Current and retired federal employees have recently reported widespread problems accessing their retirement savings and account information through the federal retirement system known as the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Congress asked GAO to examine these concerns and our work is now underway.
More than 6.2 million people save for retirement in the TSP, which manages approximately $709.6 billion in assets. The money in these accounts can frequently help retirees pay monthly bills, keep the lights on, and put food on the table. But active federal employees can also take short-term loans from their TSP savings for large expenses—such as a down payment on a house.
TSP launched a new online portal for account holders in June 2022, which caused a range of access issues and set off a wave of complaints. People who couldn’t access their money reported facing hours-long wait times to reach customer service. On March 1, TSP officials said many of the problems occurring over the summer have subsided. GAO is planning to wrap up our audit work early next year. In the meantime, TSP participants continue to report issues with the new TSP system. Today’s blog post looks at the concerns users have raised and our planned work to look into them.
One concern we have heard is about users not knowing where to turn for help. Here is contact information for those experiencing:
- Issues with accessing TSP accounts or completing transactions: call the ThriftLine at (877) 968-3778.
- Needing additional help resolving an issue also can call: (888) 626-5206
- Needing to report fraud, waste and abuse in federal programs: contact FraudNet via the Complaint Form or call (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7700.
The goal of the new online portal was to modernize TSP’s recordkeeping, improve customer service, and bolster cybersecurity. Immediately after launch, users started having trouble using the system. We received some of their complaints. These complaints ranged from minor annoyances to more serious concerns.
For example, participants noted:
- Their paychecks were garnished to pay back approved loans that were never disbursed
- They were unable to withdraw the required minimum amount per year, which could have tax implications
- The customer service call center had long wait times and still couldn’t resolve many issues (in one case, a participant’s issue remained unaddressed for 7 months)
- They received notifications of successful fund transfers but found that funds hadn’t been transferred
- They had to obtain consent from a third-party to add beneficiaries to their own TSP account
- They were unable to access historical account transaction information from the prior system
TSP has sent out Tweets about people seeking help:
We’re examining TSP’s system issues and steps to overcome them
To address Congress’ request and federal employees’ concerns, we plan to review the federal government’s actions to purchase, launch, and oversee the commercial services contract for the new modernized TSP system. Among other things, contract oversight involves clearly communicating government needs, matching resources to those needs, and monitoring the performance of the purchased service or product. Having contract oversight ensures that services and products are working as intended and any identified issues are mitigated. Look out for our report on TSP, coming early next year.
If you’re still having trouble accessing your TSP funds, see the contact information above. GAO is investigating the underlying causes and cannot respond to individual complaints.
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