The agency in charge of the Thrift Savings Plan added 185 new customer service representatives this week to try to handle record-high call volumes from participants.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board plans to add even more staff as needed. That’s after a major update to TSP’s system on June 1 caused an influx of calls from participants experiencing difficulties accessing their account data.
Many participants who tried calling ThriftLine, TSP’s customer service office, said they were on hold for a long time, some for more than six hours. On Twitter, one participant shared a phone screenshot of a third call attempt, on the line for multiple hours.
The board tweeted on June 9 that ThriftLine call volumes are “very high.” In response, FRTIB created a “current known issues” landing page to try to help participants resolve a few issues without calling customer service. Common issues include account holds and missing data on both beneficiaries and historical account information. More details about known issues are available when users log in to My Account, the board said.
Overall, 90% of participants who have tried to log in to their account have been successful, but FRTIB Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver said in an email to Federal News Network that right now, the board is focused on helping those who are struggling.
“While most participants are able to successfully navigate the system, our priority right now is resolving the issues and challenges for people having difficulty,” Weaver said. “We are committed to helping those people set up their accounts as soon as possible.”
As part of the June 1 update, the board transitioned to a new recordkeeping system, in charge of maintaining eligibility records, managing payroll data, processing transactions, issuing account statements, providing online access and offering responsive customer support to participants.
The system update requires a one-time setup process that all TSP users must complete.
Many participants reached out to Federal News Network to share concerns about the new system. Some said they cannot log in to their account. Others said once they logged in, there was missing information. Several participants, for example, said once they logged in to the new My Account, they couldn’t access financial information prior to June 1.
“The new login system has bugs, it does not recognize existing personal info, it freezes up all the time, it constantly changes required inputs and it does not allow access to existing accounts … All historical data is gone,” one participant wrote in an email to Federal News Network.
The recordkeeper transition requires moving a large amount of data and transferring account information for about 6.5 million TSP participants. Weaver said participants now have access to year-to-date employee contributions for 2022.
But some information is not yet available for participants to see in their accounts. The board is on track for its plan to make 10 years of prior year-ending account balances available online in mid-June.
“Historical statements, documents and other messages from the prior system have not been transferred to the new My Account. If participants need access to historical documents, they will need to request them by calling ThriftLine,” Weaver said (this website has contact information for TSP customer service).
Aside from historical data, some participants said their beneficiary information was inaccurate in the interface.
Weaver said “for a small number of participants,” the board didn’t transfer beneficiary information to the new system because it didn’t meet data quality standards. The board encourages all participants to review and confirm their beneficiary information.
Weaver said the missing data is only a perception on the user end – the board has all the correct information in store.
“Rest assured that we still have their previous beneficiary designations and they will be followed should it be necessary,” she said.
Some participants also said they are unable to get loans processed because of missing or inaccurate information. One participant who wants to take out a loan expressed frustrations about trying to get in touch with customer service.
“The TSP help line personnel have all been great, but the first line of help can’t do much, and can only transfer you to the loan department or their next line supervisor… we’ve had several dropped calls, which is demoralizing after hours on hold,” the TSP user wrote in an email to Federal News Network. “As it stands, the system thinks our accounts are new, so it says we can only borrow a little over half of what we’re actually allowed to borrow…we cannot get in touch with anyone in loan processing.”
Weaver said the board is aware that the issues are causing confusion and frustration. But on the back end, all data is accurate.
“Our financial and loan conversions balanced to the penny,” Weaver said. “We are continuing to monitor potential issues and are working to address them as rapidly as possible. We will be publishing additional information regarding known issues to tsp.gov and in My Account.”
For some users, certain internet browsers seem to work better than others to load the website. Participants shared online that Microsoft Edge seems to be the best browser to use, while Google Chrome and Safari don’t work as well.
“This seems to be an intermittent issue and one we have not been able to replicate at-scale in our environment. While we are continuing to troubleshoot, we’ve been advising participants to try a different browser. Our team is investigating what may be causing this issue,” Weaver said.
The goal of the new My Account interface and recordkeeper transition is to ensure the safety of participants’ investments by adding more layers of security, as well as anti-fraud protections. But Weaver said the board understands that the changes have caused challenges for some participants trying to set up accounts.
“We understand our participants’ frustration and apologize for the inconvenience. We’re working to address issues as rapidly as possible, and we appreciate their patience,” she said.
In the meantime, the board is continuing normal processes, enrollments and transactions.
“Our financial management systems are up and running. Contributions are being processed. Loans, withdrawals and mutual fund window enrollments are happening. TSP savings remain invested in the funds participants have chosen. More than 1,100 participants have rolled money into the TSP. More than 12,000 withdrawals requests have been received,” Weaver said.