A complete list of “waivers” allowing retired state and local workers under age 65 to collect full pension benefits plus unlimited post-retirement work earnings from government has been posted at SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website.
Retired New York state and local government employees under age 65 are prohibited from collecting full public pension benefits if they earn more than $30,000 by returning to work for a state or local agency. However, the earnings limit for younger retirees collecting both pensions and pay from government can be waived “temporarily” in certain circumstances.
Since 1998, at least 7,361 post-retirement earnings limit waivers—known as Section 211 waivers, after the statutory provision that makes them possible–have been submitted by state and local agencies, according to records obtained by the Empire Center under the state Freedom of Information Law.
As of mid-2014, there were 665 active Section 211 waivers on file with New York government agencies. Records of waivers granted since 1998– identifying retirees, the agencies issuing waivers, and the agencies employing the retirees or contracting for their services — have been posted in a searchable database form at www.SeeThroughNY.net.
The largest waiver, issued by the state Department of Civil Service, allows Vinay J. Pital to be paid up to $210,000 from Herkimer County for mental health services on a contractual basis while collecting a pension of $99,204.
“The kind of double-dipping enabled by the Section 211 waiver system is just a symptom of a broader problem with New York’s traditional public-sector pension system,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “The system encourages government workers to retire even if they want to continue working for employers who need or value their services. At the same time, these waivers can appear unfair and open to abuse from a taxpayers’ perspective.”
“Section 211 waivers and post-retirement earnings limits wouldn’t be needed under a defined-contribution retirement system, which would be much more flexible for workers and sustainable employers,” he added.
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