However, this error is by no means the fault of the affected employees, and the Comptroller General has the authority to grant a waiver under a statute specifically designed to address overpayments resulting from payroll errors (5 U.S.C. § 5584). While GAO has granted a waiver of overpayments in the distant past for executive branch employees when an “agency failed to deduct the correct retirement accounts from [the employee’s] salary,” we are not aware of GAO’s having waived such a debt in recent years. However, we encourage all affected employees to apply for a repayment waiver, if they would like to do so.
If you have been affected by GAO’s erroneous withholding of retirement contributions, we encourage you to consider requesting a waiver of the debt, following the procedure set out in GAO Order 0254.1, Chapter 8. The following points may be useful in formulating waiver requests:
- The Comptroller General has authority to waive these debts under a statute, 5 U.S.C. § 5584, that “was specifically designed to address overpayments of pay resulting from payroll errors,” and in the past (for executive branch employees) GAO has “granted waiver where an employee received overpayments of pay because his agency failed to deduct the correct retirement amounts from his salary.” Comptroller General Decision B-244883, B-244886 (Jan 14, 1992), available at https://www.gao.gov/products/407830#mt=e-report.
- We are not aware of GAO’s having waived such a debt in recent years, though the GAO Order requires the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) to consider Comptroller General decisions, among other relevant legal sources, in making waiver decisions. We believe that in cases where employees acted with good faith and had no reason to know of GAO’s administrative errors, but are being charged with substantial debts because of those errors, it is worthwhile to request a waiver and attach a copy of the decision linked to above. There are many other CG decisions addressing waivers under this statute (all available through gao.gov), but the decision linked above addresses a situation that is exactly like the current situation caused by changes to FERS.
- The GAO Order states that “A request for a waiver of a claim should be made promptly to the CHCO. This request should include the reason(s) why the debtor believes the waiver should be granted and evidence to support this contention.”
- When making a waiver request, you should describe why you are requesting a waiver and submit any evidence you believe may be relevant, including evidence about whether you had reason to know that your paychecks were incorrect and any evidence that shows that it would be “against equity and good conscience” for GAO to collect the debt from you.
- For an example of how another federal agency has evaluated a waiver request based on FERS under-withholding, including discussion of the “equity and good conscience” requirement, see here. It may be helpful to also attach a copy of this decision when submitting your waiver request.
If you have any questions, please contact us, and we will do what we can to assist you.