 2018. We could get more money each month but then owe a lot more on total taxes for 2018. Need to check the tax tables when they are available and then adjust the amount withheld each month if necessary.

  • I always enjoy these updates that via e-mail. Most I already know but I’ve found stuff that I missed. Keep up the good work.

  • Has it been determine whether If Opers will give retirees over 65 years old anything in 2019 for their health reimbursement accounts?

    • Yes, the current health care plan design continues the HRA in 2019 and beyond. The Board reviews the health care plan on an annual basis.

    • Mr. Keeran,

      The Board finalizes plan selection and pricing every year and those details will be communicated in your fall newsletter.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I was not aware of the PAFR report until now. This is a very good informative report with pertinent facts and information. Not the usual dry cotton of a traditional financial report. I would like to see a little more diversity among the OPERS trustees.

    • Mr. Christofis,

      You are correct – you can have your pension deposited into only one account. Our system is set up to allow one bank account per pension, unless there is another payee such as a support order.

      Julie, OPERS

    • Mr. Wylie,

      OPERS mails the 1099-R and 1095-B documents by the end of January. Most of the 1095-Bs have been mailed and can be found in your online account. The 1099-Rs are being processed now and will be mailed by the end of January. They will be available in your online account after Jan. 24.

      Julie, OPERS

  • why cant one exchange switch our medical re-imbursment funds to a debit card medical account?to use for dr. co-pays,prescriptions, e.t.c would make more sense than filling out claim forms mailing ,fax then spending hours on the phone just trying to find out if they even received them,or when you might get re-imbursed, they say 7-days to receive mail 7-10 days for processing and that’s not true,takes weeks and weeks, never get same answer,they pass the buck.i know o.p.e.r.s has a 5 yr contract please see if they they might switch to card system eliminate a lot of stress for retirees..

    • Sorry about your father’s passing, Andre. Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 and a member of our staff will be able to help you.

      Julie, OPERS

    • The preliminary, unaudited return numbers will be available in March once we’ve received information from all asset classes.

      Julie, OPERS

    • This is a response I received from one of the members of the Ohio State House Aging and Long Term Care Committee. “By their own admission, OPERS’ pension fund is the most financially strong and solvent pension fund in the state, they’ve had great returns through the years and are considered to have a “strong” financial status. As of November 13th, 2017, OPERS defined benefit account had returns of nearly 14% YTD. OPERS’ assumed rate of return is 7.5% for the entire year, meaning OPERS is not only strong but getting stronger.”

  • Years ago whenever I had a mammogram, bloodwork, pap test, etc. done I would file a form to get approximately $50 back for each of these services. I’ve called and inquired about these reimbursements several times an the individuals I’ve spoken to state that OPERA no longer offers these reimbursements. Yet I read about RMA’s all the time. Aren’t RMA’s and what I inquired about one in the same?

    • Ms. Young,

      You are on the right track. Prior to 2015, all OPERS retirees and eligible dependents covered under Medical Mutual of Ohio were able to earn up to $100 in wellness incentives for deposit into their Retiree Medical Account when they participated in the OPERS Personal Health Management Program. The incentive then changed slightly in 2015: while Medicare participants could no longer earn incentives, pre-Medicare participants could continue to earn incentives for completing an online health assessment, lifestyle coaching program of disease management program, however they would no longer earn an incentive for completing an annual physical.

      In our fall 2016 newsletter, it was shared that due to the cost to maintain the low usage RMA accounts, Nov. 30, 2016 would be the last date to complete or enroll in a wellness program to qualify for a $50 wellness RMA program incentive. Last year, RMA participants with a balance were informed their RMA would be closing.

      Thank you for your question.
      In our fall 2016 newsletter, it was shared that due to the cost to maintain low usage RMA accounts, Nov. 30, 2016 would be the last date to complete or enroll in a wellness program to qualify for a $50 wellness RMA program incentive. Last year, RMA participants with a balance were informed their RMA would be closing.

      Thank you for your question.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I noticed that OPERS changed withholding on taxes to comply with the new tax law. However, I also noticed that exemptions are still available in the editing function and in the withholding calculaton. Weren’t personal exemptions eliminated when they increased the standard deduction? This should be corrected so people won’t under withhold. Thank you and keep up the good work.

  • Before a retiree becomes incapacitated, is there a form (such as a Power of Attorney), that would allow a family member to handle One Exchange/OPERS reimbursements, or these matters?

    • Yes. In terms of your OneExchange online account/HRA, you’ll want to call OneExchange (1-844-247-9945) to walk you through which form to fill out as they range in access levels (Authorized Representative Full, Authorized Representative Limited and Power of Attorney). In terms of your OPERS account, please give us a call (1-800-222-7377) and we will walk you through the appropriate paperwork as well.

  • I hope nobody else made an error in getting there recurring reimbursement for dental and vision. I checked the web site and the recurring form is not there. One Exchange told me that it is a problem with there site and they are working on it. I only got two forms with bar codes which we were told to use. They were for recurring Medicare B and reimbursement request form. I used the reimbursement form for my dental and vision for the monthly reimbursements for the year. I got a statement form Pay Flex stating the months from Feb thru Dec were denied. I called One Exchange and was told about their issue with the form. They are sending me the new form which I have to refill out for my eye and dental reimbursements with the bar code for me. I hope this helps for anyone who did the same as me. You will have to call One Exchange for the recurring form. Why we did not get a notice on this would have helped with all the stress this puts on us retirees.

    • Ms. Yeke,

      If you are still experiencing issues, please give OPERS a call at 1-800-222-7377, and we will do our best to assist you. If you missed it, there is a “Getting Ready for 2018” article in the December Retiree newsletter goes into detail about the personalized reimbursement forms as well as communications coming from OPERS and OneExchange. That may be a good reference tool as you prepare notes for your discussion.

      Julie, OPERS

  • About the new COLA… If I understand it correctly, all increases are based on a percentage of our original monthly benefit rather than being a compounded amount based on our most recent benefit. My question is regarding those individuals who choose the Joint Life with a percentage of less than 100% going to the survivor. After the member’s death, will the next COLA annual increase still be tied to the original benefit amount while the member was living or will a new base amount be created for the now reduced amount that the survivor will receive?

    • Bill,

      You are correct, the COLA is based your original benefit amount. That holds true for your survivor after your death — the COLA is still based on your original benefit amount.

      Julie, OPERS

  • Why is that we cannot draw from our money that we put into our Retirement plan for emergency purposes can there be any circumstances that we can possibly do so?

    • According to Ohio law, you cannot make any withdrawals or borrow against your account for any reason while you are employed with an OPERS-covered employer. You can refund your account if you leave OPERS-covered employment, but you will forfeit all service credit and future retirement benefits.

      Julie, OPERS

    • Mr. Brandeberry,

      We don’t have 2019 HRA amounts just yet. The Board finalizes plan selection and pricing every year, including the HRA amount, and those details will be communicated in your fall newsletter.

      Julie, OPERS

    • You can find your OPERS ID on the home page of your online account. It’s at the top, just under your name. If you’d like some help, please call us at 1-800-222-7377.

      Julie, OPERS

        • After you click on the Account Login box, click on the “Forgot User ID or Password?” link. Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 if you would like some assistance.

          • The OPERS Id is not available when trying to create a new account. It is also asking for it when you click on the “Forgot User ID or Password?” link. Is there any other place we can get this ID other than having to call in?

          • You can find your OPERS ID on the top right corner of your Annual Statement, or call us tomorrow at 1-800-222-7377 and we’d be happy to help you.

            Julie, OPERS

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