Rep. Norton hints at House hearing on TSP challenges

D.C. congresswoman shares more details about her plans to address challenges from the Thrift Savings Plan update.

Issues with the Thrift Savings Plan have persisted for more than a month, and now they are gaining more traction on Capitol Hill.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) hinted that she may seek to hold a House hearing if the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the agency that manages the TSP, doesn’t resolve the issues “quickly.”

Norton will receive weekly updates from the board on its progress in addressing some of the issues, after having a conversation on June 30 with FRTIB Executive Director Ravindra Deo about some of the ongoing issues.

“At a moment like this, I’m hearing that retirees don’t have access to their retirement savings. This is very serious. That’s why the weekly updates are so important,” she told Federal News Network. “This affects federal employees nationwide.”

The timeline for determining whether a House hearing will occur hinges on what Norton hears in the weekly updates from the board. The first update will likely come through this week.

“The reason that I’m asking for weekly updates is to give me the ability to set a real timeline … for when all of this has to be improved,” she said.

Norton added that she plans to share the information each week with TSP participants, including her constituents, so they can receive timely information from the board about how it’s planning to resolve the challenges.

Investors in the TSP have continued to share their concerns with the rollout of the new recordkeeping system on June 1, plagued by long wait times for customer service and a variety of frustrations over missing or incorrect account information. Many participants, for example, said they are missing beneficiary information, seeing incorrect loan amounts and waiting for hours on the phone to speak with a TSP representative.

In response, FRTIB apologized for the ongoing frustrations, and said that more than 95% of participants have been able to log in to the new My Account platform. Additionally, the board said some of the perceived missing information is intentional, factoring in security measures and cost savings.

The agreement to get weekly updates comes after Norton wrote a letter to the board on June 13, raising concerns that she heard from her constituents, many of whom are federal employees enrolled in the TSP.

“I understand that with the new system, many TSP participants have been forced to change their passwords or other account information, often requiring them to get a security code delivered by mail, delaying access to their investments for weeks,” Norton wrote in the letter. “Constituents have indicated they have attempted to contact the TSP ‘ThriftLine’ for assistance, only to be put on hold for several hours and then be disconnected before talking to someone.”

The board responded to the letter on June 17, saying that although the update was necessary, some of the challenges were unanticipated.

“Some of our participants are facing more difficulties than we expected. We sincerely apologize for the frustration and inconvenience some of our participants are encountering. We are working to address these issues as quickly as possible so we can help those who need it,” FRTIB Executive Director Ravindra Deo wrote.

Along with sharing information with participants, the board also responded very quickly, Norton said, but there are still concerns about how long it will take FRTIB to resolve some of the challenges.

“I will be watching to see whether my constituents see any improvement with the system, looking closely at the weekly updates from the FRTIB, and continuing to insist on fixes and accountability,” she wrote.

In an effort to resolve the issues, the board increased its call center staff by 66% since June 1, up to more than 800 employees. FRTIB plans to continue adding representatives until wait times drop significantly.

“We also want to reassure TSP participants that the core of our new system is functioning. Loan, withdrawal, fund reallocation and investment transactions are being processed. We are working expeditiously to address our participants’ challenges, while at the same time ensuring that the security of those investments is maintained to the highest standards and does not become an impediment to account access,” Deo wrote.

Aside from hearing from the board about weekly updates, Norton said her most vital source of information for how quickly the problems are going away will be what she hears from her constituents. She said she encourages TSP users to continue getting in touch with her if the problems don’t improve.

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